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Garrick Braide

Garrick Braide's breakage with the Anglican Church would occur here about a decade after the church, St. Stephen's Bonny dedication in late 1800s shown here.
Garrick Braide’s breakage with the Anglican Church would occur here about a decade after the church, St. Stephen’s Bonny dedication in late 1800s shown here. Source: NNP

Garrick Braide was the first Nigerian Christian charismatic figure whose Prophetic Movement, between the years 1914 and 1916 spearheaded a strong religious awakening in the Niger Delta. Braide was born c.1882 in humble circumstances to parents from Bakana. His father was originally Igbo, but joined one of the Bakana houses early in life. His mother belonged to one of the prominent Bakana houses, a member of which was a chief, under whom Garrick served till about the age of thirty. By the late 1890s, Garrick had enrolled as an “inquirer” under the supervision of Reverend Moses Kemmer of the St. Andrew’s Sunday School in Bakana, who was the biggest influence on his spiritual development and on whose shoulders his career kick started. Garrick was not baptized until 1910. In 1912 he was confirmed as a full member of the church by the Holy Bishop Johnson. During the confirmation ceremony, Garrick claimed to have been called by God to be His messenger.

Garrick on the confidence of Rev. Kemmer with his enthusiasm and devotion. Kemmer did not only make him a Pastor’s Warden but also allowed him to share personal testimonies before church congregation. The promise that Garrick showed was greeted with fierce skepticism that his sanity was questioned until Kemmer lend his validation, declaring in one instance that doubters of Garrick’s divine calling will not receive forgiveness. In addition to this, Kemmer had published his testimony about Garrick’s healing power in The Chronicle of 1909, official magazine of the Niger Delta pastorate church. Garrick’s reputation got yet another boost when, through the effort of Kemmer, he met Bishop James Johnson during the bishop’s visit to Bakana.

Garrick in 1914 began to hold private meetings with faithfuls who were impressed by news of his healing powers. Important figures sent for him, and accorded him reception befitting even for royals. It soon became customary for disciples to sing praises of God- and sometimes, Garrick himself in accompanying his procession to Sunday services. Displeased by this, Rev. Kemmer had fallen out with Garrick. When Garrick confronted Kemmer at the church vestry one Sunday, cursing and threatening to “shut the doors of heaven” on him, in G.O.M Taise’s account, the grape became sour, and Kemmer began sending unfavorable reports about him to the colonial office and the church secretariat.

The Prophetic Movement employed more practical measures in attracting locals to the church. Although Garrick was monogamous, he did not condemn polygamy. Praise meetings were vivacious, and indigenous liturgy were used. This produced growth in church membership. The movement was particularly known for its uncompromising stand against paganism, abstinence from alcohol and strict observance of Sunday.

On 7 January, 1916, while in a journey to Abonnema, Garrick proclaimed that the time had come for Africans to take responsibility for themselves. After this visit, his followers began referring to him as Elijah II, but he did secure the suspicion of the colonial administration, tensely engaged in a war, and had lost the support of Kemmer who now sent adverse report of him to Bishop Johnson. When, a few weeks after Abonnema visit,  Garrick was presented to Bishop Johnson for him to have his biggest endorsement yet, his handlers were met with disappointment. At Bonny, Garrick reacted to his rejection, signaling the breakage of ties with the Anglican Church. This opened for him a great opportunity by his antagonists, and soon he was arrested on charges of inciting people to steal in the pretext of iconoclasm. He was also accused of inciting natives against Britons. Garrick’s latter days were spent in near obscurity, but faithfuls continued to meet and fast for long periods. In November 1918 he fell ill and died. The group he formed eventually constituted themselves into the Christ Army Church with headquarters in Bakana, Rivers State.