As is my tradition, in my spiritual office as the Bishop of The Sinners Assembly, to pay episcopal respect to holy places in any town I visit, I set out asking for holy shrines in Benin city, the capital of Edo state.
My guide with fear and respect, took me through ring road and to the gate of Oba’s palace. In deed, Benin is a spiritual city.
There are deities, ancestors everywhere protecting the people of Benin but in most cases, these deities, particularly their shrines are not well kept by Benin people how mostly have openly embraced Christianity and Islam but still sneak into these shrines at night for divination, protection and healing.
After circling Ring road, my spirit was hungry and kept telling me that there are more to Benin than these. My guide told me that the holiest place in Benin, is inside the Oba’s palace and since we had no permit, we will not be allowed to enter.
Close to Oba’s palace in proximity to holiness, is Oba’s Church, Holy Arousa Cathedral. At the mention of this, the spirits in me limped for joy. My guide a Christian, expressed reservations and merely pointed me in the direction of Akpakpava and literally took to his heels.
Inside Holy Arousa Cathedral, is like any other Church. There were no images on the wall, no idols on the altar, no chants or casting of spell.
The service was conducted in Bini language. Although I didn’t understand what were being said but the songs were moving, I kept resisting, trying to be continuous and observe things but I lost it and was consumed into the service.
It was a refreshing experience. A brother beside me, was helping out with a litter transliteration of what the Priest was saying.
Honestly, if I blindfold you and drop you in the middle of service at Arousa Cathedral, if not for the absence of Cross, images on the wall, burning of candles and incense, you will think you’re in St. Basilica with service being conducted in Latin(Bini)
What I realized, when I discussed my experience with colleagues and even sons and daughters of Benin, I discovered that they fear Arousa because they lack knowledge of what happens inside that holy cathedral.
Holy Arousa Cathedral, founded in 1517, is the oldest church in Nigeria. It was founded by Oba Esigie (son of Queen Idia) and Portuguese missionaries.
For further reading; https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Aruosa_Cathedral