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From Deacon To Archdeacon

As already noted, the youthful Godwin started as a Church Teacher at Nnewichi in January, 1972 under Revd. S.N. Akuwa. After two years of meritorious service and stewardship, the Church discovered him to be a material for the Priesthood. It was an indication that he discharged himself creditably in his work.

Church Teaching has always been the foundational step in the Ministry. Some who started from it did not move beyond that level. Many others did because they showed both focus and commitment. The youthful Godwin was one of them. In 1973, he took the first position in the entrance examination and therefore gained admission into Trinity Theological College, Umuahia for a three year pre-ordination training.

 

(THE BISHOP AS AN ORDAINED IN TH TRINITY COLLEGE LIBRARY)

 

It must ne on record that this school (jointly established in 1948 by the three cooperating Churches, the Anglican, the Presbyterian and the Methodist Churches) has produced many Bishop and Church leaders today. The Bishop of Nnewi is one of them.

At Trinity College, Umuahia, he was part of the special class for the London Diploma in Theology. At the end of their studies, he emerged the best academic student and was the gospeller at their ordination in 1976.

 

(THE BISHOP WITH THEN NIGARDIOCESAN ORDINANDS AT TRINITY COLLEGE, UMUAHIA. SITTING L-R ORDS. E.U. OKOYE, CHUKWUEKEZIE, KWULUNEBE, AJAKOR, UMEORANFO AND OKPALA)

 

(THE BISHOP WITH OTHER BRIDGE OFFICERS AT TRINITY COLLEGA, UMUAHIA)

He was deaconed in December 1976 at All saints’ Cathedral, Onitsha. His Priesthood ordination also took place at the same venue in December, 1977. Both ordinations were performed by the Rt. Revd. J.A Onyemelukwe (as he then was), the then Bishop on the Niger with whom he had fostered a father-child relationship.

 

(THE BISHOP BEING MADE A DEACON BY BISHOP ONYEMWLUKWE.)

(THE BISHOP WAS THE GOSPELLER AT HIS DIACONATE ORDINATION)

After his Diaconate Ordination, he was posted to serve at All Saints’ Cathedral Onitsha under the Very Revd. I.C. Agbaim of blessed memory. He was a man of strict disposition. At  the Cathedral, he met with several challenges because of the magnitude of work in the place. For example, as a deacon, he had to assist in daily Holy Communion services while the Senior Clergy men took theirs in turn. This however enabled him to be conversant with the Communion Liturgy (1662) even as a young Priest, agreeing with Abraham Lincoln’s dictum that

“it is only the best of fire that makes a fine steel”

In January, 1980, he was transferred to St. Faith’s Church, Awka (now St. Faith’s cathedra, Diocese of Awka) to work under Ven. C.U. Okpala of Ogbunka. Having similar surname with the Archdeacon, people wondered whether they were of the same family or he was his son. It was a mere coincidence. Under him, he had every time to visit members of the congregation. In the Bishop’s assessment, the Archdeacon was a liberal man with a good heart. Under him, he had job satisfaction. It was during their time that the foundation of the present St. Faith’s Cathedral was laid Noteworthy also is that it was during his stay in this Church that he found his missing rib and wedded former Miss Eugenia N. now Mama Nnewi.

After two years of stay, he left for the famous University of Nigeria Nsukka precisely in 1982 to study “religion”. He graduated as a “lion”.in 1984 with a B.A. (Hons.). he did his National Youth service Corps programme (NYSC) AT St. Cathrine’s secondary School, Nkwerre in Imo State. On his return to the Diocese on the Niger, he was posted to Christ Church, Onitsha to serve as a Curate under ven. C.A. Mbonu. A lot of people wondered why after so many years of ordination and after graduating from the University he would still be returned as a Curate. He did not allow such thoughts to weigh him down. He saw his new posting as divinely arranged. Proverb 1921says

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. In Isaiah 1424, the Lord says with every measure of finality “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand”.

God was actually packaging him for greater manifestation. It was his own crucible of refinery to enable him face challenges ahead. His stay at the station was very brief, just six months i.e. July to December, 1984.

At the 1984 Locations and Appointments Board meeting, Revd. Godwin was transferred to St. Andrew’s Church, Obosi. The Church had gained a form of notoriety in the then Diocese on the Niger as a Church bedeviled with crises because of the feud among her members and their resistance and antagonism to Church workers. At  the time of his posting, there was no peace in the Church. When his posting was announced, he began to receive somewhat condolence messages from people who felt that he may meet his waterloo at the Church. Unknown to many to the people, perhaps even unknown to the then Bishop on the Niger, his new location came as a fulfillment of a vision which he saw prior to the day in question in which he specifically demanded of God to send him to St. Andrew’s Church, Obosi. He saw himself as the man that God would use to restore sanity to this ailing Church. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”.

He was convinced that no matter the prevailing circumstances, he had what it took under God’s grace to chart a new course forward for the Church. After all, the Lord said to Zerubabel in Zech. 46 “not by might nor by power, but by my spirit”.

Some members of the Church resisted his posting and wrote a petition to Bishop Onyemelukwe (as he then was) to that effect, specifically noting that his presence at the new station was not welcome. This majorly bordered on his age and the nature of crises in the Church. Bishop Onyemelukwe being a father figure called him and showed him the said letter and explained the reply he gave to the people. He specifically told the people told give him a chance, as he took the decision after prayers. He assured them that the young Priest would do well. He advised him to work very hard, having put the entire situation into perspective.

At Obosi, Revd. Godwin proved the crises wrong. Being a good listener, he was able to listen to both parties to the crises. He was receptive to every group and sought a way to bring back lasting peace and progress which had since eluded the Church.

