Can Kenya stop Bloody Elections?

By Canon Francis Omondi

We, the people, and our leaders are in terrible jeopardy. An ominous cloud hangs over us as the 2022 elections approach. The retiring Chief Justice David Maraga was perceptive when he warned of drumbeats of political war. His words gave me an eerie feeling, a Luo in an election year. How can we bring these bloody elections to an end? 

The Kenyan election cycle has become synonymous with bloodletting, which has disproportionately affected the Luo. The general election conjures up memories of 1969. The first parliament was ending in December and Kenya was to conduct the first post-independent general elections. Following the 1966 fall-out at the Limuru Convention, a frightened government  sought to hold on to power at all costs. This would not be easy. The opposition Kenya People’s Union (KPU) formed in 1966 presented them with a frightening threat. To make sure they kept power, Jomo Kenyatta sanctioned the now infamous oath-taking to forge the uthamaki ideology to keep the presidency within the Gikuyu oligarchy and mobilise the Gikuyu folk around this narrative, thus, binding the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru communities (GEMA) in a spiritual and political stronghold under KANU in an imaginary nation of Uthamakistan

On July 5th they gunned Tom Mboya down in broad daylight. Although Mboya was a KANU leader, according to David Goldsworthy in Tom Mboya: The man Kenya Wanted to Forget, he had to be eliminated because he posed a threat to the presidency. Killed by a bullet coated in the blood of the oath. Since we have been conditioned to understand politics through the prism of tribe,  Mboya’s assassination snapped the already loose cord that tied the Luo to the Kikuyu community after the fall-out of Jomo Kenyatta and Odinga Oginga in 1966 and the mass state-led propaganda Kenyatta and his cabal undertook to paint the Luo community to the Kikuyu as a backward and violent community. The resulting protests, against President Kenyatta at Mboya’s requiem mass marked the beginning of animosities that are still felt today.

Although Kenya has remained silent about Mboya’s murder, the effects endure to this day. As Yvonne Owuor, winner of the 2003 Caine Prize for African Writing, aptly observes, after Mboya’s death Kenya gained a third official language after English and Kiswahili: Silence. But I wonder what to expect when a train stops at a lakeside town in 2022. In 1969 — as in 2008 and 2017 the body bags from the lorries and the buses —  the train “offloaded men, women, and children. Displaced ghosts. In-between people. No one to blame. Most of the witnesses were dead. Others had vowed themselves to eternal silence. This was the same as death,” in the words of Yvonne.

After Mboya’s death, the events in Kisumu on 25 October 1969 exacerbated the despair among the Luo. Jomo Kenyatta had come to open Nyanza Provincial General Hospital which had been built with aid from Russia. Although Odinga was not invited, he arrived in force, for with Russia’s help he had started the project. In the ensuing commotion, the presidential escort and the paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU), shot their way through the crowd, killing many and not stopping the shooting for 25 kilometres outside the town.  

If Mboya died, then everything that could die in Kenya did. Including school children standing in front of a hospital the head of the nation had come to open, Yvonne lamented. The events emptied central province of a people they now called cockroaches, nyamu cia ruguru (beasts from the west). Who spoke of this exile, or of the souls evicted from our world? 

The provincial security apparatus had warned people to stay away from Kisumu because of the protests following the brazen assassination of Tom Mboya, but as political scientist Akoko Akech asks, “And why did the presidential security shoot children, children in Awasi, some 50km away from the hospital?

The killings were framed as animosity between the Luo and Kikuyu communities, but they were not. It was a group in power using government machinery to crush a perceived enemy. The Luo were not fighting Kikuyu people in the outright violence that broke out as a large crowd menaced Kenyatta’s security. The security forces killed indiscriminately, hence the « Kisumu massacre ». While the official body count was 11, historians close to the event such as B.A. Ogot put the numbers at 100 people dead. The school pupils along the road at Awasi had come out to sing praises to their president whose security sent them to their graves in silence.  

The people were silenced, the records expunged, and the photographic and film evidence of the event destroyed, and we would not have seen the devastation were it not for the often-reproduced single monochromatic photograph of the chaotic scene by taken Mohammed Amin, and Satwant Matharoo’s film footage that was shown to the British audience by the WTN. Even the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) removed the oral eyewitness accounts and memoranda from its last report on the colonial and post-independence massacres. The now official record is an extract from the unofficial Report of the Commission on Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation.

In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Prof. Miroslav Volf captures the experience of the Luo people best when he avers, “We demonise and bestialise not because we do not know better, but because we refuse to know what is manifest and choose to know what serves our interests.” Hence, the proscription of KPU made Kenya a de facto single party state and established a pan-ethnic nationalism. The government accused KPU of being subversive, stirring up inter-ethnic strife, and accepting foreign money to promote anti-national activities, which included the building of the aptly named Russia Hospital that the president had come to open. Having demonised Nyanza Province, it was easy to exclude her from « national » development plans.  

Unless we confront this past murders like that of the election official, Chris Musando in 2017, will recur. Kenyan police have a long history of using excessive force against protesters, especially among the Luo in western Kenya. Of the over 1,100 people killed during the 2007 post-election violence, over 400 were shot by police in the Nyanza region. In 2013, according to Human Rights Watch, police killed at least five demonstrators in Kisumu who were protesting a Supreme Court decision that affirmed Uhuru Kenyatta’s election as president. And in June 2016 police killed at least five and wounded another 60 demonstrators in Kisumu, Homabay, and Siaya counties. The state acknowledging these crimes and making public apologies to the Luo will, in my view, end the continued violence against the community.

It is the duty of the current Kenyan state to reach out to the Luo community for the killings since 1969. If we can trace the records of  Nazi Germany atrocities during World War II, why can’t we do the same in Kenya? Why hasn’t any government felt the duty to at least apologise or acknowledge the trauma?

