SAMUEL ABULUDE, ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, DUSTAN AGHEDO, SANDRA EMMANUEL and JOHN ADETUNJI write on the different ways churches celebrate Easter
In Nigeria where denomination and sects of the Christian faith are many, the Easter season is celebrated in diverse ways. From the Lenten season, the Palm Sunday celebration to the Passion Week and Eucharist in Roman Catholic churches, the celebration is being looked forward to annually.
The four-day holiday which usually characterises Easter in the country affords families to come together and wine and dine even as they participate in their church Easter festivities.
Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the memorial of the death of Jesus Christ on Friday and it is the most important gathering of the year. In the Jehovah Witnesses denomination, there is no supreme leader as Jehovah God is the supreme leader.
According to the statement from jw.org, the witnesses said they adhere strictly to the Bible in their observance of the Lord’s Evening Meal, which is also known as ‘the Lord’s supper’, ‘the Last Supper’ and ‘the Memorial of Jesus’ death’. The event is expected to hold at various locations in Nigeria and other countries of the world.
“In contrast, many beliefs and practices of other denominations in connection with this observance are not based on the Bible,” the Jehovah Witness says in a statement made available online. According to them, the purpose of the occasion is to remember the death of Jesus, ‘showing our gratitude for his sacrifice in our behalf’, adding that the observance is not a sacrament or a religious practice that imparts merit as grace or the forgiveness of sins. The Bible teaches that our sins can be forgiven, not by a religious rite but only through faith in Jesus. Jesus commanded his disciples to commemorate the Lord’s Evening Meal, but he did not specifically say how often.
“Some feel that it should be observed monthly, while others observe it weekly, daily, several times each day, or as often as a person feels is appropriate. However, here are some factors that should be considered,” the statement noted. It added: “Jesus instituted the Lord’s Evening Meal on the date of the Jewish Passover, and he died later that same day. This was no coincidence. The Scriptures compare Jesus’ sacrifice to that of the Passover lamb. The Passover was observed once each year.
“Likewise, the Memorial of Jesus’ death was observed once each year by the early Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses follow that Bible-based pattern. In addition, the Christian group disclosed further that when Jehovah’s Witnesses observe the Lord’s evening meal, only a small fraction of them partake of the bread and wine. Explaining why the statement said, “Jesus’ shed blood established a new covenant that replaced the covenant between Jehovah God and the ancient nation of Israel. Those who are in that new covenant partake of the memorial emblems.
“It includes, not all Christians, but only ‘those who have been called’ in a special way by God. These ones will rule in heaven with Christ, and the Bible says that just 144,000 people receive that privilege. In contrast to the ‘little flock’ of those called to rule with Christ, the vast majority of us hope to be part of ‘a great crowd’ who will gain everlasting life on earth. While those of us with an earthly hope do not partake of the Memorial emblems, we do join in expressing thanks for the sacrifice that Jesus made in our behalf.”
According to the group, over 20 million people in 2017 attended the memorial, some 12 million of whom were not witnesses. The witnesses believe that the memorial is a significant annual event not only for them but also for millions of other people worldwide. Speaking on this year’s event, the organisation, however, welcome everyone to attend the annual observance of the death of Jesus Christ, by visiting the website, JW.org for location and time for the event.
Celestial Church of Christ
The Celestial Church of Christ founded by Samuel Bilewu Joseph Oshoffa is a church that prides herself in celebrating the birth, cruxification and the Lords supper that is Easter.
The church regarded as a white garment church celebrates Easter in a unique way starting from the Sunday before Easter Sunday which is known as Palm Sunday. During the Palm Sunday where the celebration of Jesus Christ riding on the donkey triumphantly into Jerusalem and the people hailing Hossana! Hossana! Celestians or faithful of CCC come out of their churches in a great number and march down the streets and road, dancing and singing in celebration of Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The sign of the cross are made by all using the palm fronds- holding and wearing them.
A revered clergy in the Celestial Church of Christ, Assistant Venerable Superior AVS Evangelist G.A Adeyinka noted that the celestial church is a church that was divinely ordained. “The Celestial Church of Christ celebrates Easter to mark the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in a unique way annually. From Palm Sunday which begins the Passion Week, we begin our fasting and it starts normally from 12a.m to 6pm. We reflect on the sufferings of Jesus Christ all through the week and by Thursday of that week like this year, April 18, 2019 which is a Holy Thursday, we have our Feet Washing service and Holy Communion Service on the day. And the next day, which is a Good Friday, everyone is in church premises to fast and break for 3 p.m. in the Mercy Land. We assemble by 10 pm in a place that is figurative of the graveyard or tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ on Saturday and watch over the night- praying and singing and by Sunday 12am, we shout and we celebrate the resurrection by shouting Halleluyah. Before now all through the Passion Week, we say Hallelujah. Our Sunday service is an Easter Celebration service where we wine and dine. Note that from Good Friday till morning of Easter Sunday, Celestians are not permitted to eat meat or fish or anything with blood. We break our fast with water and fruits. Then you can eat anything afterwards. Our Easter Monday, is celebrated by going to a place to meet ‘Jesus at Galilee’ at km 53, Lagos-Ibadan expressway. This place is where all Celestians gather to celebrate Easter Monday. All these form the uniqueness and beauty of the Celestial Church of Christ,” says Adeyinka.
