Seven years after the General Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly, Lagos, Rev Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, aka Reverend King, was convicted for murder and attempted murder, Folashade Adebayo attended a service in the church to see how things are going.
Last Sunday was another anniversary celebration of the Christian Praying Assembly, Isolo, Lagos. But as at 9am when Punch correspondent got there, the imposing three black gates of the church were still shut. If not for a number of cars parked opposite the church and a middle-aged man who stood by one of the imposing gates, praying earnestly, one would have concluded that the church, founded by the convicted Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, also known as Rev. King, was on a recess.
Rev. King was convicted and sentenced to death for murder and attempted murder in 2007 by a Lagos High Court. He was said to have doused six members of his church, including one Uzoh, with petrol for acts of fornication. Uzoh died on August 2, 2006. Last year, the Court of Appeal, Lagos, upheld the judgement.
Our correspondent, who had earlier visited the church last Friday to take pictures, sauntered to join the men in their muted prayers. That Sunday, she was no more a journalist. She decided to come in as a member of the church to experience how service unfolds now that King is away.
Apart from the cries of children, no sound came from the temple – a matter that spiked the curiosity of our correspondent. For a long time, the men, who spotted slight goatees, prayed.
“Every activity of witches and wizards in my kidney, my liver, stop right now in the name of Jesus. Stop in the name of my Daddy G.O,’’ prayed one man. By this time, three other worshippers had joined the queue outside the church.
After 30 minutes, a voice was heard over the microphone bringing the prayer to a close. A hefty man who had also been standing opposite the church approached the heavy gate and slightly opened it. Quickly, worshippers who had been waiting outside filed in.
The CPA is an expansive church indeed. It was almost filled to capacity. Our correspondent noted that there were no children’s classes. Children and teenagers sat inside the church with the adults. This Sunday, the pillars of the church were decorated in the national colours of green and white. Fat coolers containing food and crates of soft drinks occupied a large section at the back of the church. It was the 2014 anniversary celebration of the CPA.
Contrary to what might be the expectations of some people, the absence of Rev King, whose life-size pictures graced every available space in the premises, had little or no effect on the number of worshippers. It was obvious that the incarcerated clergyman still commands a tight rein on his loyal flock.
Testimonies and announcement began with phrases such as, ‘Our G.O is the mighty healer, he lives forever in Jesus name’. \Our G.O is the unchangeable changer’. ‘Our daddy G.O shall live forever for us in Jesus name’.
Worshippers were gaily dressed and appeared happy throughout the service. Choir members looked distinct in angelic white gowns and white turbans. However, a uniform attire stood out of the pack. It was an Ankara fabric with a picture of Rev King. Written on the fabric, which was sewn into different styles by many of the members, was, “The man of the moment. His holiness, the most honorable Dr Rev King, General Overseer, CPA Worldwide. I am healthy and wealthy.’
Only two people officiated throughout the protracted service. There was no formal sermon, only 31 messages or items purportedly sent by King to his church were delivered. The officiating minister was on item six when our correspondent arrived.
Solemnly, he read out the message, repeating every word where necessary.
“There is someone here in the entire CPA worldwide. Your problem is that when you deliver a child, the child will die. God has delivered you from this menace as a result of His blessing upon CPA worldwide. You shall from today give birth to children that will live,” he declared. The declaration was greeted with loud clapping.
“Anything you eat or drink here today will remove diseases and stroke from your body’, ‘Any blocked ear here today shall be opened through this refreshment.’ Will poverty remain? No, it must go with its brothers and sisters.”
Each declaration came with a different requirement. While some read like a prayer, to which members chorused ‘Amen’, some requested members to pray for 15 minutes, five minutes or sing for “at least 30 minutes to one hour.”
It was observed that aside the standard rule of locking out of members during prayers, there was a general feeling of liberty among members. For instance, while some prayed standing up, the majority sat down and prayed unconvincingly with their eyes open. Some did not even pray.
The dressing pattern was also generally far from conservative. Mini skirts, sleeveless clothing and skin-tight dresses flooded the church. One or two men, even male choir members, spotted dreadlocks.
But the church came alive with King’s instruction to sing, dance and shake hands with one another. In item 27, he ordered worshippers to “sing a song of praises and shouts of praises to our God up to 30 minutes for this anniversary of today. Let us shake hands with one another.’
Members left their seats at the front, shaking hands and swaying their bodies in every direction. That was a brief ‘meet and greet’ moment which afforded members an opportunity to fraternise. They brought out smart phones, ipads and cameras and freely migrated to the back of the church to take shots. That was a great opportunity for our correspondent to also take photographs.
Testimonies were read out by the same man. One of the testimonies came from a man who claimed to have been healed of diabetes.
“I used to urinate anyhow. The first day I came to CPA, I was able to stay without urinating throughout the service. During the G.O’s message, he said diseases could not kill us whether we drank it through water or breathe it in the air. Our daddy G.O lives forever in Jesus’ name.”
The announcement of activities for this week was however read by a woman. She mounted the altar and first prayed that, “Our Daddy G.O shall live forever for us in Jesus’ name.”
Pregnant women are expected at the church for ante natal classes on Wednesday by 4:30pm, a vigil was slated for Thursday night. The children’s church comes up on Friday by 4pm while members were mandated to hold Bible study in every home this Saturday for at least one hour.
Parents were instructed to see one Sylvester King for the collection of the CPA’s child dedication certificate. The announcer dedicated ample time to remind members of the G.O’s special offering which comes up next Sunday. Grace, Fire and Disciplinarian ministries were also reminded of their thanksgiving next Sunday.
When the officiating minister returned to the podium, it was to read the ‘G.O’s dismissal prayer’. But that was after he read out item 31 from their convicted cleric: “I will stop right now until next time. I love you all in Jesus’ name.”