In December 1970, during a state visit to Poland which coincided with a commemoration of the Jewish victims of the Warsaw Ghetto, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt spontaneously dropped to his knees. Although he uttered no word during his Kneifall von Warschau, his Warsaw Genuflection, Brandt later wrote in his autobiography that upon “carrying the burden of the millions who were murdered, I did what people do when words fail them”. The Kenyan government should do to the Luo what Germany’s leaders did to the Jewish victims of the Nazis.

In 2011 German leaders again expressed deep remorse for the suffering their nation had inflicted on Poland and the rest of Europe during World War II. “I bow in mourning to the suffering of the victims,” German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said  at a ceremony in Warsaw. “I ask for forgiveness for Germany’s historical debt. I affirm our lasting responsibility,” the statesman said, calling the war a “painful legacy”. Where are the presidents of Kenya who have expressed such remorse?

Even if no one does, we remember. As long as it is remembered, the past is not just the past; it remains an aspect of the present. A remembered wound is an experienced wound. Toni Morrison was right when she says in Beloved that, “Deep wounds from the past can so much pain our present that, the future becomes a matter of keeping the past at bay”. Without apologies, the crimes are bound to recur and our wounds to remain uncovered.  

I am terrified by the state’s silence, the wishing away of the crimes and the failure to reach out to the Luo community. While President Steinmeier has called WW II a “German crime” that his nation will never forget, Kenya’s leaders are quiet and want Kisumu forgotten. How can the Luo people forgive crimes no one owns? How can the scar they bear be concealed ? I fear that without acknowledgment, ownership and apology, we cannot build any lasting bridges. 

Canon Francis Omondi, is a priest of All Saints Cathedral Diocese Nairobi, and an adjunct lecturer at St. Paul’s University Limuru. Views expressed here are his own.

The article was first published in The Elephant read it here:

Finding the Saviour

GOOD NEWS & CONVERSATIONS With Canon Francis Omondi 

Simeon finds  Jesus (Luke 2:29-38)

25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,

33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. 34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”

Anna’s response to Jesus

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. 37 She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Epiphany Collect:

O God, Who by the leading of  a star manifested your son to the peoples of the earth: lead us, who know you now by faith, to your glory face to face: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

We will discuss a pertinent question of time, Where and how to find the Saviour? We draw lessons from the Gospel account of St. Luke 2:25-38, where we learn how  Simeon finds Jesus.

           Simeon, a devout and just man in Jerusalem, waited with fellow Jews for years, for the saviour to console of Israel. They embodied this consolation, the prophets of old spoke about, in the Messiah. Since the prophets’ word always came true, they waited.

         Scholars mention Simeon was among those embroiled in the argument regarding the accuracy of the Isaiah 7:14 text: Whereas the Hebrew Bible reads, “…a young woman shall bear a son…”, the  Greek translation, Septuagint read, “… a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” Simeon sided with the Septuagint translation, But beyond this, the Holy Spirit impressed on him, he would not die before the fulfilment of this prophesy. He grew old and old, but kept waiting for the saviour to come. 

            On this day, a day like any other, the Holy Spirit nudged him to dash to the temple. For It was the day the prophets spoke about. Yet the temple was its usual self. Nothing unusual. Beggars lined up the walls from gate to gate, seeking alms. The poor and sick wanting for divine intervention. People milling in and out of the temple. Sinners in penitence offering sacrifices. The impure being cleansed. And Couples presenting sons. Also there were Merchants trading wares in the temple yard, while Gentiles observing from a distance. A day like any other. but Busy for priests.

        This was also the day Mary and Joseph came to present Jesus and perform their purification rites. Two turtle doves were sufficient for the law and affordable for them. With their son presented and Mary purified, they got ready, for the long journey back. The context forced them to be mum about their special child. At any rate, they had fulfilled righteousness. God wanted it that way. So, they sneaked, I mean slipped, out into obscurity unannounced and unnoticed to raise Jesus in strict observance of the Law, though he transcended the Law.

           But, while making out, down on the steps in the temple courts, old Simeon stopped them. Simeon begged to hold their baby. No sooner had he taken baby Jesus in his arms, than he belted the now sacred Nunc Dimittis: 

29 “ Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30  because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.”

     In this praise, Simeon calls the child Jesus “your salvation” (v.30). i. e. God’s salvation. It was A coincident of sorts, since Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua, means, “salvation.” Simeon says, “my eyes have seen your salvation….” for he saw the child named “Salvation”. That was the moment Anna joined in, and praised God as well. She invited the messiah waiting people scattered  in the temple crowds to join in and rejoice. These waiting people also looked forward to the comfort of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be freed from the Roman oppression, they believed. The craving for the messiah caused angst in the people, demonstrated in the frequent revolts, which the Roman terror sifted through, eliminating all claimants.

           Meanwhile, the Messiah of Israel, whom they had waited for, was being celebrated at a side event within the temple precincts. It was an insignificant function, not in the temple order of events, and conducted by out-layers. In such obscurity, “the Consolation of Israel”,  appears. He is appearing when times were hard in Jerusalem. And it must have been the hardest of times to be a Jew. But for Simeon , Anna and the waiting people, it was an epiphany moment.  It is epiphany, when you suddenly  feel that you understand, or become conscious of something very important to you. They had discovered their saviour.  

           The good news  Luke is telling us that God returns in disguise as an infant. Fulfilling the word of the prophet Malachi, “the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.”

       Addressing Mary,  Simeon projected the kind ministry of the saviour would have. He said this child will lead to the fall and rise of many in Israel. The fall because his ministry will stumble many. He will bring down those who thought were up.  And How people respond to him and his message will determine their destiny. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries received his message, but the religious community could not bring themselves to believe that Jesus can be God’s Messiah. For them, Jesus became “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (Luke 20:17-18).  

