(BY NGOZI ADIGHIBE)
Your Grace, what inspired the initiation of such a programme as DIVCCON?
DIVCCON came by the inspiration of God. I observed that we gather in different ways in the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion like Synod, Standing Committee meetings, EFAC, AYF, women conference and many other gatherings. But I also observed that in a way, most of these gatherings have some administrative elements and not everybody is free to be there. So, there was a gap in the area of fellowship in our Church and people did not feel free to worship as they really wanted to do. There was no such forum for them and interaction was very difficult. Therefore, in other to provide a solution to such a situation and bring people together, to learn together, to study together, to pray together, we felt that we should provide this type of opportunity for everyone and that is why DIVCCON is very very important. It brings people together to make friends, and strengthens our relationship as a church and we look forward to it. It helps us not to be too easily attracted to what others are offering, because the church has offered something better.
What do you say to those who believe that DIVCCON is for Bishops and Priests?
Well, DIVCCON is still a new thing and I believe that it will reform itself. Anybody floating such an idea is not helping us. Somehow, it may be coming from either the leaders, the Bishop, clergy and so on; but definitely DIVCCON is open to all. What has caused some form of limitation is venue and we are already trying to solve the problem of venue by acquiring our own land and trying to see how we can build some structures. So, it is not for any select group of individuals in the Church, it is for all; and we pray to God that we will be able to realize that.
Your Grace, would you say that your vision for initiating the DIVCCON programme has been actualized?
Every new thing has a teething problem; but it has succeeded beyond my imagination. When we started planning the first DIVCCON, people were asking the meaning of the gathering or conference. Then, some came because they wanted to be obedient, while some others were out rightly unfriendly towards it; but now they have all come on board. I am particularly happy to note that the Bishops have bought the idea, even though the mobilization is still not total. But, so far so good. The last edition, we had over 8000 registrations and this year, I am told that we have already reached that point and so what I believe is our problem is the limited space that we are using at the Christian Centre. Otherwise, if we had a place where we had real space, our people would have rushed in, to be part of it from whichever part of the country. So, there is hope for DIVCCON and I think it is succeeding very well.
What new innovations would Your Grace like to see in future DIVCCON?
A programme of this nature for it to have success in the future needs to be accommodated in a place that the people will feel very free, with enough space to wander around and a place that will not impose too much levy on. Another thing is that the equipment we are even using now are hired. So, we are looking forward to a situation where we would be buying our own. As soon as we have our location, the issue of light, electronic equipment and so on and so forth, we have to acquire our own. That will make the conference much more successful than what we are doing now.
Your Grace, are all the Bishops really in support of DIVCCON?
Majority of the Bishops are on board; but those who still have some reservations, we cannot blame them, because they have been taught or they have the idea that this is the way they should do things. But, we have discovered that the fixed way that we are talking about is not helping much; particularly in the area of our young people. We need to have a free atmosphere where people can interact, express themselves unreservedly. I also have reservations, but I will not allow my own reservations to affect another person. People have different methods of praying and worshipping God- some kneel and some don’t; but that is an outward thing that doesn’t disturb God. People are only doing it the way they would be able to express themselves towards God who has answers to their prayers. So, if it is lying down, shaking your head, kneeling down, rolling on the ground, running around as we see during the praise session at DIVCCON, then God bless you. These persons are only trying to express the yearnings in their heart and I think we should allow them.
What inspired the theme for 2019 DIVCCON?
The build up to this last election was almost like the build up to that of 2015. There was fear in the air and the Church had been subject to a lot of trouble. Many in the Church felt that the Church did not have anyone to speak for her in the government, that Christians were not regarded as anything in terms of employment, appointment and many other benefits in the country and that it looked like Christians were orphans; so we felt that we should reassure the people that the God of old is still the God of today and He will be the God of tomorrow. Therefore, if you have God, you have everything; because even the nation is in the hands of God not in the hands of man. So, we should trust God and move on. He has not failed us in the past, He will not fail us today and definitely, He will not fail us tomorrow.
What’s your advice to the delegates of 2019 DIVCCON?
All those who are coming for DIVCCON should be prepared to receive. Anything you do without great expectation, you’ll get nothing out of it. You must prepare thoroughly, even for Sunday services, you need to prepare. Apart from physical preparations that one does, ironing clothes, getting ready and all that, one needs to read the passages for the day; and whatever the preachers, teachers and Bible study leaders are going to say, one has already prepared one’s mind and have questions to ask.
As delegates are coming, they should be prepared to be part of the programme from the beginning to the end, not to roam around as some do during the conference. They should be prepared to be of help to other people. Sometimes, fellowship and interaction is not automatic; it doesn’t come naturally. You need to greet somebody and ask questions and from that you generate a discussion and he or she gives you, his or her own perspective of the Church and how problems can be remedied.
The idea of people leaving the church because they want to solve a problem is foolish. Most times, after such persons have benefitted from the Anglican Church and have grown enough to look after the Anglican Church, they now discover that they can’t be there and that it is not a good church. This is foolishness and it doesn’t show responsible thinking. If you do that, who is going to attend to it. That is what is known as disinheriting your inheritance. So, what one should do is wherever there is any problem disturbing the church, it has to be solved. It is just the same attitude we have in our families; if one grows up and discovers that there is a problem in one’s family, one does not leave it or say, “From today, I am no longer a member of this family”. Does it happen? It doesn’t happen. What you do is to either train other people or gather them for a meeting or hold family meetings for discussion, in order to find solution.
So, that is the way forward and I think that through coming together like this, ideas are generated. Young people gather together and find ways and means of moving forward, not degenerating or going back. In this type of programme, fellowship could also be formed by a particular group of people around the country and this group can also generate strength for the church. Therefore, all who are coming should be prepared to give to the church, their presence, training, money, knowledge and carry the idea back to their dioceses to make our church more vibrant.