Venerable Emmanuel Adesanya retired as a priest from the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion on May 5, 2022. His wife Adenike Adesanya also retired from the Federal Civil Service the same month with him having clocked 60.
Their birthdays are just three days apart. Ven Adesanya was born May 5 while his wife was born May 2. Today, both of them have taken on another life; post-retirement.
For Venerable Emmanuel Adesanya however, there is so much to say about his sojourn as a priest. His retirement has provided him the opportunity to reflect on his 29-year service in the Anglican Church while also thanking God for His faithfulness.
The first church I served
Incidentally, the first church he was posted to after his ordination 29 years ago was the church he retired from. But he was denied the opportunity of serving in the church then. “I was posted to serve at the St Paul’s church Breadfruit, Lagos. But somehow the posting was changed and I was sent to St, Jude’s Anglican Church, Itekun in the Agbara area of Ogun State.”
He became the first ordained priest to pastor the church, which was established in 1905. The church had always had Lay Readers. He told Church Time that the first few days he resumed in the church were quite dramatic.
He recalled, “There was this family in the church who had a sickly child. The family came to donate their daughter to me days after I resumed as vicar of the church. They said they were giving her to God. I had to take responsibility for the girl. She was about 10 years old then. She was my first adopted child. We prayed and God healed the child of the sickness. She went to school under my care. Today she is doing great.”
There was another case of a girl that was brought to him. This time, she was taken for dead. “It was the very day I resumed in the church. The parents brought her and abandoned her in my hands.
“I prayed fervently that day. She opened her eyes and closed them again. I prayed earnestly and God brought her back to life. I then returned her to her father. But to my surprise, her father said he was donating her to me and that she would eventually be my wife. That was strange to me. I had to convince him to take back his child. I have had to be a father for some other children like that.”
I did not expect what I experienced
Ven Adesanya first studied French/Yoruba at the Lagos State College of Education. He later studied Guidance and Counseling at the Lagos State University. He had worked as a civil servant for 9 years before becoming a full-time priest.
Some of the experiences he had while serving in the Church came to him as a shock.
“I was doing the work of Lay Reader in an Anglican church for a period of 6 years before I resigned from the civil service to go into full time. Before I came in fully, I had the opportunity of reporting to the Late Bishop Awelewa Adebiyi. He was then the vicar of Archbishop Vining Memorial Anglican Church
“He was one of the people who really encouraged me to become a full-time priest. Whenever I go to give him reports of the progress in the church I was pastoring, he would ensure that his driver takes me back home. He was so nice and gave me a good impression about priesthood.”
Eventually, the opportunity came for him to attend the Lagos Anglican Seminary after which he joined the church as a full-time priest. But it was a different ball game when he entered the system.
“I discovered being a full-time priest is a different kettle of fish. That may not be the experience in all the Anglican dioceses. But that was what I found out.” he said.
Ven Adesanya: I wanted to quit the priesthood
“To start with I only had the grace of being the vicar(main pastor) of the first two churches I pastored and then the church where I served as Archdeacon. Even at that, I did not stay long in the posting before I was returned to being a curate at St. Paul’s Breadfruit, Lagos where I retired.”
While insinuating that he suffered setbacks because he would not conform to certain expectations from some of his colleagues, he said, “I actually wanted to quit at a point.
“But it was my wife who encouraged me and said we should pray about the issues bothering me. And that was it. When we prayed, God answered. I was preferred a canon without having to lobby. Years later I was preferred a venerable.”
He said there was a particular priest who boasted he was behind his travail. But as God would have it, the priest was served the same pill he orchestrated for him.
One obvious trait about Venerable Adesanya is that he does not know how to mince words. He would say it as it is. He gave pathetic details of his first marriage which lasted for six years.
He added however that his second marriage has since changed the trajectory of his life. “I met my wife when I got to Christ the King Church, Ajegunle Apapa. That was the church where I served the longest. I was there for about nine years and had a really nice time with the people. My wife has been so supportive of my ministry. God has used her as the home stabilizer. She has been the one encouraging me not to give up.”
The story of the churches
One thing Venerable Adesanya would not forget in a hurry was his experience with some parishioners in some of the churches where he served.
He said the Baba Ijo in one of the churches was diabolical and impressionistic.
“We could be having service. The man would just ring the bell and put an end to the service. He had other diabolical tendencies I can’t relate here. The man I took over from asked to be transferred away from the church. When I got there I could not condone his behaviour. I put a stop to it.”
The Ogun-State-born cleric noted that many of his colleagues go through a lot. “There was a particular day I woke up to find a pot of sacrifice in front of my apartment. If a priest is not prayerful that priest will just be wasted. By the time I left the church, I heard reports people were dying mysteriosly.
“In that church, the people’s warden would not come to church. His wife would collect the offering and take it home. It is the amount they eventually declare that will be recorded as the offering. Some parishioners believe they own the church and could do anything. It was that bad. All this happened in the 90s.”
Serving as Archdeacon
In the twilight of his service, he was posted to Epe, Lagos. He said he met some difficult set of men who had the capacity for blackmail.
“I was frantically lied against by some of these people. It became a big issue that the church authority had to intervene. Some church members had to come into the matter and asked that they don’t want the person who lied against me in the church again.”
The alleged blackmailer was in charge of a parish that was under his jurisdiction. “The man was mismanaging church funds. Eventually, he was dismissed from the service of the church. He was an ordained Lay Reader.” Adesanya said.
Having served in about 10 churches, how does he get to still maintain a link with his former parishioners?
He said, “As a priest, you see people in your parish as your children. There is no father that will not know his children. With that understanding, it becomes easy to recollect faces and relate with them. I still know many of them to date.”
Despite the seeming gloomy picture, there are cheery stories to tell.
“I must confess that God has been faithful and He has not let me down. He provides for me on a daily basis. I live one day at a time. It is only God that could have kept me. I don’t have money as it were. But God ensures that I don’t go hungry. He meets me at the point of my needs”
He expressed gratitude to God for the many miraculous happenings in his ministry.
“There were many instances of lives that were saved through my ministry. I thank God for this. There were so many miracles of healing and deliverance. There were also cases of people that God blessed with the fruit of the womb through my ministration.”
The Anglican priest recalled the particular instance of a man he saw in church one Sunday. “The man had been trusting God for a child for 20 years. But I did not know. The Lord just led me to him that Sunday. I asked him to see me after the service.
“When he came I asked him how many children he had. He said none and that he had been trusting God for 20 years. I told him he would have a child that same year. God answered. He had his first child that year. There is also the case of a woman whose son had some challenges.
“We prayed together. I told her the son would get out of the problem before a particular time. It was so. By the time the son got her victory, the woman came looking for me. I told her again that God was not done with her. Today the son has relocated abroad and the woman has gone to meet him.”
Advice for upcoming priests
On the advice he would give intending priests, he said, “They should trust God and not rely on any man. Trust God. Believe that it is only God that can do all that you want. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey Him. The God I serve will not abandon his own.”