Jesus will disdain the oppressive human structures, whether religious, political or cultural. Structures that keep people down and excluded. The rise because, he will bring in, those relegated to the margins of the society. For he will without limit include those locked out. He wields the authority to invite whoever he  calls. 

          And Because of Jesus’ unorthodox approach, Simeon said,  many will speak against him. Jesus’ down-up, and out-center approach upset the established structures. Even though Jesus is God’s sign to his people, they will reject him. He will be “The stone the builders rejected …” Because he will expose the hidden agenda of world’s cartels, and lay bare their guise of religion. Best of all, Jesus will un-earthen human limitation of who God is …and what we have said about him, that he isn’t.  Those who stumble at Jesus, who reject him and oppose his message, will be exposed. For Jesus as the messiah will judge the world “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).

              Remarkably, Simeon sees Jesus’ salvation as extending to all people, including the Gentiles. This is the same message the angel spoke to the shepherds on Christmas night: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (LK. 2:10).  The concept of the Messiah and Israel being “a light for the Gentiles” was first developed by the Prophet Isaiah: “ I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ( Isaiah 49:6)

This has now found fulfilment in this child Simeon holds…

       In his statement, Simeon is setting the stage for the Magi’s visit. Which occurs soon  after this event in the Temple. For the Gentiles, though without Scriptures to guide, used horoscope and their stars reading skills to know about the new King, to locate where this king is ….and to believe that this is their King as well. This is what, we have in the Church tradition, we have called, the epiphany of the Gentiles. That is why this week we celebrate the Christian holiday commemorating the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi.

         Israel could not cage Jesus, the Gentiles made claim to the child king born to the Jews. And the Magi found something of theirs in him and something of him in them. For He was their king as well.

          I concur with Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright, who in his book, How God Became King, underscores:  the point of the gospels is not to proclaim Jesus is divine, as if he were some Greek god in human skin. He writes, “….in the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the God of Israel has become king of the universe.” (:38) Wright further  ponders,  “Suppose this isn’t a story about a man going about ‘proving that he’s God,’ but about God coming back in person to rescue his people?” (:93) “ 

The gospels offer us not so much a different kind of human, but a different kind of God: – a God who, having made humans in his own image, will most naturally express himself in and as, that image-bearing creature. A God who, having made Israel to share and bear the pain and horror of the world, will most naturally express himself, in and as, that pain-bearing, horror-facing creature.” (:104) Wright concludes:  Through Jesus God is doing what the Bible says God is always doing: judging, forgiving, healing, and transforming those God loves into a people who can recognize God, not Caesar, is King.  This God, and King  is among us human. Emanuel.

           The Christians’ central affirmation is that God became human. Not a generalized humanity — he became human under particular conditions of time and space. Thus affirming all cultural traditions.  “Cultural diversity was built into the Christian faith with that first monumental decision by the Council in Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 15, “Argues Prof. Andrew Walls, “ which declared that the new Gentile Christians didn’t have to enter Jewish religious culture.” They didn’t have to receive circumcision and keep the law.

           This decision had enormous implication: For “up to that moment there was only one Christian lifestyle” and everybody knew it. Observes Walls,  the Lord himself had led the life of an observant Jew. The apostles continued that tradition. This was not to be with the new church.  The early church made the extraordinary decision not to continue the tribal model of the faith. Converts had to figure out what a Christian lifestyle looked like. They, guided by the Holy Spirit, had to develop the way of being Christian.

 If the church had made the opposite decision, we would not have needed much of the material in the Epistles. Walls explain this:  “St. Paul had to discuss with the Corinthians what to do “ if a pagan friend invites you to dinner and you’re not sure whether they had offered the meat in sacrifice the day before.” Such was not the apostles’ problem. They did not need to be eating with pagans. For observant Jews don’t table with pagans. 

           We also affirm that Christ is formed in people, following Paul’s words that he is in travail “until Christ be formed in you.”   Because, when people come to Christ, Christ transforms their lives taking a new social form. In seeking the saviour, we need to look beyond the feast of Epiphany celebrations, or the Clergy or church program. We may not find the saviour in ordinary Christians. Waiting hearts will find Jesus in simple lives and on the edge of society. 

The Times magazine of  December 27, 2008 ran a story by the famous British journalist Matthew Parris. It is an irony that an atheist, Matthew, confessed his belief that Africa needed God. “Missionaries, not aid money,” he said, “ would solve Africa’s biggest problem – the crushing passivity of the people’s mindset,”  Matthew was in Malawi after 45 years, to see the work of Pump Aid, an NGO helping rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep the village wells sealed and clean.  The Times Christmas Appeal had included this small British charity working Malawi. which Mr. Parris conceded inspired him, renewing his flagging faith in development charities:

“But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too,” he said “one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my worldview, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.”

He discerned the unique contribution of Christian evangelism as distinct from secular NGOs, governmental projects, and international aid efforts. Matthew observed: “In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.” Until this visit, he applauded the practical work of mission churches in Africa as humanitarian…  and that Faith supported the missionary, but he now acknowledges “…that salvation is part of the package,” 

The fact he notes that “Faith does more than support the missionary; but  it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which He could  not help observing. This time in Malawi it was not the same. Matthew narrates: 

I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular, and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service. It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

But Parris warns: “Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. We must supplant an entire belief system.” He Concludes, “And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.”

Parris sees the saviour in the lives of the Christian aid workers. He sees the kingdom of God in the transforming work of the missionaries. Though, like Jesus, the Christian Work is spoken against, the evidence stands out. 

So, where  will our epiphany happen?

It is the Holy Spirit who revealed the saviour to Simeon, and  to praying and fasting Anna, and the waiting faithful Jews on the margin of their society. He too, will reveal him to us. Our epiphany will occur away from the center,  out on the edges. Paul showed that when Christ is formed in humankind, others will find the saviour in our lives. Our epiphany will occur in ordinary lives of those who live up to the injunction of our saviour. If we seek the manifestation of the saviour today… we must seek him among the poor. 

