Amos Fagbamiye and the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, USA
When, on Sunday, September 6, 2020, the congregation gathered at the Anglican Cathedral Church of The Resurrection, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA for a thanksgiving service to mark the end of the last synod as the diocesan, Right Rev’d. Amos Seye Fagbamiye and his wife, Mama Abike Fagbamiye danced to the altar with a familiar lyric of praise in the Yoruba dialect, Abo Re O, Jesu, A jiseti o ran wa” that translated as “We have returned, Jesus. From the errand on which you sent us.”
Hearing this familiar lyric, I turned to my wife, who was watching this ceremony on Zoom with me, and I said, “Ahaa! That was my late father’s lyrics in the 60s!” Rendered along with members of his congregation, in the 1960s, they would sing this song whenever they were returning to the church after the day’s evangelizing crusade across the city in Ile- Oluji, Bishop Fagbamiye, and Mama Abike Fagbamiye’s hometown. This was where the Bishop and his wife had also, as young students, participated as choir and as youth vanguards in the St Peter’s Church and now the seat of a Bishop. What a befitting song to end the Bishop’s seven-year tenure as the first Diocesan Bishop of ADOTT and 33 years of priesthood in Nigeria’s Anglican Church! When I heard the announcement of his retirement several months ago, I began quietly to thank God for His faithfulness in Bishop and Mama Fagbamiye’s lives, for their families, and their ministry, particularly for God’s blessing in calling them to a ministry that allowed them to build a burgeoning Diocese that continues to make waves in North America.
As I was part of the early church of the Nigerian Anglican Communion in the United States, I know firsthand the hard work and heavy lifting the clergy and laymen and women all endured as a church community to establish a veritable church and diocese that we are all proud to call our spiritual home today. The Anglican mission and the diocese, as many are already aware, began as the brainchild of many Anglican clerics, including former Primate Jasper Akinola, Primate Nicholas Okoh, and several Nigerian Bishops, notably the retired Bishop of Lagos West Diocese, Rev’d Dr. Peter Adebiyi, whose labor of love, evangelical spirit, and the financial support of his diocese, and others such as the Ibadan St James Cathedral Diocese, under Most Revd. Akinfemiwa made all of these achievements possible. The ADOTT recently completed a book to be launched on March 12th to mark Bishop Fagbamiye’s retirement and serve as a testament to the work of numerous priests, evangelists, and laypeople, who labored to make the diocese what it has become today.
Bishop Fagbamiye came from a very humble but large Anglican family and chiefly tradition in Ile-Oluji. The Fagbamiye’s lineage is one of the first sets of Christian converts in St. Peter’s Church, Ile-Oluji (now the seat of a Diocese.). The Bishop would be the first in his family to be ordained a priest and the first in the diocese to become a Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Fagbamiye’s family is one of the families that are synonymous with the Cathedral Church of St Peter’s, Ile-Oluji. As I recall in my book In My Father’s Parsonage: The Story of an Anglican Family in Yoruba-Speaking Nigeria, (2012), during my childhood and as a schoolboy living with my parents in the vicarage, I remember that one of his uncles was a member of the church’s inner circle. His self-assigned duty was to quietly go around the church during church service to persuade the noisy little children running around to maintain silence as the church service was in session. He would send those he deemed old enough to benefit from the Sunday School to the nearby primary school across the church to join their peers to learn the word of God. As a result of his steadfast commitment to the church, we children named him Baba-L’igbagbo, “The Believer” (or “Mr. Christianity”). Very soon, this nickname, given to him by children, eventually became his adopted name in the church community circle. In later years I sometimes thought that if the late legendary Bishop Charles Philips (1877-1906), whom I described in 1983 as “The Apostle of Ondo Christianity,” had known about the activities of such a person as Baba L’igbagbo Fagbamiye, the late Bishop would also have created a similar church title as part of the church indigenization policy he was famous for. Bishop Charles Philips, of blessed memory, created in the late 19th century titled Christian chiefs (Bale, Balogun, Seriki, Otun, Osi, Iyalode, etc.) for his growing churches in the then Ondo Anglican communion where Christianity spread to many districts in Eastern Yorubaland. This was long before the tradition of bestowing honorary title of knighthood on deserving churchmen and women in the Anglican church in Nigeria.
The point I am trying to make as it concerns our retiring Diocesan is that, like many Anglicans of my generation, Anglicanism is not just a faith and belief system but is also a heritage, a legacy, and an inheritance. That is what motivates spiritual passion, a sense of belonging, and commitment to the church, a factor that is lost to many in this age of cash and carries spirituality in many Nigerian churches. A glance at Bishop Fagbamiye’s life and times will provide a glimpse of God’s faithfulness in his life and ministry. After undertaking primary education in Jos, Nigeria, where his parents lived, he was sent to Gboluji Anglican Grammar School, Ile-Oluji, where I also schooled. He had an exciting life, including belonging to the Boy’s Brigade with his older brother, Akinyele Fagbamiye, who is now High Chief Lisa of Ile-Oluji, second in rank to HRH Oba Dr. Adetimehin, the Jegun of Ile Oluji. When the young Fagbamiye completed his secondary education, he joined the first set of the Higher School Certificate Class in 1967 in the same school and, after graduation, proceeded to the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, to study Physics. He later pursued post-graduate studies in computer science and earned a master’s degree in computer engineering at the University of Ife, Nigeria.
Fagbamiye was commissioned into Nigeria Army in 1974 and during twenty-five years of service, he served as an instructor at the Nigerian Army Signal Training School, the Nigerian Army School of Artillery, and later at Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) where he was also the Head of the NDA Computer Center. He also held staff and command appointments including Research, Recruitment and Training Officer at the Army Research, Recruitment & Resettlement Directorate and later Director of Army Data Processing e Director of Nigerian Directorate of Automatic Data Processing (computer Unit) where he retired in 1996 as a Lieutenant Colonel with military awards including meritorious and distinguished service awards.
To be continued tomorrow
Professor Jacob K. Olupona wrote from Harvard University, USA.