Brotherhood of the Cross and Star, the New Kingdom of God, has manifested as an unfathomable enigma in fulfilling God’s promise to humankind. In the eventful history of this Kingdom, 8 Eton, the Cradle Bethel occupies a unique and desirable place in the annals of this undoubtedly most outstanding indigenous African religious movement.
History may not ascribe the position and glory of the physical genesis of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star to 8 Eton Bethel, as evidently, utterances and spiritual activities of the Founder of the BCS, Leader Olumba Olumba Obu were demonstrated even in His entire life, spanning from Biakpan through Archibong Street to 8 Eton Street to where He moved in 1956.
However, Eton will remain significant and symbolic because that is where the spiritual energy of Leader Olumba Olumba Obu crystallised into an organised movement which finally became known as the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star.
An insight into the early activities of the Efik would be necessary here. The Efik settlement at the estuary of Calabar River had already flourished by the 18th and 19th centuries, extending its cultural and political influences over the fertile Cross River Basin, which represents 1/6 of the total area of Eastern Nigeria. 8 Eton is situated in a compound owned by a merchant whose house was made of fabricated wood from Europe.
It was at the peak of the slave trade activities that one of the renowned, influential and undaunted kings of Efik land, King Eyo Honesty II of Creek Town, requested that God should be brought to the Efiks. Probably, King Eyo was referring to the coming of the European Missionaries and the evangelisation of the Cross River Basin. But little did he know that his request had necessitated the physical manifestation of the Almighty God in Efik’s land. Therefore, the emergence of BCS from Old Calabar is not an accident but a pre-ordained occurrence with historical and divine origin.
Like every great movement, the formative stage of the BCS at 8 Eton Street necessitated some severe personal commitment and sacrifice from the Leader, who had to lay a solid foundation for a very ‘strange’ religious movement.
It is instructive to note that at this point in the Father’s life, He was a prosperous cloth merchant, which of course, was significant in the fact that it provided an avenue for personal contact with the rich, the poor and the afflicted. When He sold to people experiencing poverty on credit, He never went back to bother the debtor. When He met the afflicted, He spoke just the word, and they received their healing. The rich, already entangled in occultism, liberated them from spiritual bondage and oppression. All these, the Father did while nomadic evangelism or what we call “House to House Ministry”.
During the Father’s evangelical outreach, He helped sanitise the physical environment of those He evangelised. This strange behaviour or activities generated a ground-swell of curiosity within the community about the person and the attitude of Leader Olumba Olumba Obu, to the extent that He no longer had to go out to preach. Still, people sought after Him at His humble residence, 8 Eton.
The first organised prayer sessions started at Eton with the Holy Father, the Holy Mother, and a few curious and afflicted members who went there with diverse characters and attitudes. As their interest became captivated, long sessions of preaching and healing became inevitable. The Holy Mother had to succour to their hungry mouths; naturally, the provision of feast started. It had a wide variety of dishes. 8 Eton became man’s first step in his spiritual growth. Thus, He was allowed to eat everything: wine, snuff, cigarette, etc. It was a period of man’s tender growth, a period of God’s patience towards the growth of the Kingdom. Today man has grown into a vegetarian.
As the sons of men were accepted into God’s Kingdom through baptism, the natural grouping within the Kingdom became imperative; thus, the Father inaugurated the women’s fellowship with the Holy Mother as the first chairperson. The men’s fellowship followed, and the general fellowship was later founded. A choir naturally sprang up to support Eton’s high level of spiritual activities. With these, the gestation period was completed.
Eton could no longer contend with the surging membership. In appreciation for his redemption, a member acquired a more spacious building at the present 26 Mbukpa Rd, which necessitated the final exodus from 8 Eton Bethel to 26 Mbukpa Bethel on the 8th of August, 1958. At the time of departure, the Father introduced a uniform for members, today known as the soutane, and both male and female members wore the same style. The Father personally used a piece of clothing to teach the sisters how to tie the veil.
It is very significant to state here to state that the procession from 8 Eton Street to 26 Mbukpa Rd was a solemn one which was awe-inspiring, with each member carrying a tilted candle stick, symbolising a movement from darkness to light and redemption from great tribulation.
At that point, the full image and personality of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star was established. Therefore, in commemorating this epochal event, members must emulate our Father’s example by stepping right into His footprints. This is the essence of this celebration.