December 12, 2019
On Sunday mornings, a floor of an office building in North York, Toronto, is filled with the sounds of song and praise. A band plays lively music with passionate Christian lyrics. Congregants, mainly of African background, sway back and forth, mothers holding young children in their arms. Following the music, a speaker gives a Bible-based sermon, and later the group prays aloud together. On some weeks the service includes a traditional observance of Communion.
The group is the Anglican Church of Annunciation, a culturally African evangelical church. Their pastor is the Venerable Matthew Olajide, a graduate of Emmanuel Bible College who came to Canada from Nigeria. When he completed his studies, some leaders in the Church of Nigeria, a numerically enormous province of the worldwide Anglican Communion with some churches in North America, wanted to plant a church in Toronto that would be a home for orthodox, conservative Anglicans. Olajide, believing that such a church could also offer valuable ministry to new Canadians in the city, agreed to lead the endeavour.
Planting the church was a daunting task. When he started it, there were no members except him. Even his wife and children had not yet come to Canada from Nigeria. Yet, he knew that he was not truly on his own. “I started the Church alone and with the Host of heaven,” he says.
Olajide showed remarkable perseverance, week after week inviting others and showing up at the meeting space for a time of worship. Eventually, the plant gained people and momentum, and now it is a thriving church with an active children’s ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, men’s fellowship, and welfare and hospitality ministry. Olajide’s family now resides with him in North York and is involved with him in the church.
Most of the regular attenders are immigrants or refugees from Africa. They come from various countries and church backgrounds but are united by a commitment to Jesus Christ, orthodox doctrine, and Christian mission. And while the style is obviously African, those of any culture or background are enthusiastically welcomed.
The church contributes to a fascinating and important aspect of Canadian Christianity. As believers come here from other parts of the world, they sometimes establish churches that include elements of their mother culture, such as language, music, dress, and preaching style.
This, of course, is nothing new to Canada; the nation has seen countless such churches planted by, for example, German Lutherans and Reformed Christians from the Netherlands. However, with migration patterns changing, Canada has entered a new era of this kind of church planting. The country now sees many new churches linked with African, Asian, Central American, and South American nationalities and cultures.
As he looks to the future, Olajide feels hopeful. The church, he believes, will be a place “where those who are thirsty and hungry for the truth will find solace,” a community that reaches out to all Torontonians and “especially refugees, homeless people and new immigrants.”
In fulfilling his role as a pastor and leader, Olajide remains grateful for his experience at Emmanuel. He states, “I really appreciate the training I had at Emmanuel Bible College.”
The featured image shows the Venerable Matthew Olajide with his wife, Folasade.