Jesus lives among the poor. He is with those who suffer hunger because they have not been at work. Jesus is with the sick who have no healthcare. He is with those violently oppressed and made poor by corrupt state policies. These poor are victims of direct and indirect state brutality. The devastating impact of COVID-19 has exposed the façade, and we can’t hide our violence on the poor. We have an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, as we have often shown in times of crisis. 

While they are waiting for Jesus to meet their needs, Jesus among them is waiting for us to act in his name. Helping the invisible poor will bring us face to face with the saviour.  

In the name of the father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Canon Francis Omondi is a priest in the All Saints Cathedral Diocese Nairobi. He is an Adjunct lecture at St. Paul’s University, Limuru. 

God Knows … in the Year 2021

We stand at the gate of 2021 battered. Our sails torn to shreds in the storms of 2020.  

Corona virus showed us things, as we rise from that darkness of 2020. 

But are wiser today than then. We know it can get darker still. This we did at the turn of 2020. In Kenya the taxman has sharpened his sickle, for the debts are due.

With measured hope and stretched out hand help, let us share the mysterious-sounding words by Minnie Haskins (1875-1957) for God Knows:  

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

May that Almighty Hand guide and uphold us all.

So I went forth,

And finding the hand of God,

Trod gladly into the night.

He led me towards the hills

And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!

What need our human life to know

If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things,

Both high and low, God hideth his intention.

God knows. His will Is best.

The stretch of years

Which wind ahead, so dim

To our imperfect vision,

Are clear to God. Our fears

Are premature. In Him

All time hath full provision.

Then rest; until

God moves to lift the veil

From our impatient eyes,

When, as the sweeter features

Of life’s stern face we hail,

Fair beyond all surmise,

God’s thought around His creatures

Our minds shall fill.[1]

In 2020, God held us in his grip, he will yet hold us again in 2021. This is his promise:  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for thou art with me… (Psalm 23:4)

Canon Francis Omondi

[1] They came from a poem of hers called “God Knows”, in a collection, The Desert, published in 1908.  

   Let it be… 

          The crisis occasioned by the global pandemic has intruded into our 2020 Advent season. Our anticipation in hope this year is in far more than usual. For Advent is a period of waiting in hope and expectation of the coming Kingdom. Mary in her song in Luke 1:46-52 cf invites us to this wait. 

Mary could not have sang the Magnifcat before yielding to the Angelic commission. The Angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing that she would be with a son, a unique son, son of God Most High… who would be the long waited messiah. Then, there, and to them, Angels were integral part of their ontology. Angels appeared and disappeared as the air we breathe. Not as dumb and obscure, rather invisible as today’s Angeles is. Otherwise, we would understand why Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Joseph and the Jews believed.     

Mary said, “Let it be!”

Hidden act of God in the Magnificat is in Mary’s concluding line: “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” The survival prospects of Israel under the terror Rome was grim. No rebellion from within, no deal with Caesars brought relief to them. The prophets, true, were seeing a grimmer future still. Hence the news of a savior born of her womb… for which generations to come will call her blessed. 

She echoed, a song now common song for the religious in Israel, Hannah’s song. Hannah also concluded with a vision of a strong King in Israel, a God’s inverted social order, to include the excluded, the hungry and the left behind.

Nature exhibits many “evil” traits: storms, earthquakes, and other natural disasters cause incredible destruction; locusts, COVID-19 has killed many and, of course the impact of the pandemic.

How in this condition can we rejoice in the Lord through the crisis of our world?

Hannah refuses to blame evil, Satan or anyone else for the crisis, but saw God in it. She said,“The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.” This position was not unusual, Rabbi Sacks, in his book Not in God’s Name, argues, monotheism is not an easy religion and cites Isa 45;7’ “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil.” He questions, how can God, who is all good, create evil?  Is it not that the “bad” God does is in response to the bad we do?  Its Justice punishment and retribution. He invites us to see God as both Judge and father… embodiment of Justice and love.
If in our current crisis pushes us to ponder where is God, and why is God not intervening? It is in Hannah’s song, that we may be the confident: “For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, And He has set the world upon them.” The world won’t crush on us in our present crisis. 

        As long as God holds the world’s pillars, he will keep his promises to us. To know that God holds the entire world in his hands, gives us confidence that no pandemic, natural disasters, evil systems will stop Him from raising His people, to raise praises to Him. As the Magnifcat or Hannah’s song. 

But there are already signs of God at work in the world. Where is God’s hand in your life as we look towards the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory?

No one is holy like the Lord, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

 Canon Francis Omondi.

Advent 2020

Why Justice matters for Social progress

By Rev. Canon Francis Omondi 

A UNICEF poster once depicted an African girl, with eyes reflecting a perilous future, at the same time wearing a hopeful smile. She responded, with just a word to the question, what would she want to be when she grew up.  “ALIVE” she said.

Being alive is to have food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities of life. To live without fear. It is the opportunity to work for one’s living. To have freedom at least, to reject decisions affecting one’s life but made without their participation. Having freedom of association, of speech, and of worship. Such things make us alive. Social progress means we are, alive. These are the basics of persons living in freedom and justice.

If justice means anything at all, it must protect life. While addressing the Lutheran International Conference on A Just Africa in September 1993 in Moshi Tanzania,  former president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, opined,  “… protecting life should be the purpose of social, economic, and political activities of governments at every level. Life is the most basic human right”. 

Observing human rights facilitates peaceful co-existence and social and political stability. We predicate a democratic society on its respect for human rights. For this reason, The World Summit for Social Development adopted a human rights framework as part of its strategy to eradicate poverty. Implicit in the strategy is that a society that wants to achieve social justice ought to enforce social and economic rights.

