Christianity came to Nigeria in the 15th century through Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. The initial mission of the Church of England was, though, only established in 1842 in Badagry by Henry Townsend.
Although if they had succeeded in consecrating one, Warri would have been the home of Nigeria’s first church.
When the Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal came in through the Benin River and made contact with the Itsekiris during the fifteenth century, Warri was the first place they showed their faces.
After Henry Townsend was ordained as a priest in England, in the year 1842, he set off for Sierra Leone. His usual routine was to work there only a few months before coming to Nigeria as a result of the Yoruba mission.
From 1846 – 1867, Abeokuta became the estate that he was called to work.
Thomas Birch Freeman is considered to be the first European to ever step foot in the ancient city of Abeokuta. He arrived in the old city on 11 December 1842.
Freeman usually met with Henry Townsend on 24 December upon his return to Badagry. It was this meeting that premiered the first “Christmas Day” celebration in Nigeria.
With that said, the foundation of Nigeria’s first church was laid in Ake, Abeokuta, by Rev. Andrew Desalu Wilhelm, years after the mission of Rev. Henry Townsend.
The church, which is known as the cathedral church of St. Peters, was completed in 1898.
Having recently come into use, it was only natural for the church to serve as a rallying point for a large number of early missionaries who existed at the time, spreading the gospel of Christianity in Abeokuta and its environs.
Currently, the St. Peters premises now house a newer and bigger auditorium where worship and other religious activities are being carried out. But the actual building that was built in 1898 still stands tall till date.
It is used as a tourist site.
The church might not have been named after Henry Townsend who played a very important role in the birthing of Christianity in Abeokuta… but he will surely be remembered because a hall within the church premises is named after him.
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