Making our way to the Church of Benin
24 November 2015
• Diocese of Nigeria
In early September, by the grace of God, we paid a pastoral visit to the Republic of Benin.
Arriving in Cotonou, the largest city of the country, we met with the local priests and discussed the various issues of the parishes and particularly the ever-surging challenges they encounter due to several Pentecostal- Charismatic movements that are rapidly growing in this country.
The next day and after a 4-hour trip, we arrived in the town of Abomey, which was the capital of the historic kingdom of Dahomey for centuries. There the French colonialists faced stiff resistance until they arrested, exiled and killed the ruler of the region..
In this city there used to be an orthodox sacred church dedicated to the Nativity of Christ and to St. Moses the Black. The priest Fr. Moses, married clergyman and professor of History in a local college, worked with great patience and prayer for the creation of small parish communities in neighboring villages. Noteworthy is the enthusiastic participation of a sufficient number of educated young people who thirst for deeper acquaintance with the Orthodox spirituality and for the incorporation of the Orthodox tradition into the local culture. That is to say, they long for the embodiment of the Gospel at the historic moment, in the here and now, which is the aim of genuine Church Mission.
On Saturday, 5th September in this very church we conducted the funeral service of the Mother of Fr. Timothy, Vicar of Benin, with the participation of all clergy and large groups of faithful, who filled both church and courtyard. Particularly important was the presence of many academics, as Fr. Timothy himself is a professor of Law at the University of Cotonou.
The next day, which was a Sunday, we made our way to the small parish community of the Nativity of the Theotokos and of St Porphyrios of Gaza. We prayed along with the little flock of the region and discussed at length issues on faith. What we considered very important was the narration of their own experiences regarding the presence of God in their lives. Among the various accounts, we heard attentively and with a lot of admiration the testimonies concerning the miraculous presence of Saints Spyridon and Porphyrios in many cases of infertility. One of them was the amazing testimony of a mother about the treatment of her daughter, who had been handicapped for 7 years, through the intercession of the Saint! This incident led the powerful men of the region, most of whom are pagans, to the eviction of this small parish community from their village, as once Jesus was expelled from the country of the Gadarenes. Now our community has found hospitality in the neighboring village.
The next day, we took our way back home filled with experiences and strength, glorifying the name of the Triune God and praying for the continuation of His blessings upon the efforts of His laborers, clergy and laity in the beautiful country of Benin.
Archbishop Alexander of Nigeria