Exposing weak social systems

However, in adopting the notion that social justice is the outcome of the market economy, and not a contrivance of the state, leaders fail in their basic task of protecting lives. Perhaps our situation in Kenya depicts this.

At the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic early 2020, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan’s asserted that “the coronavirus will test and mercilessly expose the shortcomings of every country’s health system, governance standards and social capital.” 

Indeed, true to her words, the pandemic has badly exposed our government’s failures to set up social support structures for most Kenyans over the last half a century. According Kenyan economist and public intellectual David Ndii, “entrails of our dysfunctional governance, our venal political class, and the patronage oligarchy writ large—the hollow men…”

This school of thought, associated with globalization and the hegemony of the United States, is a principal obstacle to implementing social justice. 

Breaking the hope

Governing columnist Alex Marshall in his most recent book, The Surprising Design of Market Economies, showed how governments create free markets by, and cannot exist without its props. Governments, he writes, “create the legal framework trading requires, provide police and courts to enforce laws and contracts, and build the ‘commons’- roads, bridges, ports and other facilities necessary for commerce.”

In our case, the government seems to have broken the promised hope, which should hold our society together. The belief, for example, that if we work hard, obey the law, and get good education, we can achieve stable employment, social status, mobility and financial security is no longer true. 

Kenya’s challenge is not what presents, as in the “dynasties” vs. “hustlers” political tiffs. Our lives are cheap for either of them. The capture of political and economic power, by the elites, is our problem. And the more concentrated wealth becomes as in corporate capitalism, the more damage it inflicts on society. This, along with redirecting our institutions toward the further consolidation of their power and wealth.

Our political elites have perfected the colonialists’ atrocious exploitation of Kenyans for profit. These fellows are cruel. They cash in on our fears, ratchet our tribal sentiments while pillaging the nation without improving the status of the wananchi. Even the aid aimed for the poor has not been spared. 

Cost of political expediency

A recent World Bank’s study, Elite Capture of Foreign Aid: Evidence from Offshore Bank Accounts, published on 18th February 2020, established that in most recepient countries, a big percentage of foreign aid ends up in the pockets of ruling elites, politicians, bureaucrats and their cronies in the private sector involved in aid funded-projects.

The study found that aid disbursements “coincide with significant increases in deposits held in offshore financial centres known for bank secrecy”. So, implying that whenever foreign aid lands in their country, the ruling politicians, bureaucrats and their friends stash billions of dollars in secret offshore banks, in Switzerland and Luxembourg where secrecy is paramount. 

It empowers them (by legal backing) to pillage the nation, amass obscene wealth, and wield unchecked political and legal control. The result has been the obliteration of primary social bonds that once held the nation together. No funds for education, public transport, housing, medicines and healthcare services, and employment public service providers.

For Kenya’s case, despite it being the fourth-largest economy by GDP in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) after Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola, and with a GDP of $109bn, her economic success has eluded the vast majority. The wealth inequalities are obscene. 

How can 90% of Kenya’s wealth be in the hands of less than 10,000 out of a population of 47.6 million? This grim reality has lingered. The UK based New World Wealth survey (2014), conducted over five years, on wealth distribution in Kenya showed that 46% of the country’s 43.1 million people lived below the poverty line, surviving on less than Kshs.172 ($2) a day. 

Besides, a tiny clique of 8,300 super- wealthy individuals, control nearly two-thirds of Kenya’s Kshs. 4.3 trillion ($50 billion) economy, highlighting the chasm between the rich and the poor.

Justice and rule of law

In his book, The Philosophy of Liberty: An Essay on Political Philosophy, Kenyan philosopher, the late Odera Oruka opines that world poverty problem is not  just a moral question of charity or humanitarian help. It is not even a question of restitution, but a matter of justice, and ultimately a question of enforceable law. 

Odera considers protecting a minimum standard of living for everyone, which he calls the “right to a human minimum”, a basic need for global justice. The right to be a human minimum is an inalienable right to self-preservation. And since a human being’s right to self-preservation is the basic necessity for making use of other rights, denying it causes the loss of essential functions of a human being. 

However, our leaders’ position on justice has been benevolence, or charity. They pass gifts and resources to people in need, for medical fundraising, business start-ups, educational and funeral gifts… ostensibly they fund these charities from their own resources, while others draw funds from Constituency Development Funds (CDF), or government budget allocations. Wananchi, so seldomly express gratitude for their generosity, accept this as the norm and demand more of it.

Hallmarks of a just society

Justice matters, if we are to avoid using benevolence as an instrument of oppression in the manner of the political class. Embracing justice will enable us to put a break on paternalistic benevolence. And so, cut the prevalent paternalistic development in Kenya, where those in power assume to know what we need. 

Justice is present in a society where its members stand to each other in the normative social relationship of being treated as they have a right to be treated. According to Ulpian, justice is rendering to each according to one’s due “ius” virtue of justice. 

Whenever there is justice, the society renders its members what they have a right to.  Wolterstorff makes an important distinction in one possessing a right and being rendered to that right. Not being rendered that right does not mean one does not possess that right. One is just being deprived of it. One is being wronged. So, not giving Kenyans means to enhance life is wronging Kenyans.

Oruka asserts that for all human beings to function with a significant degree of rationality and self-awareness, they need a certain minimum amount of physical security, health care, and subsistence. Below this minimum, one may still be human and alive but cannot successfully carry out the functions of a moral agent or engage in creative activity.

Nexus between human rights and justice

The Government ought to grant Kenyans their right to be human beings. For in not treating her citizens as illustrated above is to wrong and demean them. We cannot excuse this injustice. Failing to develop policies that improve the lives of Kenyans, shielding them from need of patronage feeds into this cycle. 

We cannot have “A Just Kenya” if you think of civic rights alone, or social rights alone, or economic rights alone. In a just social unit, we interlink these rights. 

Do the present national economic policies promote or harm the well-being of majority of Kenyans and children in particular? If harm, then what must we do? Rather, what should we do to promote justice?

