A HUMBLE BEGINNING
Anybody passing through Oba Akinjobi Road in the highbrow government Reserved Area(GRA) Ikeja, Lagos, cannot but notice the imposing structure of Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral. This building, which was dedicated on May 7, 1986 by The Most Rev. Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye, as Primate and Metropolitan, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), was the second worship centre that the Church would put up in its history. The building also marks the third phase of the Church’s evolution.
AVMCC (as it is more fondly called now is the product of a merger of two churches, one by European civil servants who were worshiping inside the Ikeja Magistrate Court building and the other by Nigerians who congregated for worship in an office space across the road at the Southern Police College. Both groups, the former comprising Civil Servants, and the latter mainly police officers and recruits of the Southern Police College. (now known as Police College, Ikeja) were said to have taken root from St. Saviour’s Church, (now Our Saviour’s Church, Tafawa Balewa Square on Lagos Island.
Bit in 1964, worshippers of both groups were brought together to form what was then known as Anglican Church, G.R.A, Ikeja which later metamorphosed Archbishop Vining Memorial Church, and then again to the present Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral. That momentous merger is what is being celebrated up till today, over 50 years after.
Going back to the foundation story, it was learnt that the Nigerian church at the Police College was interdenominational, comprising members of the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Apostolic denominations. That was the setting before 1964, but it is not known when the two churches actually started.
Seeing the great potential of a bigger future church in the two groups, the Anglican Diocese of Lagos under the then Bishop, The Rt. Rev Seth Irunsewe /kale, had prior to their merger in 1964, posted visiting Priests such as the Rev. A. May and the Rev. Yinka Olumide who both ministered at the European Church while the Rev. Payne was sent to the Nigerian Chapel. Other Priests came occasionally from other denominations to minister in these Churches.
Notable worshippers at both Church at that time who can now be regarded as founding fathers, all but one of them deceased,included: Pa J.A James, Mrs. Dorothy Arit Ikoku, Mr. S.M. Odukwe, Mr. F.O. Ogbu, Mr, Kolawole and Mr. Akinjobi (it is not known whether it is the same Mr. Akinjobi who later became an Oba after whom the Oba Akinjobi Road, on which the Church stands was named). Others were Mr. (now The Rev. Canon) A.A. Bassey (rtd), who is still living, Chief B.B Olowu, Chief Nathaniel Ebun Ogundana, Pa James Idowu Iyun, Pa Atiba (a Magistrate and Dr. Sofunde. For these Pioneers, it was a family affair as they involved their wives and children in activities of the Church.
When the two Churches were merged in 1964, Nigeria was still experiencing the vestiges of colonialism. The country was just four years old as an independent nation, and this informed the great influence of expatriates in the Church.
Interestingly, Our Saviour’s church Lagos and AVMCC, Ikeja share a common heritage. Expatriate were behind the founding of these two Churches. The Mother Church (so to say) is about 102 years old. It was regarded as the baby of colonial masters. Our Saviour’s Anglican Church was said to have begun as a chapel attached to King’s College Lagos. It was first named the colonial Church and then St. Saviour’s Church and was later rechristened Our Saviour’s Church.
The AVMCC thus, has its colonial linkage with Our Saviour’s Church which played a great role in its birth. Its present location was said to have originally belong to St. Savious’s which bought it with a view to building another church on it but could no longer do so due to Nigeria’s independence.
Because the church did not have a resident Vicar the pioneer members shares the responsibility of conducting Sunday Services when there was no Priest around. These included Messrs Festus Ogbu, A.A. Bassey and J.I Iyun, all of whom were lay readers.
This was the trend until the outbreak of the Nigeria civil was in May 1967, when there was mass exodus to the East. Mr. A.A. Bassey then took over the leadership of the church until the war ended in January 12970. He was assisted by Mr. P.S. Bradleym an expatriate who donated to the Church its first electric organ which he inherited from his parents.
One unique feature of the Police College chapel was that it was shared with the Catholic who worshipped there first from 10.00am to 12.00noon.
In 1968, Mr. Dotun Oyewole and Chief Josiah Rotibi joined the Church as lay reader and Choirmaster respectively. They came with members of their families who were also involved in various activities of the church.
The duo of Oyewole and Rotibi assisted The Rev. Yinka Olumide who had been posed by Bishop Kale in 1965 as the first non resident vicar of the unified church.
BUILDING OF THE FIRST CHURCH
Worshiping in the Police College during the civil war era became very inconvenient for members of the Church as they, like other visitors to the place, were subjected to rigorous searches. This, coupled with other inconveniences, forced the fording fathers to make a representation to the Diocesan authorities for permission to utilize a piece of land belonging to St. Saviour’s Church, Ikoyi located in Ikeja to build a church.
This permission was granted and the statutory fee of 20 pounds was paid by the Church to the Lagos Government authorities to release the land for development.