By Chukwudi Ikpe & Gid Ahanonu
History was made last Sunday in the Anglican Diocese of Owerri when Bishop Chukwuma Oparah commissioned and licensed 188 Lay Readers for the Diocese.
The epoch-making event, which took place during a Eucharistic service at the Cathedral Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord (CATOL), Owerri, falls in line with the rapid evangelism programme of the Bishop.
Performing the ceremony, Bishop Oparah charged the Lay Readers to carry out their assignments diligently and ensure that the gospel of God is propagated continuously.
Preaching the sermon during the service, one of the Lay Readers, Sir A.O. Ugoha, called on Christians not to be deterred by the challenges they encounter while serving God, stressing that the effects of the challenges were temporal.
He noted that even though the trials tend to defeat the faithful initially, God always delivers his people at last.
According to Sir Ugoha, whose homily dwelt so much on prayer and deliverance, God does not forsake His people.
He enjoined the faithful to be prayerful against misfortunes of life such as ancestral curses, adding that God breaks every yoke.
The preacher cautioned Christians not to retaliate against persecution and false allegations and encouraged them to remain steadfast and trust in God for a turnaround in their situation.
The Old Testament lesson from 2 Kings 5:1-14 was read by Prof. Victor Obinna Njoku while the Epistle from James 5:13-16 and Gospel from Mark 2:1-12 were read by Rev. Canon Chris Mba and Rev. Joe Igbo, respectively.
The CATOL Choir thrilled the congregation with melodious songs.
The highpoint of the service was the laying of hands and issuance of licenses to the Lay Readers.
Speaking to Christian Voice, one of the Lay Readers, Prof. Victor Obinna Njoku, thanked God for honouring him with fresh anointing to minister in the church as a Lay Reader.
Prof. Njoku, who is the President of Archdeacon Denis Junior Seminary (ADJS) Old Boys Association, commended Bishop Oparah for restoring the lost glory of ADJS, adding since he came on board.
In his remarks, one of Lay Readers and a prominent citizen in the state, Chief Engr. Sir E.C. Iwuanyanwu, expressed gratitude to the Bishop for approving the renewal of his license as a Lay Reader.
According to Chief Iwuanyanwu, he first got the license in 1964 as a leader of the Students Christian Movement in the University of Nigeria Nsukka.
He dedicated his Lay Readership to his late mother and wife as well as his daughter, describing Lay Readers as assistant priests of the church.
Also speaking to Christian Voice after the service, the Chaplain of Diocesan Lay Readers, Rev. Canon Evans Chidi Amadi, attributed the large number of the Lay Readers to the zeal of the Bishop.
He expressed gratitude to God for giving him the grace to raise such willing people and to the Bishop for believing him.
Canon Amadi explained that the training of the Lay Readers has been going on for five years. He pointed out that it was not easy, stressing that two months intensive retreat by different resource persons were organised for the Lay Readers.
Dignitaries present at the occasion included the Chancellor of Owerri Diocese, Justice Evelyn Anyadike, the Chancellor of Egbu Diocese, Justice B.A. Njemanze and his wife, Dr. Joy Njemanze as well as the Chancellor of Okigwe Diocese, Barr. Sir Abed Anyadike, among others.