If human rights are to become the framework for social development, then fundamental reforms in the human rights regime are necessary. Such will include accepting the implications of human rights’ universality and discussing its relevance as a common core to all facets of society.

He warned that the populace may opt for armed solution if they believe that their political options are threatened; or if they see no other way of changing policies undermining the economical basis of their life. There is an overt connection between economics and peace.

So, it does matter that we make justice a cornerstone for social progress. It is the peoples’ responsibility to achieve this. For we cannot and we will not build a just society, without ethics by our citizens, and leaders.

Those with the responsibility of leadership must ask this hard question: “Am I exploiting for personal gain the opportunities provided by an unjust system, or am I trying to live according to my principles despite that system?”

Oh, if only I had my way. I wish l had,  to quote the blind Willie Johnson in his rendition- “If I had my way”,  in this wicked world, I would also want to tear this building down.

Canon Francis Omondi is a priest of the ACK All Saints Cathedral Diocese; He is an Adjunct lecturer at St. Paul’s University Limuru.

NOTE: this article was first published on October 16th 2020 in

WITH THE JAW BONE OF AN ASS: Remembering Pastor Dennis White

    Today it feels so long time ago, to remember.

       But I still can hear his firm voice. The voice we got so used to hear, of Pastor Dennis White. 

With eyes fixed on him from every corner of the sanctuary and the balcony, note takers fingers transfixed, unsure whether to continue taking notes, or to stop, listen not to interrupt. I do remember. 

Perhaps because he preached the sermon twice. The first instance, I can’t recall. But this, I do. It was Sunday. Unfortunately, I can’t now narrate the whole sermon, not in the same  details a recorded message would. But I remember faintly, like one gazing at at X-ray pic, when you are not the doctor. But you believed every word of the physician,  still can you feel pain of the broken bone in your limb. This though I remember. 

THE TEXT. The book of Judges 15.

THE CHARACTER. Samson against the Philistines at the Cleft of Etam .

THE PLOT. Samson, catching foxes (not FOX TV), dispatching  the to a flame the Philistines’ barley fields, about to be harvested, and turning them red with rage. The Philistines learnt that Samson acted in revenge against his in-laws’ betrayal. So they razed down Samson’s in-laws household. It was fire for fire. It wasSamson the craved for. Being the rulers over Jews, it was their duty to protect property. But the arsonist must be brought to book.  Wanted:- “the arsonist” dead or alive! Better alive, to kill him…”poooole pooooole” (slowly) for revenge is best served cold. Intelligence sighted  Samson social distancing in Judah’s Cleft of Etam. The Philistines demanded of the leaders to hand in Samson or the country burns. No options, no handshake. Like a sheep, tired, old, yet willing, being towed to the butcher, they led him. One thousand seasoned soldiers against one Samson. Humanly speaking Samson was a dead meat. People! It is Samson. Of whom we cannot to be humanly speaking. Wait until they get to Lehi. You will realise there are some shouting that turns the Spirit against you. No one but, Samson got it. He too didn’t see it coming. But when the Spirit of the Lord stirred him, the ropes like flaxs on fire gave way… And with the JAW BONE OF AN ASS, Samson killed a thousand men. Men, men- enough to be trusted soldiers. ..the battle scene is hard to describe, If only you heard  with your ears Pastor White describe it, or were there for the event itself, but from safe distance, those many years ago. The scene: piles of corpses, haphazardly heaped on top of each other, some legs pointing to the heavens, some bodies standing as if still standing alive,  others upside down, while others still lying flat on the ground, as though rolled over. Broken weapons, new and old, didn’t help. A limb here, a tooth there, smell of urine, ….Then the haunting regret, “why did we dare him?”

At Ramath Lehi, a very tired and thirsty Samson, really thirsty, thirsty to death. Samson got ministered to, but had tossed the Jaw of an ass, not far off. The jaw bone, he reasoned isn’t far, just here at Hakkore, I can get it if needed. For now, it’s job was done. Thank you. 

THE POINT. In hermeneutical terms,  this is the preaching point. Otherwise Pastor White would say … “here  is the IMPORT, and the IMPUT of the message”  I mean the corner  Pastor White wanted get us all day long. ….and he knew it, because he chuckled and adjusted both his glasses and trousers, facing right and turning left and then proceeded to say:

 “Liiisen… Pastor White!

Beloved, Samson’s biggest mistake…. was tossing away the Jaw bone. He tossed away what God used to save him. Beloved, It is by faith in God that we are saved. And by It we are safe. God has used faith to save us, to save your life, when you get thirsty don’t toss it away. Samson became casual with God’s provision for the destruction of his enemies. Samson began his descent to destruction the instant he tossed the jaw bone. We hold on to the faith that saved us. We are to have faith in God’s faithfulness  he is the OBJECT of our faith.. Don’t become sophisticated, don’t forget the basics of our faith. for then you shall have tossed the jawbone.  There is no solution or salvation outside what we have been given in Jesus…without faith its impossible to please God. Don’t toss the jaw bone… don’t give up  faith  in God. He is faithful… he is Faithful…

Then Music followed….then followed the altar call while all heads and bowed…and all eyes closed then followed the counsellors with badges clearly marking them out, among them, I notice brother William Busolo….

I wonder what this text says to us today…is there faith in God among his people? I wonder what Pastor White would tell us… would he rebuke our present practices, faith in the prophets, politicians, programs, and plans … White often rebuked Christians, with a tinge of annoyance, pity, impatience, and withtint arrogance, all mingled in these three words: “High Class Nonsense!”

I remain a captive of this sermon… preached more than 30 plus years ago, his voice still haunts….I literary tend to notice jaw bones…  Lord I believe help my unbelief! 

Canon Omondi 


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. 