The church led by Reverend Emmanuel Mobiyina Oshoffa has experienced giant strides.
Redeemed Christian Church of God
Speaking with the Assistant pastor of The Redeemed Christian Church of God(RCCG)Freedom Life Parish zonal headquarters, Olorundare Israel who said Easter is a season of celebration and remembrance of the death and resurrection of Christ who came to die for our sins on how and why he died, just as December 25 is noted for his birth.
Olorundare said most churches do observe the passion week without missing a day in the week because it is the process on how Christ was bruised and maltreated before he was crucified on the cross and it is also said to be a religious rite attached to different denominations of churches in Christ, but as for RCCG “we don’t go into Easter fully. All we do observe this period is the “let’s go and fishing” which is interpreted as creating other branches of the church and winning more souls to Christ,” he added.
“Going to Galilee on Monday does not connote we seeing Christ in person rather it is a day to think deep about his death and the reason behind the death. We are also to ask ourselves the question, “if Christ is coming in person will I be there?”
Another minister of the same church, Mrs.Olugbuyi Oluronke Nath Utoh, described everyday as Easter to her and not a season particularly meant for totally jubilation but rather a period whereby the death and resurrection of Christ are noted for, in order for Christians to ruminate within themselves.
Olugbuyi said unlike the orthodox churches that express the passion week to the fullest without omitting a day off, the RCCG does not observe the week.
She pointed out that the recap of this scenario or demonstrating it does not qualify one’s Christianity or make one a good Christian. She, however, noted that it is a season of going deeper in prayers for salvation of souls or evangelism.
Oluronke said going to Galilee on Monday which is believed by most Christians to be a day to see Christ is really not working out. Rather people go to Galilee for picnics and after then depart without seeing Christ.
“Easter ought to be a time or season of evangelism, retreats and solemn thinking of his death,” she added
Household of God
Easter celebration at Household of God Church always delivers something of a grandeur spectacle amidst the message of love it relays to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Household of God, the Easter celebration comes with its own fanfare, the church is known for. Only the Easter Sunday is celebrated. The Easter Sunday sets the tone of celebration to mark the resurrection from the third day of Christ’s death where a full house congregation with media presence and dignitaries all in their elegant, radiating, dashing looks and outfits come all out to rejoice and dance to victory therefore setting the pace for an intense, exciting, yet spirited atmosphere of praises and worship with Revered Chris Okotie leading the charge.
Okotie who turns 60 years of age come June 2019, will once again look to impart, engage and sing his songs of love and praise to draw the congregation closer to that place of oneness and fulfilment with God. With an already unique musical artistry and voice, Reverend Okotie will also cease the moment to preach and reiterate his message of love which he says was showed when Jesus died for the cleansing of our sins; he called it the greatest form of love shown on mankind.
“If you want to know that you love someone you can find out in the book of 1st Corinthians 13. The Bible tells us there that love is behavioural, it is predicated on your behavioural pattern. It is an outward demonstration. It is not an emotion, but has emotions; it is not something that you are feeling. It has feelings but it not a feeling. Love is a commitment which is why it is behavioural and must be demonstrated,” Okotie said in his midweek service on Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Easter indeed is a celebration of God’s love to man. God sending his song to come and die for mankind on the cross of Calvary.
Cherubim & Seraphim Church
The Cherubim & Seraphim C&S Church is one of the African instituted churches. Having its root in Nigeria, the church which has many factions celebrates Easter in its unique way.
Prophet Samuel Shopeyin a.k.a. Eri-Okan mi of Cherubim and Seraphim, the God of Wonder the Beloved of Christ, Sango-Ota in Ogun State says Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ where everybody prays together before the Easter Sunday and then the church cooks together and eats together in celebration.
“We celebrate Easter because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. From Friday, we don’t eat anything that pertains to blood, that is our doctrine. We only take snails, we don’t eat anything that has blood at all. We pray throughout in the church where we do so hourly from 6am to 9am, 12pm to 3pm and then 6pm to 9pm. We pray according to the birth of Jesus Christ and that day, we talk about the seven words, Jesus said before he died on the cross of Calvary.
“On Sunday, the church celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ where everybody as a church will cook together and eat together and then we do thanksgiving to celebrate that our Jesus Christ has resurrected, just according to the Bible. We do it this way because it is what our C & S founding fathers, our father in the Lord, Saint Moses Orimolade, laid down coupled with the fact that it is what is written in the Bible, knowing fully that we believe in the Holy Bible,” he said.
The Easter celebration is a thing to watch out for in Christendom and all denomination hinge its faith and significance on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Though we are many, we are one body, the Holy Book says. The church in unity gains and moves forward but in disunity and disaffection, the body of Christ the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ suffers and cannot play its role as salt of the earth in disunity and faultfinding. ”says Superior Evangelist Ademola Abulude in a phone chat on the benefit of the church as we celebrate Easter.
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