His Grace, Baba Aladura Henry Phillips, is the Supreme Head of The Mount Shiloh Praying Band, Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) Worldwide. At the 60th anniversary of the church, he spoke with journalists on the misrepresentation of the white garment churches, the genesis of the church in Nigeria and its evolution, among other salient issues
What prompted the theme of the church’s 60th anniversary, ‘Rehoboth’?
God revealed to me during a three-day prayer that the journey of our church this year is ‘Rehoboth’. So the theme is not only for the anniversary but for our church. In the Bible, God warned Isaac not to go to Egypt. In Bible terms, it means not to follow idolaters, worship idols or seek help from the wrong quarters. Rehoboth, in the Bible advanced dictionary, means freedom. In the lesser dictionary, it is called a place or a space. There is no way there can be freedom without space.
How can the theme be relevant in addressing the current situation in Nigeria?
42 years ago, the then military government under retired General Olusegun Obasanjo, through FESTAC ’77, took the nation back to Egypt, although we heard that the plan was on during the regime of retired General Yakubu Gowon. All idols from other black African nations and even beyond were brought into our country. If those idols are not destroyed, we cannot reach our goal. We had a good economy, which was more buoyant than that of America in 1977; it was even more buoyant than that of the United Kingdom. After 1977, Nigeria found herself struggling.
Our leaders have compromised. What I expect from President Muhammadu Buhari is for him to call the nation to repentance and sincere worship of God and also take us back to the Promised Land. If Nigeria wants to overcome the challenges, whether economically, political or insecurity, we should go back to our God. We should be nearer to God; God is merciful and always ready to forgive us. He will transform our nation to Canaan Land because Nigeria is a Canaan Land to many nations all over the world. Name any mineral resources, you will find them in Nigeria whether in large or small quantities.
Nigeria is the most populous African nation. Nigeria is over 200 million in population; this means that we have the manpower. Anywhere the manpower is, the economy is supposed to be strong but look at us today. Nigeria as a nation has to move closer to God; this is what will make us prosper. How can we prosper with sin? We can’t except we forgo our sins and make agreement to worship God in spirit and in truth.
Are you saying that FESTAC ‘77 is the cause of the challenges Nigeria is facing today?
When we were under the British colonial rule, we were into Christian and Muslim religions but in 1977, we entered into idolatry and since FESTAC ’77, the economy of Nigeria has been going down and presently, we are drowned. It was in 1978 that our financial crisis started. Where is Leventis? Where is UAC? You can only have their buildings to show.
Can you give a brief background of the Church?
We became independent from our mother church, the Praying Band of Cherubim and Seraphim, which is almost 100 years in existence. Fortunately, it was my grandfather who headed the mother church. On Monday, June 29, 1959, the Mount Shiloh Praying Band of the Holy Cherubim and Seraphim Incorporated (member of United Aladura Churches) started in a room apartment on Onifade Street, Mushin. Since then, the church has been going from strength to strength and we thank God for upholding us all these years.
How was it with you taking over leadership of the Church?
At the demise of my father, I had to wait for five years to ascend the seat of the spiritual head. I didn’t occupy this position because my late father founded the church; I worked for it and suffered in the process. I thank God for everything happening today because I’m contented. It takes contentment to serve God, otherwise a person will be serving Mammon thinking he or she is serving God.
What is the mission statement of your Church?
Our mission is to propagate the gospel through the four corners of the earth; to save souls and prepare them for eternal life. This is because after our stay here on earth, there is the reality of eternity. If you have houses, cars or children and you don’t have salvation, you have nothing.
It is believed by some Christians that the white garment churches incorporate fetish practices in their worship, thereby, not drawing the line between Christianity and African Traditional Religion. How true or false is this?
I am the third generation to be Baba Aladura; you can’t find it elsewhere. The Church of Aladura has the second generation and not third generation. We were taught not to receive money for praying for people. Our slogan is ‘Work And Pray’. We were taught to be fervent in prayers. I thank God that the standard is still standing. We do not comprise; I do not belong to any occult society. The society I belong to is the fellowship of Christian Ministers and United Aladura Churches which comprises of Aladura Churches. C and S is the Christian religious sect that gave Christianity footing in Nigeria.
C & S liberated Christians from visiting herbalists after they leave church. The sect teaches people how to fast, pray and hold vigils, which are the keys to overcoming the turbulence in this world. In fact, we are the first Pentecostal because the gifts of speaking in tongues, healing and seeing visions which God poured out on the day of Pentecost is common among us though it is true that we are being misrepresented as a ‘ritualist’ church. It is a challenge to us; this is why our forefathers put their foot down to fight the menace.
This challenge of infiltration is not uncommon in other denominations as well; this is why we are asking God to help the body of Christ as a whole. It is also common in the Muslim religion; we have both the good and the bad ones. This is why we have to be praying for the spirit of contentment and righteous so that we can make heaven. It is not about having fleet of cars; I do not have a car but I need to have and I’m not aiming to get it at all cost.
How do you see the unprintable deeds of some clerics in recent times?
Christ did not send us to the world to make riches. It is not about working miracles or having 10 million members. It is about preparing men for the kingdom of God and eventually making it there at last. I implore all servants of God to remember that we are answerable to God Almighty. We would meet with him someday and we would give every account of how we spent our lives.
First published in Sunday Independent on October 13
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