Being a modern day child then who only spoke English and sparingly communicated in his local tongue, Sundays at Saint Peters Church was a bit of a struggle for me. The 10am Yoruba service did help my Yoruba though, especially as I was also dragged to the evensong in English, so I was able to translate some of the words and get better understanding. The services were just about two and a half hour long in those late seventies to early eighties (as there weren’t so many collections taken and only two harvest ceremonies every year). But even then I thought it was long. It was made longer with my father being the Vicars Warden and having to count the collection of the day….probably a few thousand naira then, with a lot of coins. We were always last to leave the church and this made me miss some of my favourite Sunday TV shows like The Banana Split show, Internatonal Wrestling Association show and Dan August amongst others, much to my chagrin.
“Nwon yo l’oke, Egbe Companion yo loke, nwon dabi ewe”
Their meetings and parties were great fun as there were so many jokes and laughter as they playfully taunted each other amidst the serious business of supporting the church and each other. We the children automatically became friends and their parents became our parents in the spirit of true family bonding. Anytime I saw family reunions of black families in American movies, they reminded me of Christian Companion meetings. Plenty of laughter, food, music, dancing and great company. Those men were full of life and the world seemed to be at their feet. Their wives were ever supportive and poked fun at the men as they shared equally in all the goodness. Christian fellowship amongst friends is always a rich experience.
Leaving Saint Peters in 1984 when my dad became a priest was with mixed feelings. I was leaving a lot of friends behind just when we had started our own society, the Boys Guild. The short precise English services at Our Saviours however made up for that. As life continued to happen to me, I followed dad to many churches, went to different churches on my own in Ibadan during my undergraduate and postgraduate years (finding me a lovely wife in one of those churches), but Saint Peters was ingrained in my memory. My conversion did happen whilst a member of an Orthodox Church and the experiences in Saint Peters was part of the build up to that great event.
Dad retired in 2009 and returned to Saint Peters, but I wasn’t ready to go back with him as I had found peace and fellowship elsewhere. He became the President of the Companions some years later and had to host meetings. During one of the anniversary parties, traditionally hosted by the President, I attended as a guest. A lot of the men were still there, with their wives. Some of my friends who had become members were also in attendance, sharing in the endless jokes and laughter. Otunba Ajayi, a retired military man proceeded to conscript Lekan Osoba and I to join the Companions in what looked like a comedy sketch. However it did impress on me. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the pleasant memories of the past, maybe it was seeing my friends fellowshipping like that again, maybe I was getting old and traditional, maybe it was God’s intervention; I really don’t know, but I joined the Christian Companions in 2015.
It felt a bit strange at first to be “an unequal equal” to the likes of the amiable Mr Savage, Mr Haastrup, Mr Aromolate, Mr Osoba, Otunba Ajayi, Ven Eso, and Mr Odunusi. However the presence of Folabi Aiyeola, Bayo Odunusi, Gboyega Odunlami, Sola Okutubo, the younger Savages, Tope Sanya, Laja Ogunlaru and Dotun Adebajo made me feel very comfortable. I soon became a part of the jokes and brotherhood, giving self prepared sermons as a host at meetings and contributing to church activities, even though my church attendance was and is not so regular. I’ve made a lot of new friends in the society and I do feel at home with them.
Yes, omo St Peters ni mi, and ara Companions ni mi. We celebrated our 50th anniversary today, 26th August 2018. It was quite emotional to see the surviving members who had slowed down a bit gracing the occasion once more. Proof that time may be having its toll on the body but not the mind was embodied in Mr Aiyeola who reeled out some taunts like it was yesterday. It was nice to see many Companions children who came around in the reunion of the anniversary. The church remained the same, albeit with air conditioning and TV monitors, and the service (Part 1, before all the collection harvests and dedications and thanksgivings started) was also the same, as was the fellowship. The ghosts of many departed seemed to be a part of the service today.
As I walked down from the altar in the middle of the guard of honour mounted by our wives and well wishers with my fellow Christian Companions brothers with our white agbadas and special filas singing “Egbe Companion yo loke…..”, I had goose bumps stimulated by a feel good feeling. The story of life continues and what is most important is our relationships and memories. We must continually create good ones and enjoy the ride.