The Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim is the first African initiated church established in 1925 by Moses Orimolade Tunolase. The church was born out of the Anglican church community among the Yoruba people in Western Nigeria.
Moses Orimolade had been crippled from an injury inflicted on him at birth. He reportedly stood up in his bath blood attempting to walk when he was forced back down by the birth attendant. The severity of his injury was not apparent until he failed to walk as a child. In an effort to get Orimolade the help he needed, his pagan parents had taken him to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, the only church in the Yoruba town of Ikare in Western Nigeria at the time.
Orimolade was often left for days at a time in the custody of the clergyman at this Church Missionary Society establishment of the Anglican Communion. One night in St. Stephen’s Anglican Church the minister observed a strange light in the Church and heard the sound of singing coming from inside the church. Rather puzzled, the minister decided to go and see what was happening in the Church, pondering how anybody could be using the building at that time of the night without his knowledge. The minister arrived at the building to find to his amazement that the building was empty, except for a little boy of about 5 years of age sitting on the floor of the church in bright phosphorescence. The stunned minister approached the scene with caution, only to realize that the child staring calmly at him, unruffled by his intrusion, was Orimolade the crippled boy that had been left in his custody by his pagan parents.
In response to his prayer at 12 years of age, Orimolade had a dream in which he was presented with a rod, a Royal Insignia and a crown representing victory, power of speech and honor respectively. He woke up from this dream with a personal conversion to the Christian faith and a conviction of his calling to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ but his evangelistic mission did not begin until after a period of seven years in confinement. The nature of this confinement has been a matter of speculation. Some of his close associates at the time attributed this confinement to a protracted illness while others regarded it as a period spent in training and preparation for his missionary work. What is known, is that Orimolade emerged from this confinement with a partial recovery of the use of his legs and a remarkable ability to pray and preach the King James Version of the Bible that had been translated into his own native Yoruba language earlier by his tribesman, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther.
Orimolade started his missionary work as an itinerant preacher in Ikare (his Yoruba town of birth) with no formal education. He preached the Bible with an astonishing degree of clarity and prayed for people with instant and awesome results. He openly confronted witches and wizards in Irun (another Yoruba town) and pulled down the image of Osijora, one of the idols worshipped in the village. He condemned the prevalent practice of human sacrifice in Benin City. He consecrated a pool in Kaba town and rid it of the evil spirit the villagers had worshipped from time immemorial. Orimolade converted many people to the Christian faith in many places. Traditional worshippers on several occasions willingly gave up their charms and images for burning in response to his preaching and prayer. He directed his converts to the existing churches, irrespective of denominations, and where no church existed he helped establish one. Some of the churches established by Orimolade were actually established for the Church Missionary Society.
The African people converted to the Christian faith heretofore by the members of the Church Missionary Society for the Anglican Church and were introduced to the Bible with Christianized western world views and European moral values that contradicted and contravened the nature and culture of the African people. The missionaries were more scientific and less spiritual than their African Christian converts. They made no holy inquiries for members of the church on matters affecting their lives. The concept of health and disease practiced and preached by the missionaries was rational and scientific with no recognition for the spiritual basis of health and disease. The quest of the people for the spiritual causes of diseases and their prayerful pursuit of cures were often shunned and scorned by the missionaries. The manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit among the African converts were misunderstood and mistaken by the missionaries for diabolical African voodoo. The imperial imposition of western moral values culminated in the dissolution of polygamous marriages, the disruption of polygamous families and the bastardization of the children from these African traditional marriages as the missionaries subverted and supplanted the Great Commission with imperial motives and missions.
The availability of the translations of the scriptures in African vernaculars brought the Bible to life among the African people and changed their views of the missionaries and the missions. The people found in the Bible the true expression and essence of Christian spirituality that strengthened and supported their innate aspirations for miracles and mastery of life. The Biblical mode of worship with drumming, clapping and dancing resonated so well with the African people and created enormous challenges for the missionaries and their European concept of worship. The African people read several passages of the Bible literally and were more comfortable with the Biblical concepts of exorcism, faith healing, rain-making and rain-stopping than the missionaries. The disregard of the missionaries for the Biblical liberty apparent on the pages of the scriptures degenerated into clashes and conflicts between the missionaries and the African leadership in the Anglican Church. The people started to see the missionaries as political agents of their respective governments with a preference for the promotion and propagation of European morals and values on the platform of Christianity. The blind insistence of the missionaries on the superiority of the European concept of Christianity provided the moral impetus for the denial of the African leadership the right to succeed Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther and left the African people in the Anglican Church disconnected and discontented with an overwhelming sense of indifference.
