THE Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN) resumed service today, five months after the death of its founder, Pastor Temitope Balogun Joshua, but with limited attendance.
Gone was the huge, overwhelming crowd that always enveloped the church environment when T. B. Joshua, as he was widely known, was in charge. Absent also was the panoply of trading activities that always occurred during the church service.
“It’s too early to say it is the death of our Papa that has affected attendance here. Our Mother, who is now the General Overseer, is as good as Pastor Joshua, her husband. The crowd will soon be back,” a member of the church, who gave her name simply as Grace, told The ICIR.
SCOAN had been closed since June 5, 2021, when Joshua suddenly died, seven days to his 58th birthday. A succession crisis had ensued between the Joshua family, led by the late pastor’s wife, Evelyn, and some close followers of the founder who wanted to fill the vacant leadership position by virtue of how Joshua had held them dear in the administration of the church.
Eventually, Evelyn had triumphed via a court suit FHC/L/CP/1109/2021 and court judgment which pronounced her chairperson of the church’s Board of Trustees.
Today’s service congregation was nothing compared to when Joshua ruled the roost. Attendance was not enough to cause a stampede at the main auditorium, as was the norm when Joshua held sway. The security personnel could be counted; then scores would be deployed to control the traffic snarl that signposted the roads in Egbe, Lagos, that led to the church every Sunday. The turnout was so low that our reporter observed some security men taking a rest in the shade by noon.
Commerce, a roaring part of the SCOAN service every Sunday during the Joshua administration, was also slow. Traders were not seen blocking the main auditorium door to ambush the congregation for sales, as it used to be.
Our reporter was denied entry into the auditorium at about 7.30 am this morning. A member, Bunmi Oni, told him it would be difficult to gain access at that time because he was “late”, saying “members usually arrive at 1 am” to secure a seat.
Our reporter later learnt he was denied entry because he did not have a registration card to present at the main auditorium. After hours of standing in a really small crowd, he proceeded to the canopy outside the church premises to follow the church proceedings.
About noontime, Evelyn Joshua appeared before the church to admonish the members. Earlier in the morning, 1,800 viewers had followed online a live programme with tons of comments.
Evelyn, who had declared in September, “I am not your General Overseer. My dear husband and our dear father, the prophet for generations, senior Prophet TB Joshua remains the Founder and General Overseer of the SCOAN”, appeared today by first expressing her appreciation to the media, security forces, judiciary, security forces, church members and partners, as well as private individuals.
“To our partners and members across the globe, we urge you to see this ministry as your home. We must walk in love and unity. We want to assure you that our ministry is in total unity. Our mission and dream remain one in Christ; to preach the gospel and continue to march with God. Active faith would make all things against us to be for us,” she said.
Members of the church expressed joy that the church had resumed actively.
Chinedu Okonkwo, who observed the services from the canopy, stated that he was not disappointed that he didn’t enter the main auditorium. “There is nothing like a disappointment. God is everywhere. We are happy to be back,” he said.
Gift David said, “The one-year shutdown of the church really touched me, most especially the demise of the great man of God. Each time I come here, I weep. Even as I was coming here, tears were dropping from my eyes. I feel the presence of God here. I have not been here when he was alive; had it been I was here then, I don’t know what I would have felt now.”
Similarly, residents and business owners were enthusiastic about the church’s return. Our correspondent caught up with Ubong Patrick on Adekunjo Street, just opposite the church. He told The ICIR that he was pleased with the resumption of physical services by the church.
“I attend the church, but I didn’t go in today because I did not meet up at the right time. The way they open the church is okay for me.”
Mr Isaac of Divine Lodge was joyous businesses have returned to life following the resumption of service.
“From Friday till now, the mood has changed. You can see the food sellers; they are all around. It hasn’t been like this. They know how much they have made within these few days. We operate this lodge, and everywhere is filled to the brim. There is no space. What I am saying, in essence, is that everything has changed.” Isaac told The ICIR that his lodge made enormous losses for the period the Synagogue was shut.
“We cannot give an estimate of the losses. We thank God for everything. If you buy a house for N10 million within a year, you should recoup a million or half a million. When you don’t even have N100,000, when nobody is patronising you, it is difficult. But from Friday till date, we have made close to N50,000 for 10 rooms. We have to make it moderate so that they can call back. We pray for the grace to continue because several people have left the system and joined another business,” he stated.
For many people around the church, the business has bounced back as they were seen reopening their stalls and live streaming the message. If Grace’s optimism about the same size as the T. B. Joshua crowds replicating Evelyn’s leadership ring true, then Isaac and his business ilk around the church have wider smiles to plaster their faces. But can such a crowd ever return to Synagogue again? It’s a question only time can answer.