A Heavenly Church Brought Down To Earth
Update: The photos for this exhibit were taken at the church’s old location at 2009 West Howard Street in Chicago. As of 2022, we are not certain if the church’s address at 2812 West Peterson is still current.
The Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) is a Pentecostal church founded in Nigeria in 1947 and still headquartered there. The Miracle Land Parish was located at 2009 West Howard Street in Rogers Park, and has since moved to 2812 West Peterson in West Ridge.
The church was established by the Reverend, Pastor, Prophet and Founder Samuel Bilehou Joseph Oshoffa, (1909-1985) who was born in Porto Novo, Republic of Benin. He was the son of a Nigerian mother and Dahomean father who practiced the Methodist religion.
In 1947 Founder Oshoffa was working as a carpenter and often went into the forest to buy ebony wood, always taking his Bible with him.
As recorded in the Church’s Constitution, on May 23, 1947, the day of an eclipse of the sun, he heard a voice that he called ‘the Grace of Jesus Christ.’ Following this visitation, he spent three months in the wilderness receiving more instructions, living on honey and water from a nearby flowing stream. In his words, “I felt no fear and I had no illness but basked in the glory of Jesus Christ”.
After he returned home, on September 29, 1947, he was praying with friends in his home when he saw a winged creature “whose body was like fire and whose eyes were tiny flying towards me behind the beam of light” The being informed him that God was sending him on an errand of preaching to the world.
Oshoffa accepted this charge, performing works of divine healing in the name of Jesus Christ. There are numerous reports of him performing miracles, including raising the dead.
One of the most important healings in these early years was that of Mr. Alexander Yanga, a man who was held in a trance for seven days. At the culmination of his spiritual healing, Yanga wrote the name of the church on the wall, and Celestial Church of Christ was named.
Oshoffa held the highest position in the church until his death in 1985. In 1951 he moved to Lagos, Nigeria, where the church is still headquartered. He facilitated the creation of the Constitution, structure, and scriptural foundations with the help of other priests and priestesses.
An African Church with Worldwide Reach
CCC has parishes around the world, including six in the Chicago area. The U.S. Diocese, headquartered in Washington, DC, oversees parishes in 25 states across the country.
The CCC’s doctrine is rooted primarily in Scripture and emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit. The primary mission is to worship God and preach the good news of Jesus Christ, as well as to unify all Christians, organize educational organizations and schools, encourage family cohesion, organize charities, and promote crime-free/drug-free environments.
Membership is open to all who are committed to the Church’s beliefs, tenets and rites. These rites, or sacraments, include Baptism, Holy Communion, Washing of the Feet, Annual Pilgrimage to Imeko, Ogun State, Nigeria at Christmas Eve, Annual Harvest Thanksgiving Service, and Holy Mary’s Day.
The CCC has many internal projects that support parishes and communities around the world; the youth ministry specifically focuses on protecting youth from gangs and violence.
A Neighborhood Parish Serving Local Needs
The Celestial Church of Christ Miracle Land Parish at 2009 Howard St. was opened in 2004. Its congregation is largely made up of African and African-American men and women. The small storefront holds fewer than 300 people, an intimacy that is preferred by many who say that members become very close to each other both socially and spiritually. It is a typical Chicago storefront church.