When I opened my dashboard to write a post, I was not going to write about the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) or anything about its politics. (Bear in mind that this post is not just about the PCEA church, but really about any church out there.) I was going to write about a Mugumo tree analogy I heard in yesterday’s sermon. But somehow, the post became what it is now. I was going to write about how I have this little church I go to when I feel like my church is too much. This is a church across the highway from home called PCEA Joseph Ngwaci Memorial Church. I have attended it for two consecutive Sundays now and I love it. I have been toying with the idea of completely relocating to it. Why? I will tell you in a bit.
Yes. I am a full member of PCEA, complete with a little holy communion book that gets signed every time I take holy communion. The church is my home, with all its drama, Practice and Procedures Manual. We fondly refer to this manual as P and P though I have never actually seen or read it, I just know it exists. On the flipside, they are those who say that PCEA stands for Please Collect Everything Available. My church, the one in which I am an actual member, the one is which I would not fidget if they asked if ‘there is a visitor in our midst’, is PCEA Kikuyu Township. I even teach Sunday School. I love my little sweet beginners and they love me too. I think. Or they just love the songs I teach them. :)
But I have been avoiding it of late, clearly. You see the Please Collect Everything Available joke is very close to serious business, especially in my church. You will never get into that church without someone telling us how we should contribute to building the resource centre and many other group activities. Anyone who has been to Kikuyu has seen the structure that will be the resource centre rising above the compound. It’s getting on fine and will be complete in the near future. I have no qualms about development at all. Maendeleo ni mazuri. I am all about giving too. Give and it shall come back to you. My problem is when all these development matters are given pre-eminence over matters of the heart and soul.
Truth be told, sermons and everything else we actually go to church for have been known to be cut short so that money could be collected. Even in my own Sunday School department, kids will be left without a teacher so that merchandise will be sold at the church entrance apparently to support the very same Sunday School ministry. I just want to teach those children in the way they should go without getting a million text messages about meetings to raise money to buy insignificant things. That is exactly why I have not been to my church these past two Sundays. I will definitely go back because of my kids, but other than that, there is virtually nothing that draws me back. Oh, except the Kikuyu Service praise and worship session. That is the ultimate experience for me. Singing those close-to-akorino-like songs to the Almighty gives me some inexplicable joy.
I will not even mention the Reverend David Githii fiasco here. That is another story that needs some serious thought. He has a website though, if you want to see what his issues have been with PCEA for years. And by the way, this man is a thinker and I actually like him. He may go a tad too far with his claims but they have a basis. The politics that are appointments of reverends to a specific church, kirk session wrangles and so on are expected. We are human anyway. We all fall short of the glory of God. The problem is if we know we have fallen and just stick down there without giving proper thought to our goal as the church. Are we here to fulfil the great commission or ensure that we are the church with the richest folk and tallest buildings?
The little church I have been going to is very homely and deep in the village. Probably why I shouldn’t even compare the two. The members are not building any resource centre neither are they buying a Sunday School bus. We can learn from them. Church is that place that I go to have that unwinding moment. To praise God and to fellowship with my fellow believers. I can do the former anywhere else. The latter, is what I am on about. That fellowship described in Acts 2:42-47. That fellowship that draws people to the church, not that which makes them say, ‘Kama kuokoka ni kwa kina Shiku, hiyo sitaki.” We should not be the church where a preacher is given 5 minutes to give a conclusive sermon. We should not be the church that dedicates all its efforts to monetary issues that may not even help an actual needy person within the church or even out there.
The mugumo tree analogy was given by a woman on the pulpit yesterday. The mugumo tree is ubiquitous in the Kikuyu community, just as the PCEA church is. It is also called the strangler fig. It strangles other trees for its survival. It starts out as an epiphyte on other trees then grows its roots downward to envelop the host tree while still growing upward to reach into the sunlight. Eventually, the host tree dies and the mugumo tree grows in splendour. The preacher gave the analogy in reference to the evils we allow to encroach our lives. I will use it to refer to the church, even beyond PCEA. This could very well be the story of the church. Our church, the host tree, could be strangled by unnecessary ‘growth’ that we attribute to the 21st century. It will be strangled, giving rise to a strange new establishment that we will not recognize any more. That is if we do nothing about the direction we are taking. Think about it.