PASSING DOWN OUR HISTORY
Celestial Church is such a unique Church that those who are born into the fold are given their name by the spirit, the naming ceremony itself is a unique aspect of the fold as the name given to the child is not by man but by God. The hymns that we sing in our services were descended not only by prophets but children, for example, hymn 377 was given to us from a baby which was 8 days old (Oshoffa 2014).
Such a rich history is often forgotten and not celebrated enough, again those that lived through this moment would never forget such moments, but if the history is not taught how would the youth understand the value of what they have?
If we look at the history of Celestial Church of Christ from 1947, one can see and hear of the miracles that occurred from the Pastor Founder Papa Oshoffa, such as raising people from the dead or healing the blind. These miracles were not just common but it raised the profile of the church even to the level that the late Pope John Paul II visited Papa Oschoffa in 1982.
Many of our parents and elders in the church have witnessed and lived through the golden era, these types of stories strengthen their faith in the fold, but how often were these stories passed down to the younger generation?
Celestial Church is a bible believing domination like other churches, we accept that Christ is the son of God and that through our faith in God and fervent prayers our requests will be answered.
However, there are aspects of the Church which are unique from how we start our prayers with Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Holy Michael, down to our attire for Church which is the sutana, the use of candles and perfumes, not wearing shoes in the church or with our sutana etc.
All these things assist with our prayers but it’s good to fully understand the meaning of these and also to hear the stories of how people were delivered.
CELETIAL CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
With Celestial Church in the UK one can see the middle-aged parents and their young children from 0-16 but what about the age segment from 16- 35? As the grace of Celestial Church flourished in the UK and as parishes were expanding during the late 90’s to the early 2000’s what happened to the youth?
As a Nigerian youth being brought up in the UK, there are certain things that make our upbringing different than being in Nigeria. We are raised to question society, think for ourselves and treated more like adults at a younger age if the youth do not see these types of things and qualities in others it may discourage them from going to church.
The first generation of youth that was born and raised in the UK benefited from the ecosystem that allows them to have a quality education, become entrepreneurs or pursue other ventures in life. As this transition happened they became an image of black excellence and also a representation of their faith in their workplaces and in the wider society.
However, if the youth that is born and raised in CCC grow up and leave the church, how will it enhance the perception of CCC in this country?
As questions start to arise it is important for the youth to have a role model or an elder they can relate to. If this is lacking or the church does not fulfil the issues of the youth, they may start to ask themselves why they even attend church.
As they grow older towards the teenage stage they either start to become more consistent with the church or they begin to be more distant. From the time, they reach the age to attend college or university outside London they are exposed to freedom of choice based on whether to go to church or not.
This is where the allure of other denominations come in. I have experienced university outside London and have attended church services out of CCC, I could see the focus on the youth with the afternoon youth services for students, youth fellowship, the youth ball, career talks and other activities out of the church which encouraged the youth to meet together.
This focus brings in a sense of belonging as being part of a group, growth among other young black Christians and also the chance to meet other students. It also helps that in or around most universities outside London there are local parishes of other denominations, again this helps build a connection with young people that are living away from home for the first time.
By the time the person has finished his/her course and has graduated from university a connection has been formed with the church that they attended and it’s likely that they would attend the same denomination as the one they attended at university.
This may not be the case for every child that has experienced this but it occurs too often. Speaking from personal experience, it’s a story that I have seen and heard of time and time again.
As time has passed and the growth of CCC has expanded not just in the UK but in the western world, the youth segment of the church in the UK seems to have risen through the grace of God.
We are now witnessing an era where experienced Celestians have written books documenting the history of CCC such as SBJ Oshoffa: The Enigmatic Leader by our mother MC Edith Oschoffa & A History of Celestial Church of Christ in the UK by Sup Evang Banji Oyelakin. The books not only make it easier for young people to research the history of the church but the stories will be a source of inspiration.
The development technology such as social media has made it easier for people to share their experiences of harvest, service and other church related events, this not only shows the growth of the youth but also the pride that they have in being a Celestian.
The increase in youth related activities have also been an encouraging sign and is a positive step for the future, for example in the past 5 years we have witnessed the Youth Ministry for Celestians in the UK, the Celestial Church Youth Choir and now the Celestial Church Youth Magazine.
The zeal for the youth to create platforms for young Celestians to showcase their talent is an encouraging sign for the future, which with consistency and focus the youth of this generation can go far above what we have now.
However, it’s one thing to have youth in the church but another thing for the youth to develop and become useful in the vineyard of God, therefore youth development in regards to the spiritual aspect of the church and passing down knowledge is key for the youth to grow.