The case of Anglican Church of Kenya, Post COVOD-19

Rev. Canon Francis Omondi 

The visibility of the Church is central to her identity because it shows the presence of God in our world. This visibility inspires the world to look at the attributes of the Church as a reflection of God.

The coronavirus has exposed and intensified deep pastoral problems in the identity, witness and visibility of the church. Observing Health Protocols against the coronavirus means our Church, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), can no longer gather in a public space. Christians are not able to hear God’s word read or preached, and receive the sacrament, in a familiar way. 

ACK’s way of following Christ and the shocks to her visibility?

The ACK is an integral part of the Anglican Communion, which is one of the world’s largest Christian communities, is now confronted by the challenge of a global pandemic and it must rethink and adjust its meaning. 

The most sacred feature of Christian gathering in the presence of Christ is the Holy Eucharist, administered by the priest in the consecrated space. The COVID19 crisis has closed the sanctuary, separated the clergy from the flock and stifled the routine of church rituals. 

This period of no access to church that prompted the emergence of virtual church is bound bring out significant changes. The virtual church creates a liberalised worship space where Christian anonymity can thrive. A Christian can now browse church services online and choose which church to attend.

What does this portend for pastors and priests who signify the presence of Christ among the congregants when the faithful realise the access they have to God through Christ?  

Sacraments and institutions that support religious practice are symbolic enactments of processes of the mind, the heart and deeds that can be expressed in other ways. ACK Christians can encounter Christ by Prayer, his word through internet and mass media without sacraments and remain faithful in sacred fellowship with the Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ. 

What changes must ACK make to bolster her visibility?

The ACK is an imperial church carved from the empires of European Christendom. The church is shaped by a history ofdomination, hierarchy, patriarchy, and Episcopal structures. The colonial influence sowed the seeds of ethnic division, exploitation and snobbery.

The incompatibility of the church with the reality of the times is making demands for radical changes. Some local Anglican churches, evoked Article 34- Traditions of the Church Tradition, that lays the guidelines for diversity in the performance of traditions and ceremonies to enhance their visibility.

 The ACK visibility is being ravaged from inside. There is immense concern about Anglicans, who for varied reasons, have left institutional Christianity. Others hold on as Christians, but no longer want to belong to it alone, they share allegiance with competing groups. Many of them are reverting to African Traditional Religious practices, to meet certain spiritual and social needs. They have judged the institutional Christianity to be irrelevant to their daily struggles. Besides, the ACK which fought for justice and the liberation of the oppressed no longer speaks to the challenges that society faces today, such as poverty, corruption, violence, and crime. 

The forecast on the social and economic impact of the coronavirus indicate that it will overwhelm weaker economies, with fragile social safety nets for the population. The faithful Kenyan Anglicans will strain to prop up a Church structure designed for the empire, loaded with dogmas, systems and traditions, conflicting with scriptures, and in desperate need of support and foreign aid. ACK does not have the backing of market capitalism and liberal democracy that other western countries of the communion have. The ACK is facing an existential crisis exacerbated by a pandemic. 

What can we learn from Judaism?

We can learn from Judaism that endured and survived the atrocities of the Roman empire.  The Jews made a remarkable response after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE). Faced with the loss of the entire infrastructure of the holy, the Temple, its Priests, and sacrifices, Judaism translated the entire system of divine service into the everyday life of ordinary Jews. “In prayer, every Jew became a Priest offering a sacrifice. In repentance, he became a High Priest, atoning for his sins and those of his people. Every synagogue, in Israel or elsewhere, became a fragment of the Temple in Jerusalem. Every table became an altar, every act of charity or hospitality, a kind of sacrifice”, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks elaborates.  

The Jews did not abandon the past. But they did not cling to it either. They refused to take refuge in irrationality. But they, as Sacks observes, “thought through the future and created institutions like the synagogue and houses of study and schools that could be built anywhere and sustain Jewish identity even in the most adverse conditions.”

As Anglicans, we must contemplate worst-case scenarios. Plan generations ahead. Ask what we would do, if the worst came to pass. What saved the Jewish people, Rabbi Sacks concludes, “was their ability…. never to let go of the rational thought”, and refusing to let their loyalty to the past, to come in the way of their future, they kept planning for the future.

Towards a New Paradigm: Priesthood to all believers

We should make all Confirmed Christians priests. To give them the authority to serve in the priestly role in church liturgy, sacraments, and witness. To incorporate lay Christians into the priesthood, will fulfil our belief in the priesthood of all believers, a vision ACK holds for lay Christians in divine service (ACK. Const. 2002 Article VI: #7). This change should permit them not only to offer prayers but also to grant absolution for the confessants, pronounce blessings on God’s people, and give last rites for the dying. Also, they should administer sacraments of baptism and Eucharist.  

Making all believers priests would reflect the scriptural ideal of God’s “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” more than the present practice. Christians need to realise their calling as written in Leviticus (19: 1-2) “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them, ‘Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy.”

The New Testament, affirms that all believers in the priesthood of the New Covenant in the book of Peter 1 (2:5,9) and Revelation (1:6)

“ You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).

And He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1:6).

Rabbinic Judaism created a religious and social order that achieved this vision of the people as “a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” by making Priesthood the right and obligation of every Jew. Should we not do the same to Christianity more so, to our Anglican church? 

The community of believers

With all believers as priests, their lives would turn into God’s service in society. All believers will be more aware of themselves as the community of the Kingdom of God, now scattered in homes as fragments of the divine sanctuary. Even as fragments, the believers gather to encounter God upon whom they wholly depend. And as explained by Niringiye, “the visibility of the community is in its gathering… in Jesus’ name”.

 They will engage in God’s service through prayer. And make sacrifices by acts of charity,  create sacred fellowship by hospitality with every table would become an altar for offerings unto God. Hence, the community of believers would exist as a divine sign pointing to the reality beyond, at the same time reflecting the glory of Christ in the present. Christians, now priests, would be the instruments through which God carries His will for justice, peace and freedom in the world, and as a foretaste of the presence of the Kingdom. 


We must transform institutional church structures into instruments to equip all believers for service. Where we train our children in our faith, giving them tools to thrive as Christians in the world. Equipping believers, though guiding them in understanding the holy texts and doing theology, will stir the development of fresh liturgy and visibility. Christian theology encourages an engaged spirituality, which lives out its theological convictions in social life. An engaged spirituality seeks to be true to the essence of theology, fides quarens intellectum — faith in search of understanding.

Rev. Canon Francis Omondi, is a priest of  The Anglican Church of Kenya, serving as an attached clergy in the All Saints Cathedral Diocese, Nairobi. Was made Canon of Kampala Diocese in the  Church of Uganda ( Anglican). He is an Adjunct Lecturer at St. Paul’s University, Limuru Kenya. 

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