The text for his first Sunday service sermon was 1Cor. 12

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it: (NIV).

It was a text that sought to emphasize the unity of the Church and the relevance of all the component members. It was a text that sought to reconcile the warring factions.

He spoke powerfully from the pulpit emphasizing the centrality of Christ to the Church and the need for all to come together to move the Church forward. He pleaded that both factions should sheath their swords to enable the return of peace and unity. Gradually, the people came together. Even those who hitherto stood aloof also came on board. Today, Bishop’s messages remain very challenging. They may not come with thunderous words or in an earth quaking fashion, yet they arrest the heart and transform lives.

The new spirit of oneness occasioned the commencement of the building of a new parsonage which now serves as the Archdeacon’s Lodge. He challenged the people then to see the project as integral to their elevation to an Archdeaconry status, a prophetic declaration which later came to pass in 1992. Money was mobilized from every angle and work continued in earnest. It is on record that his stay at St. Andrew’s Church, Obosi as one that was bedeviled with high profile challenges. The success of his ministry in that Parish is an eloquent testimony of how an undoubting spirit can bring about triumph in the face of difficulties. After all, in his letter to John Quincy, Abigail Adams noted that

“It is not the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. Great necessities call out great virtues”.

After five years and when normalcy has returned, Revd. Godwin left Obosi on transfer; However, his work at Obosi occupies a central position in his life and ministry. This can boldly be said with reasons. In this situation, he received preferment from Bishop Onemelukwe as a “canon” of the Cathedral. It was at the Synod at Alor in June 1989. Prior to the Synod, he was given an assignment to preach on one of the Synod Preacher, a white man from abroad, to attend. He acquitted himself so well by effectively discharging the assignment. When his preferment came immediately at that Synod, he tried to relate it with this. Be that as it may, one thing was certain as the Hymn writer in S.S&S 516 put it God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform”.

In this station as well, he also received preferment as an Archdeacon from the same Bishop Onyemelukwe a man he will forever remember for playing a key in his destiny. It was very dramatic. It was something that took him by surprise. The then Bishop on the Niger came on a Pastoral visit to his Parish, for confirmation and Admissions. At the end of the service and a very brief reception in his honour, as he was about to enter his vehicle to take his leave, he handed an envelop containing a letter to him and requested him to read and give a reply. He was so anxious about the content of the letter that he had to rush in and read it. The content of the said letter greatly unsettled him. The letter simply informed him of the Bishop’s disposition to prefer him an Archdeacon and post him to Nnewi Archdeaconry. His reaction, best explained, was that of shock and surprise. After reflecting meditatively on the subject together with his wife, he received encouragement from God. So he replied the letter accepting the call to a greater responsibility, be believing God to supply the strength. The Bible says Romans 9

“So then, it is not him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy”.

In January, 1990 he moved to St. Mary’s Church Uruagu the headquarters of Nnewi Archdeaconry as the third Archdeacon of Nnewi following after Ven. C.U Iwuno and Ven. C.U. Okpala in that order. The first challenge that he met was settling the financial fraud and scandal in respect of the Archdeaconry account that greeted his arrival and which occasioned high indebtedness to the Diocese on the Niger. In the then sequence of assessment payment, Churches paid to the parishes which paid to the Archdeaconries which now remitted applicable funds to the Diocese. On account of this financial mismanagement by those handling the finances of the Archdeaconry, assessment payments made to Nnewi Archdeaconry by Parishes were not remitted to the Diocese. So, the new Archdeacon faced the disturbing situation with stoic equanimity.

Quickly, he settled down to work and within a short time the whole debt was offset. The investigation or inquiry which he initially was stopped half way because it was taking its toll on very many people who soiled their hands and would have been injurious to the welfare of the Church. Generally, Ven. Godwin provided quality leadership in the Archdeaconry that it will easily be said that that is tenure witnessed a tremendous spiritual and material growth of Churches in the Archdeaconry. It takes an inspired leader to make an inspired congregation. He so lifted this part of then Niger Diocese that the possibility of attaining a Diocesan status became so obvious to everyone.

Mention must be made of the fact that what constituted the then Nnewi   Archdeaconry is he present Nnewi, Iheala and Amichi Diocese put together. Ven Godwin presided over the affairs of the Archdeaconries in 1992 mnamely, Nnewi, Ihiala and Amichi. Ven. Dr,  F.A.A Eriobunah and Ven. L.N. Enemor were both preferred Archdeacons by Bishop Onyemelukwe to superintend the affairs of the two new Archdeaconries.

Ven. Godwin (as he then was) was part of the arrow head of the struggle for the actualization of the new Diocese of Nnewi. Under his leadership, he galvanized the people of Nnewi and other parts of the intending Diocese to pursue their dream with cohesion while updating the Bishop on the Niger on developments. On 20th April, 1993, a formal application for the creation of the diocese of Nnewi was sent to the thn Bishop on the Niger, Rt. Revd. Dr. J.A. Onyemelukwe. The letter was signed by twenty-six representatives of the Archdeaconries of Nnewi, Ihiala and Amichi. On 13th August, 1993, at the joint meeting of the Niger Diocesan Board and finance, a motion for the creation of the new Diocese was moved and unanimously passed. It was a formal signal to swing into action. The construction of a new Bishops court was commenced and work progressed speedily. A planning Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of Chief Sir Aaron Okoye. Resources were pulled together by component Churches for this purpose. Ven. Godwin and the other two Archdeacons transverse the length and breadth of country in search of funds for the project.

On 29thSeptember 1995, the Church of Nigeria standing Committee meeting at Kano approved the creation of the new Diocese of Nnewi.

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