The year is 1992. I’m with my family at a church in No-man’s-land, Kano to celebrate a relation’s event. We’re sharing the pew with Mr. Mabadeje (as a child I was in the habit of arbitrarily naming the people I met), who sleeps throughout the service. As soon as we say the closing prayer he comes back to life, and I’m was surprised to discover Mr. Mabadeje pumping hands and sharing warm pleasantries with the presiding pastor. He then goes on to inform all who care to listen that he has known the pastor since their days in the University of Ife, and that the pastor has now relocated to Lagos, but is just visiting Kano. My toddler’s brain stores this memory as my first encounter with noisome people.
It’s now 2010, and I find myself sitting in the auditorium of the New Generation International Bible Church, Agidingbi Lagos, on a cold Sunday morning. My visit to ‘New Gen’, as it is fondly called, was to satisfy my curiosity, upon discovering that Mr Mabadeje’s church was a New Gen branch. The first thing I notice about New Gen is the inviting nature of the church. Just outside the ever busy Agidingbi junction, the church welcomes you to a sort of respite from the noisy environment. One thing any visitor cannot miss is the fraternal atmosphere that pervades New Gen. The father of this big family is Bishop G.I. Elomobor, fondly called ‘Papa’. However, the church’s familial arrangement makes this Church Crawler and any visitor feel like an outsider.
The service goes on in a way that suggests that the members dedicate their entire Sundays to worshipping the Lord at the church premises. There is a lot of music and dancing. The high point of the service, however, is the sermon about ensuring one takes advantage of God’s abundant blessings. Humour is definitely not lacking at the New Gen. During the call for testimonies, a certain deacon tells of how he was at a party where people were complaining about the lack of wine. Reminiscent of Jesus’ miracle at Cana, he asked for water, mixed it with a portion of Coke and presented it as wine. Of course, he admitted he was joking and went on to testify of how the Lord saved his life from an attack of hoodlums.
One attractive thing about worship at New Gen is the amount of attention paid to the children’s church. There is much concentration on teaching the young ones the Word of God in a way they will understand it. The Sunday School environment is playful and entertaining. I hope that this church and others like it will raise a generation hinged on the ‘religion is fun’ ideal – a generation which will refrain from drawing swords at the call of religion. I should note, though, that my visit to the children’s church won me a badge of spit.
At the end of the service, I notice how people continue to huddle together to discuss and laugh heartily. Their camaraderie really makes you want to join the New Gen family, as long as you can endure the spit and the occasional toddler tugging on your shirt.