In direct response to the discrepancies between the Biblical precepts and mission practice the people started gathering into prayer groups called Egbe Aladura. The Aladuras promoted and popularized the power of prayer to heal. When the 1918 influenza pandemic spread to West Africa the people sought healing among the Aladuras. The 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading to the arctic and the remote Pacific islands with an estimated loss of over 50 million lives worldwide. The healing and survival of so many Nigerians among the Aladuras during the Spanish flu spurred the growth and spread of these prayer groups in the early 1920s. Moses Orimolade arrived in Lagos on July 12, 1924 and lodged at Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church with the Sexton of the Church, Emmanuel Olumodeji from his hometown. He started preaching and praying for people all over Lagos in Nigeria. Many people in and around Holy Trinity sought after Orimolade for spiritual inquiry and counseling. He developed a reputation for seasoned preaching and fervent prayer and became known among the people as the "Baba Aladura" (Father that prays). The prosperity and popularity of Moses Orimolade provoked envy and anger among the Anglican leadership and led ultimately to the ejection of the Baba Aladura from the premises of Holy Trinity on the 11th day of September, 1924. The ejection of Moses Orimolade from Holy Trinity aroused the sympathy and support of many people in and around the Church. They followed Orimolade out of Holy Trinity and thereafter to his places of residence. Orimolade called this group of supporters and sympathizers the "Aladura Band" and continued his preaching and prayer with them.
Separation from Anglicans
On 18 June 1925 the Aladura Band was called to the rescue of an unconscious Methodist teenage girl, Abiodun Akinsowon, who had fallen into a trance when she tried to look into the chalice carried by the Catholic Archbishop on Corpus Christi public procession. Abiodun remained in trance for 21 days in the care and custody of the Aladura Band under the leadership of Moses Orimolade. She regained consciousness after 21 days to the awe of many in Lagos and joined the Aladura Band. She became the first visioner in the Aladura band. The name of the band was changed to the Seraph Band on 9 September 1925 by Moses Orimolade. The addition of Cherubim to the name of the band was advised by spiritual injunction on 26 March 1926 to reflect the heavenly representation of the Cherubim and Seraphim. The band was fully formed and functional by the end of 1925. Moses Orimolade reigned as the Sole Founder and Spiritual head of the band from 1925 to 1933.
Abiodun Akinsowon led the evangelistic tours of the band from Lagos westward. She established most of the early branches of the band in the west of Nigeria. The reputation of Abiodun Akinsowon for effective leadership earned her the appellation “Captain Abiodun” in the band. She was adored by Moses Orimolade and admired by many members of the band. Abiodun Akinsowon rode with Moses Orimolade in the hammock chair to the envy of many men and women in the band. However, she pulled out of the band in 1929 to form the Cherubim and Seraphim Society after she failed to convince Moses Orimolade to refuse the volunteer housekeeping services of a widow (Iya Ijesha) who had been healed in the band. The elders of the western branches of the band declared independence and formed the Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim following their futile effort to reunite Abiodun Akinsowon and Moses Orimolade.
In 1930 a committee of elders was chosen to draft the Article of Association in preparation for the incorporation of the band. The first draft of the Article of Association was rejected by Moses Orimolade to the fury of some of the authors because of an unauthorized clause that transferred the executive power and control of the band to the membership of the band. The infuriated authors of the rejected draft of the Article of Association pulled out of the band in 1930 to form the Praying Band of the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim under the leadership of Ezekiel Davies. The northern branches of the band simply moved on as the Holy Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement. The mother band was renamed and registered in 1930 as the Eternal Sacred Order of the Cherubim and Seraphim (ESOC&S), with Moses Orimolade as the Sole Founder and Supreme Head “Baba Aladura”.
Beliefs and practices
The Order holds unshaken faith in the Holy Bible as the word of God and in salvation through Jesus Christ and in the Trinity in unity, the use of incense, purification by prayer and fasting and resurrection of the dead. Its first and primary work is that of prayer and preaching of the gospel. It believes in the curative effect of prayer for all afflictions, spiritual and temporal, but condemns and abhors the use of charms or fetish witchcraft or sorcery of any kind and all heathenish sacrifices and practices. It is not averse to the judicious use of curative herbs, the engagement of qualified medical practitioners or doctors or the use of patent medicines or other drugs. It endorses and does practice the sanctification of water by prayer and the effect of such consecrated or holy water for every purpose.
The ESOC&S is a Spiritual Christian Church with membership in the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Organization of African Instituted Churches and the World Council of Churches. Membership is open to people of all races, ages and genders. Members are required to wear prayer robes at all times for worship. All members are priests and may be called upon at any time to perform religious rites appropriate for their age and gender. Ordination and promotion are based on performance and promotion of the activities of the holy order, attendance at religious ceremonies and availability for religious duties. Shoes are not allowed in the house of prayer. Female members and nonmembers alike must cover their heads and may not enter the worship area during their monthly periods. Tithes and offerings are used for bills, worship articles and welfare of the order. The Holy Order has no paid priesthood. The church continues to grow and currently has about 10 million members that worship in about 1500 branches all over the world including the United Kingdom and the United States.
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