History

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF SAINT ANDREW, WARRI

Contents

History has it that the birth of the St. Andrew’s Anglican Church stem from the home coming of the freed slaves from the Gold Coast, which is present day Ghana, important towns began to develop especially along the coast; amongst these towns was Warri. The people’s life became dominated by European trade with the resultant changes to the moral, social and political lives of the people.

Available records show that there existed in Warri at the tail end of the eighteenth century a small body of Anglican Christians who were mainly Sierra Leoneans. Because these Sierra Leoneans were already converts, wherever they found themselves; they organized Sunday Services where they sang and prayed. It was such Sunday gatherings that gave birth to the Anglican Church in Warri.

According to one of the twin-founders of the Anglican Church in Warri, Mr. Charles Henry Palmer Kamp, the Anglican Church was founded at about 1902 by one Mr. Taylor a Sierra Leonean Treasury Clerk, whose parents were Christians. History has it that they started meeting at the Old Police Barrack, the site on which the Male Ward of the General Hospital, Warri now stands. There they would say the Lord’s Prayer together and Taylor would then say the Grace and that was the end of the service; only two of them. After sometime, Taylor started to appeal to the other Sierra Leoneans to attend his service and as the congregation increased they shifted to Chief Dogho’s Court which is now the Chief Magistrate Court in the Government Reservation Area (G.R.A).

James Johnson who for a long time had turned down the offer of post of Assistant Bishop in the hope that he could work up the Niger Delta Pastorate to an extent where it would be created into an autonomous Diocese and he will be made the Diocesan Bishop, finally accepted the post he had earlier rejected when his initial hopes were dashed.

Accordingly, he was consecrated an Assistant Bishop to Rt. Revd. Herbert Tugwell on 18th February, 1900. Thereafter, he made his maiden visit to Warri and Sapele in July 1901. In his first Episcopal Mission, he organized the Anglican Christians in Warri into a proper worshipping community. However, some of them had been his parishioners when he was the Vicar of the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S) Breadfruit Church, Lagos.

During one of his visits, remarked that he could o longer continue to worship in a house where criminals were condemned. There and then he suggested that they should build a church. In 1911, the foundation was laid and within three months the building was completed along the Robert Road on the premises of the former St. Andrew’s Anglican School now Mowoe Primary school and was dedicated on 25th June 1911. At this time, there was no Pastor, no organ, no pews and no hymn books. Later, Mr. C. King who was a lover of music bought an organ for the church.

Later Reverend John was sent to Warri by Bishop James Johnson as a resident Priest in about 1911. At the time, Warri was still under Patian District. The Reverend W.D. Bum Billy Wright and Garbutt were also visiting Priests Patani. However, the Warri District Church Council was formed in 1938.

With the creation of Warri District Church Council it was suggested in the District Council that a larger Church Building should be erected which may in future serve as a Cathedral for Warri Diocese.

The congregation to whom Bishop Johnson addressed himself comprised of the following persons:

  1. Taylor – The founder
  2. C.H. Palmer Kamp – Co-founder
  3. & Mrs. S.S. Thomas – Chief Mrs. Nkun’s father
  4. Pa Jackson
  5. Pa Hamilton
  6. Wilkey – Dr. Chief Wilkey’s father
  7. Britto – An Itsekiri inspector of Police
  8. Alber – A Clerk
  9. Bajulaiye                             – A dispenser
  10. Alber Lee
  11. Alder – A Lagosian
  12. Brown
  13. Charles King
  14. Alasan Macaulay
  15. Syraku
  16. Smith – Rosy Wilkey’s Husband
  17. Madam Rosy Wilkey
  18. Old Brook – A Fanti

Subsequently, on February 21st, 1939 at 5.00pm, a foundation stone of a larger and modern church was laid on the present site of St. Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, 22 Okere Road, Warri. The church building was completed in 1960 after 21 years and was dedicated on St. Andrew’s Day November 30th, 1960 by the Diocesan Bishop who later became the Archbishop of the Province of West Africa His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Cecil John Patterson with the Rev. Canon Christopher Obiefuna Iwuno as the Warri District Superintendent.

In order to give adequate Pastoral care to the new converts in the area, it was not enough to post European Missionaries, West Indian Missionaries, etc to the area. What was needed if the church was to be deeply rooted in Warri District was the training of indigenes. Without indigenous priests the young churches in Warri District was the training of indigenes. Without indigenous priests the young churches in Warri District would not be properly and effectively administered. This need led to the sending of Agori-Iwe to St. Andrew’s College Oyo in 1924 to be trained as a Catechist and a Higher Elementary Teacher. Later he went to St. Paul’s College, Awka in 1937 where he was trained for priesthood and ordained as a Priest in that year.

With the stationing of Revd. James  Welch at Ughelli in 1932, Ughobo District was created and in the year 1950, Revd. Agori-Iwe was made to be in-charge of Urhobo District. Subsequently, he was consecrated and enthroned in 1961 as the first Anglican Bishop of the defunct Benin Diocese which has presently given birth to many Dioceses. At the time Rt. Revd. Agori-Iwe retired in 1977, two new Dioceses were created out of Benin diocese namely: Warri and Asaba Dioceses.