Last Saturday, I attended a confirmation service at Kahuho ACK in Kikuyu, where the deputy bishop of Mt Kenya South gave an inspiring sermon and taught us a few things about the ‘manufacture’ of such deadly diseases as cancer, HIV-Aids and Ebola.
The good bishop ‘educated’ his congregation on the evils of the White man whom he accused of cooking these terminal conditions in his far-off laboratories and doubted, despite his faith, that those who so maliciously concocted these ailments to decimate Africans, would be forgiven come Judgement Day.
His teaching also touched on the fight against killer brews and just stopped short of elevating Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu to messiah status. He spoke on the indiscipline in schools and cautioned parents against pampering and over-protecting their children, which would obviously lead to haughtiness and rowdy behaviour. The bishop did not use the phrase, but he was explicitly against ‘my dress, my choice’ and asked parents to dress decently and ensure their children did the same.
What the bishop did not talk about, most likely because he did not know that it was happening right under his nose, is the indiscipline of Kenyans when it comes to the use of mobile phones. While the bishop stood in the pulpit leading the service and later delivering the sermon, worshippers in and around the church used their mobile phones brazenly.
I'm not a regular churchgoer, but whenever I attend, I switch off my phone in the car on my way there and I believe every other worshipper should do the same – and only turn their phones on again when they leave church. However, I was shocked by the many congregants who displayed total disrespect for the ‘house of God’, the clergy and the rest of the congregation.
Most of those attending the service left their phones on and shamelessly answered them when they rang. The fact that this was a Saturday and Anglicans normally go to church on Sunday aside, this was a sacred service like others held in church, the day of the week notwithstanding.
I went to the service a bit late and could only stand outside as the church was full. Many times I witnessed men in their Sunday best come rushing out of church, their ‘smart' phones wailing, to stand just a few yards from the main door, sealing small deals. Middle-aged women slowly lumbered out of church loudly speaking on their phones, apparently explaining the directions to the church to their children’s godparents.
Young men and women flamboyantly displayed the gadgets that define who they are and ‘googled’ without cease, while partygoers made regular calls apparently to tell their friends where they would congregate after the service. Those like me, standing or sitting outside, were made the unwilling audience of these phone freaks.
Many of the worshippers were accompanied by their own children and when one takes children to church, the assumption is that he or she wants them to listen to the word of God and, at the risk of sounding preachy, get blessed by it. But what I saw at Kahuho suggested that some parents take their children to church to while away the time.
On that day, I noticed at least two children playing games outside the church on what I assumed were their parents’ phones. These schoolgoing children had absolutely no idea about what was going on in the church and I supposed that they would only learn much later that their brothers or sisters had been confirmed into the church.
After the service, my wife, who was inside, told me of a man in his mid-40s, (whom she later realised was a church elder when elders were asked to stand to salute the congregation) who kept receiving and answering calls nonchalantly inside the church, even as the service went on. Ironically, he was accompanied by his children, who must have learnt more from him than from the preacher.
The church has been hit by all manner of evil, especially as far as its leadership is concerned. We have seen pastors who prey on their congregations and deceitfully take off with their money, pastors who openly commit adultery and others who steal from the till, among other sins. This rotten leadership has obviously set a negative example, but it is not a licence for worshippers to behave in such an irresponsible manner as witnessed last Saturday at Kahuho.
If one chooses to go to church, it behooves that person to respect the sacred space, otherwise why bother to attend? Why bother to take your children to church if you are not going to teach them to respect its teachings and the precincts within which those teachings are given?
Njonjo Kihuria is a freelance journalist. [email protected]