(MRS/CAPTAIN) Born: 25 December 1907; died 26 November 1994 Co-founder of the Cherubim and Seraphim churches, an African Independent Church

Christiana Abiodun Emanuel (nee Akinsowon), affectionately called by the title ‘Captain’, was the daughter of Yoruba Christian parents from Abeokuta. She was baptized into the Anglican Church in Lagos, spent her childhood in Porto-Novo, Ibadan and Lagos, and completed her elementary education in Lagos in 1920. Thereafter, she learnt sewing, but eventually took to trading while staying with her aunt in Lagos.

On 18 June 1925, after witnessing an annual religious procession of the Roman Catholics in Lagos, she claimed to have seen angels and then went into a prolonged trance. Unable to get help from the vicar of the Anglican Church, her guardians summoned Moses Orimolade (see Orimolade, Moses), an itinerant prophet. After Orimolade prayed, Abiodun regained consciousness, and then narrated, to the amazement of people, how she was taken to a ‘celestial region’ where angels ministered to her. Together with Orimolade, both continued to pray for people seeking various kinds of help. An interdenominational group, Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S), was formed in September 1925 from among the enquirers. Abiodun played the role of a visionary, healer, and preacher within this group.

Young and energetic, Abiodun and her supporters undertook evangelistic tours into towns in the interior of Western Nigeria in early 1927. Through preaching and miraculous healing numerous C&S branches were established. Personality differences that were magnified by supporters of both leaders caused a split. After the parting of ways in early 1929, Abiodun led her own branch, Cherubim and Seraphim Society, until her death. Married in January 1942 to George Orisanya Emanuel, a Lagos City Council civil servant, they had one daughter, Georgiana Yetunde.

As the first female to found a church in the country, Abiodun set the pace for the emergence of female religious leadership. By overriding cultural barriers against women in early twentieth-century Yoruba society, Abiodun became a change agent and a symbol of female empowerment, demonstrating the organizational abilities of women in social and religious matters.

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