You can read the longer version published also in :


Rev. Canon Francis Omondi

photo of old church building under cloudy sky

Photo by Harry Smith on


The identity and thence the visibility of the ACK is tethered to the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. Hewn from the empires of European Christendom, the ACK is an imperial church[1], marked with domination, hierarchy, patriarchy, and Episcopal structures. The colonial spirit shaped her in the mould of ethnic divisions, exploitation, and snobbism, continues to drive her engines. And this puts the ACK in a bind, and at pains to express her witness in context.

The bedeviling divisions, both between and within our churches, are a signal to a shift away from a modern paradigm of truth, dogma, and correct practices, towards a postmodern one of conversations and constructions of temporary knowledge and truths.[2] This paradigm is wrecking the once imposing edifice of the imperial Anglican church and therefore demanding radical changes in the church for her visibility. Some local Anglican churches, using Article 34- Traditions of the Church Tradition[3], have proposed, and or tinkered with canons and liturgy to enhance their visibility in contexts.

There is, however, a delicate balance we must maintain while making changes. Because one suspect move on our identity initiated by a local church impinges on the rest of the communion. Advocates of changes tend to package their issues as Anglican Communion challenges, that latter emerges as the conservatives-progressives divide. The conservative (GAFCON) in presenting their vision, “Toward a Symphony of Instruments”[4]  a structure to advance Anglican coherence in a global south context, eyed as a dose “for the well-being of our Anglican Communion.” But behind their readiness to jettison the Episcopal jurisdiction, which they termed a “mere geographical location,” lay the craving to isolate enclaves of “orthodoxy” in the progressive bastions. This is a contradiction and a departure from Anglican orthodoxy (see Executive Summary §4). While the progressive’s vision for the communion lays in “The Anglican Covenant”[5]. They remain broad, affirming the ecumenical vision of the Church, entered through the baptismal door (Intro §§1-3);  celebrates difference among Anglicans (Intro. § 4); acknowledges  vulnerability, and reaches for God’s help. They believe in God’s “will redeem our struggles and weakness” and “renew and enrich our common life” (Intro. §8; see more 2.1.3).

The ACK should disentangle herself from the shackles of this binary tussle. She should not either align with the progressives, seeking to blend the church’s visibility to their changed context, or against the conservatives, aspiring to uphold traditional values as was. It is possible to be pawns in this conflict, while the ACK’s local challenges remain unattended. The ACK should instead take advantage of the postmodern mood to spur the Anglican Communion into new frontiers of challenges. Challenges more urgent, more pressing, and vital for her visibility in context.

The ACK visibility is being ravaged from inside by the effects of a “post-Christian” era, a typical sign of a postmodern age. 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[6], to meet certain spiritual and social needs. They have judged the institutional Christianity to be irrelevant to their daily struggles. For this and many reasons, they do not look up to the church for moral guidance. Besides, the ACK which fought for justice and the liberation of the oppressed has become voiceless, powerless, and not as organised as she once was regarding the challenges that society faces today, such as poverty,  corruption, violence, and crime.

The forecast on the social and economic impact of the coronavirus will overwhelm weaker economies, with fragile social safety nets for the population. The faithful Kenyan Anglicans will strain to prop up this Church. A Church built with imperial concrete on sinking sand of poverty. Such a structure designed for the empire, loaded with dogmas, systems and traditions, incongruent with scriptures, and in desperate need of support and foreign aid, will not stand. Not for long. Besides, ACK does not have the backing of market capitalism and liberal democracy other western countries of the communion have. But all these will be strained under the pressure and ravages of the coronavirus.

Perhaps, the good to come out of this period, might be an awakening to the pre-existing conditions of our religious decay. We were not as healthy as we made it to appear. Apart from being medical COVID-19 is to a greater extent a social virus that will eviscerate the Anglican church as we know it today.  We will wake into an unfamiliar world from this Pandemic.  How shall we mitigate against extinction?

Scientists would not look backward in choosing, from among existing theories when searching, for alternatives. They seek “the fittest way to practice future science” (Kuhn 1970 pp. 172), and therefore base their decision not on information about previous contributions but based on the expected value of their prospective contribution to a paradigm.

In an enthralling narrative on why civilisations die, Rebecca Costa[7] recounts how when societies reach a cognitive threshold they can’t chart a path from the present to the future. The hit a gridlock. And there they would die off. She explains that the fall occurs because problems became too many and complicated for the people of that time and place to solve. Such cognitive overload can happen to any system and may already be happening to the Anglican Church.

Rebecca, therefore, gives two signs for the breakdown. First, there is  gridlock. Instead of dealing with what everyone can see are major problems, people continue as usual and pass their problems on to the next generation. Then as there is a retreat into irrationality. For facts no longer make sense, and people take refuge in religious consolations.

How Judaism endured and survived the atrocities of the Roman empire, is a lesson for us today.  The Jews made a remarkable response after the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE).[8] Faced with the loss of the entire infrastructure of the holy, the Temple, its Priests, and sacrifices, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks[9] explains, 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”, 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.” Judaism has always survived, unlike other world civilizations in one sense because of  Divine providence, but Sacks attributes it also to “the foresight of people like Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai[10] who resisted cognitive breakdown, created solutions today for the problems of tomorrow, who did not seek refuge in the irrational, and who built the Jewish future.”

Our crisis presents us with the incentive to desire a new paradigm, and to invite others to the  benefits it proffers. Kuhn (1970, pp. 152) described shifts in paradigm allegiance as a conversion experience driven by the efforts of individual scientists to persuade each other.

As Anglicans, we must contemplate worst-case scenarios. Plan generations ahead. Ask what we would do, if… 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.

