(BY NGOZI ADIGHIBE)
The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh has pointed out that the reason society puts premium on a Pastor is because of one thing- integrity. He explained that society believes that a man of God ought to be a person of strong character and values, not given to lies or involved in any form of malpractice. He made this known at the 50th birthday celebration of the Venerable Ephraim Mawo Akanya, Supervising Priest of Gwarimpa Archdeaconry and Vicar of St. Matthews Anglican Church, Gwarimpa, Abuja.
The Primate said that a Pastor may be considered as a useless man, because his only handiwork is that he is a man of God; adding that a Pastor is only useful if he has integrity. He stated that Pastors are called to be small gods, who lead God’s people with character. He however added that if a Pastor loses this virtue, then he becomes useless just as salt, when it loses its saltiness.
Primate Okoh admonished the celebrant, Ephraim Akanya to ensure that he keeps the oath he took at his ordination to ministry, no matter the conditions, so that he remains useful in the society. The head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria said that as a Priest, his work is to preach, heal and deliver; adding that he should not seek for any other thing to make him happy. He said that if God brings millions of Naira to him, then he should by all means accept it, giving thanks to God. He, however added that in the Anglican Church, a Priest’s glory is in the simplicity of his office and being called a man of God. He thanked God for the life of the celebrant, congratulating him for a life well spent so far. He also commended specially Ven. Akanya’s wife for supporting her husband and cooperating with him, even in ministry; adding that in the Anglican Church, the call to ministry is for both the Priest and his wife. He further thanked God for Ven. Akanya’s family, nuclear and extended, for his teachers, his church, his workers both in the Church and at home and the members of St. Matthews Church Gwarimpa and St. Philips Church Team 6, Gwarimpa for being part of those who helped to shape the celebrant into the person he is today.
Speaking on a chapter in the Bible, Psalm 103, the Bishop of Abuja Anglican diocese pointed out that the Psalmist, whom he described as a Pentecostal recognized the importance of forgiveness in the praise and worship of God. He quoted the verse in the Psalm that reads, ‘Praise the Lord, who forgives all your sins…,’ explaining that forgiveness of one’s sins is an essential part of man’s relationship with God. Primate Okoh said that sin controls one’s access to God; because it is only the prayer and praise of a forgiven man or woman that gets to the throne of God. Thus, according to him, that is why in the Anglican Church, praise is not done until after the prayer of confession has been said; because, it is only after one is cleansed that one’s worship can be acceptable to God.
The Archbishop emphasized the many benefits that man enjoys from God as mentioned in the Psalm; adding that the celebrant has enjoyed all of these benefits by the grace of God. He noted that the Venerable Akanya has spent almost 51 years on earth, enjoying God’s forgiveness and cleansing, His healing, and His love and compassion, which has made his youth to be renewed like that of the eagles. Primate Okoh concluded his message with a charge to the celebrant and his family to wait on God, for He will never disappoint them. He explained that if they try to run ahead of God, they will fall down in a way that will be difficult to get up, because they would have messed up their lives. He said that when God’s time comes, a person’s enemies will be at peace with him or her and even champion their cause; adding that one must be patient, because God will not share His glory with any man. Therefore, he admonished the Venerable Ephraim Akanya to not maneuver or arrange things for himself, because it will backfire. And with that, the Primate committed the celebrant to the hands of God, praying that God will continue to grant him long life and a fruitful ministry.
Highpoints of the thanksgiving service were the special song renditions by the choir of St. Matthews Church, Gwarimpa and the thanksgiving offering by the celebrant, his family, friends and well-wishers. Present at the service were many notable dignitaries, who came from far and near to celebrate with God’s servant who clocked fifty. It was indeed a service of celebration to God for the gift of life and for His bountiful blessings.