Anglican Youth Fellowship at 70: How it all started

Some Anglican Youth Fellowship members in a group photograph

Sometimes in 1947, some young men and women were invited from some secondary schools in Lagos — C.M.S. Grammar School, King’s College, Igbobi College, C.M.S. Girl’s School and assembled at the wooden storey building at 29 Marina by the late Most Revd. Leslie Gordon Vining of blessed memory. To some of them, it was meeting as usual, but to others, it was an opportunity to get away from the tedium and stress of school. Little did they realise that they were to be the foundation and floodgate of a movement that would encompass the entire Anglican Communion of Nigeria. Time has now vindicated our founding father — the trio of “first” — late Most Revd. Leslie Gordon Vining, first Archbishop of West Africa; late Rt. Revd. Adelakun Williamson Howells; first Provost of the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos and late Archbishop of Lagos and the late Most Revd. T. O. Olufosoye, the first Youth Chaplain in Nigeria and first Archbishop of the Province of Nigeria.

We must recognise the fact that the formation was an initiative of our beloved late “Bishop of Youth” or “Baba Ewe,” the Most Revd. Leslie Gordon Vining and we shall remember him as OUR FOUNDING FATHER. The late Most Revd. L.G. Vining was a Briton from BRISTOL England. He took over the seat of Lagos at the death of Bishop Francis Melville Jones in 1940. Bishop Jones was also a Pastor in the Children’s service at the C.M.S. compound.

Foundation members were drawn from two sources: the first group was made up of the young boys, who usually accompanied Archbishop Vining to KURAMO WATERS on weekend picnics. Some were Choirboys of the Cathedral Church; some were even staying with the Archbishop at the wooden storey house, which was then Bishop’s Court at 29, Marina, while others were Day boys of C.M.S. Grammar School, Igbobi College and King’s College.

The second group was mainly boys and girls in boarding houses, who attended the Sunday afternoon Bible Classes organised by Bishop Adelakun Howells, the Canon Residentiary of the Cathedral. The Bible class was held at the C.M.S. Grammar School Assembly hall, C.M.S. Girl’s School, and King’s College. These boarders were regular worshippers at the Cathedral at Mattins and Evensong, except during holidays.

Genesis of Anglican Youth Fellowship in 1946
The names that readily come to mind of some of the boys that formed the Youth Fellowship Band and the names of the Boys and Girls present at the first meetings are: Samuel Akpabot; Bala Miller; Nestro Hollist, who was a former Professor at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife; Yemi Lijadu, who later moved to France, Architect Oluwole Olumuyiwa, Architect Kolu Santos, later based in Ibadan, the late Taiwo Phillips, Prof. Percy Nylander.

The Kuramo Waters Group included all the above and more – Chief Ige Akinyemi, Engr. Tony and Arthur Nylander Esq., Engr. Timi Morgan, Provost Sope Johnson, Michael Olumide formerly of N.B.C., Mr. Taiwo Alakija, Dr. Ademiluyi, Christopher Oyesiku Esq., Justice Samuel Okuribido, Mr. Bode Agbebi, Mr. Mowo Fawole, Dr. Jide Idowu, Dr. Taiwo Oluwole, Col. Victor Banjo, Adeyemi Fani-Kayode, Commodore Edwin Kentebe and Col. Ijejunam.

After one Sunday afternoon Bible class, then Canon Howells handed a letter to each school’s principal, inviting all form Two to Six boarders to a youth gathering at Bishop’s Court the following Wednesday from 5.00pm to 7.00pm.

They were all happy and jumped at the idea, as anything that would take them away from the tedious suffocating life of the boarding house to the warm embrace of the refreshing Marina breeze was most welcome. The boarders from Girl’s Seminary had the greatest advantage because their school had a connecting door with Bishop’s Court.

On that Wednesday evening in September 1946, the press was invited and Bishop Vining, Canon Howells and Revd. Olufosoye were present. Canon Howells led the opening prayers, they sang and Bishop Vining did the talking. He also introduced Revd. Olufosoye, who was the then Cathedral Chaplain, who later became the Primate of the Anglican Province of Nigeria.

Bishop Vining’s Aims
He wanted the youths near him. He stated further that even though it was true that they were always at the Sunday Worship, they were rather far and needed guidance. He wanted to know their thoughts. He would like them to always pray closer together in fellowship. He wanted them to be kind to strangers and help them when necessary. He suggested that the meeting should hold on Wednesdays and this was adhered to.

It is striking that the three reverend gentlemen present were all very interested in the youths. They all had a cheerful disposition. Wednesday evening meetings were usually splendid and fruitful. There was free refreshment and tea was served. Music was provided by talented youths among them. The Youth Chaplain organised Bible Quiz Competitions and such games as Treasure Island, Snake and ladder with prizes at the end of the evening. It was great, real great!

The first Anniversary held after Easter holidays around May 1947 at the Island Club, Lagos. Archbishop Vining provided talented boys with musical instruments and they formed Youth Fellowship Band. The leader was Samuel Akpabot assisted by Bala Miller, the son of a Kaduna priest. Bala was a famous Bandleader then based in Kaduna, whilst Samuel Akpabot was a professor of Music at the University of Ibadan. Late Sir Adeyemo Alakija was Chairman of the occasion, and he donated Two Hundred Pounds (£200). Archbishop Vining chose the uniform of the Band Boys, which was white long-sleeved shirt over white trousers with green bow tie and green sash round the waist. These colours were significant because they became Nigeria’s national colours, some years later. It was a delight to see these young boys smartly dressed, dishing out good and classical music at fun-fares, social and other gatherings.

As part of the activities to mark this year’s 70th anniversary Celebration, Brother Dapo Opeaye, together with the incumbent Chairman, Brother Lawrence Edegware and other Committee members, have been able to source for sponsors to lay interlocking stones in and around the Cathedral Church premises, tagged “70th Anniversary Project.” This project has, indeed, added beauty to the landscape of the historic Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, the oldest Anglican Cathedral in Nigeria.

Source — Anglican Youth Fellowship 70th Anniversary Project Pamphlet.



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