It is during a crisis such as this that new ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tried, argues Kuhn. But eventually, a new paradigm is formed, which then gains its new followers, and that triggers an intellectual “battle” between the followers of the new paradigm and the hold-outs of the old paradigm.

man in thobe standing on gray concrete pavement

Photo by Jan Kroon on

Towards a New Paradigm: Priesthood to all believers

We should make all Confirmed Christians be priests. Thus, give them the authority to serve in the priestly role in church liturgy, sacraments, and witness. To incorporate lay Christians into the priesthood, will best realise our belief in the priesthood of all believers, a vision ACK holds for Christians in divine service. And it states:

Lay persons form by far the greater part of the body of Christ. They cannot walk worthily in their high calling, unless they realize that they too are sharers in the heavenly high priesthood of Christ, and that this sharing must find expression in holiness, in witness, and in loving service of others (ACK. Const. 2002 Article VI: #7).

Laity is already leading in liturgy services. 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.[11] Also, they should administer sacraments of baptism[12] and Eucharist.

Making all believers priests would more reflect the scriptural ideal of God’s “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” than the present practice. Christians need to realise their calling as 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:

“ 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 marvelous 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 emerging out of the devastating tragedy of the loss of the Temple, created a religious and social order that achieved this vision of the people as “a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation”. Their leaders made Priesthood the right and obligation of every Jew. Should we not do the same to Christianity more so, to our Anglican church?

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 fragments of the divine sanctuary. Yet in these small shards, the believers gather to encounter God upon whom they wholly depend. And as explained by Niringiye (2014 pp. 21), “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 in the vision of bishop Newbigin, 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.[13]

We must transform institutional church structures into instruments to equip all believers for service. They should be centers for Christian education. Where we train our children in our faith, giving them tools to thrive as Christians in the world. Using our church infrastructures as centers for Christian learning would in effect reorient our priests to actualise their role as teachers and instructors of the faith. 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, which St Anselm of Canterbury (11th century) defines as fides quarens intellectum — faith in search of understanding.

What the ACK should discover, is not the proclaiming of a timeless universal truth, but the listening to God’s involvement in the stories of the local community. The church ought to recognise that it is in opening herself up that she would experience a truly radical transformation. A true transformation is a gift of listening to the traces of God’s involvement among us, which brings about liberation and thus creates a space for impossible possibilities. And these are the true transformation.

We can achieve for the Anglican Church what the prophets, the sages, and the Jewish thinkers of the Middle Ages accomplished for Judaism. They realised that sacrifices were symbolic enactments of processes of the mind, heart, and deed that could be expressed in other ways. Torah study, once the specialty of the Priesthood, became the right and obligation of everyone. Sacks [14]concludes,  not everyone could wear the crown of Priesthood, but everyone could wear the crown of  the Torah. Judaism, therefore, transformed to cope with new contexts they found themselves in.

In Kuhn’s philosophy, deciding to reject an old paradigm for the new, remains an important aspect. He is clear that the rejection of one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself. It is the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other, that would lead to the decision to shift. Kuhn (1970, pp. 152) described shifts in paradigm allegiance as a conversion experience driven by the efforts of individual scientists to persuade each other. Our present crisis demands a new paradigm. This paper suggests a new paradigm for the ACK. We must examine and consider it for the Anglican church also.  How we persuade the Anglican Communion to join in, abandon the old structure and benefit from fresh ideas is another matter. According to Kuhn, the development of science is not uniform but has alternating “normal” and “revolutionary” (or “extraordinary”) phases. Kuhn perceived that most scientists engage in activity consistent with the prevailing paradigm with reasonably small alterations, put differently normal science. But they encounter anomalies the paradigm cannot resolve some individuals may step out of the paradigm and propose new principle or law. If the proposed changes are accepted in the scientific community, then the science experiences a paradigm shift. It follows then that the new science initiates a new paradigm.

assorted books on shelf

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As the coronavirus crisis reveals and amplifies the awareness of our social fractures, we will expect the Church to be a part of finding long-term solutions. And questions will be asked of her actions.

The ACK is in a liminal space concerning her visibility. A space of being in transition. She must open herself to listen and search for God’s involvement in the world. It is by being in conversation and interpreting God’s involvement that she will be in the transition, from an institution founded on truths and established practices, to an open community, vulnerable, and exposed to the impossible possibilities of Christ’s presence, outside traditional places (cf. Matt. 25).

We are yet to understand the impact of this pandemic, it may be worse than we are projecting. There are crises because of violence affecting Christians, who have not gathered to worship, nor had sacraments for a long time. We will face more challenges. Should we just contemplate worst-case scenarios? Plan generations ahead. Ask what we would do, if… What saved the Jewish people, Rabbi Sacks concludes, was their ability never to let go of rational thought, and refusing to let their loyalty to the past, to come in the future’s way, they kept planning for the future.

If ACK and the Anglican Church adopts this proposal, any future suspension of physical public gathering would not affect her visibility. Christians would continue to hear God’s word read or preached, and to receive the sacrament in another way. This will then be a Church that has opened herself to the paradigm shift.


Published as:

Visibility of The Church in the Wake of COVID-19: The Case of the Anglican Church of Kenya



Aloo O. Mojola, 2020: Utu, Ubuntu and Community, Reimaging and Celebrating the Web of life and the dignity and worth of all humans: Nairobi, Tafsiri Press.

Andrew N. Porter, 2003, The imperial Horizons of British protestant missions, 1880-1914 : Grand Rapids MI. Eerdmans Publishing.

Barbara W. Tuchman, 1979: A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century; New York. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

David Z. Niringiye, 2014: The Church, God’s Pilgrim People; Carlisle. Langham Global Library.

E. Lesslie Newbigin, 1988: “On being the Church in the World”, The parish Church? Exploration in the Relationship of the Church and the World (ed. G. Ecclestone; Oxford: Mowbray).

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza Malawi, March 2020: Accessed 9 May 2020

Jonathan Sacks, 2019:  Tzav 5771. covenant & conversation Torah digital for Office of the Chief Rabbi. Accessed 7 May 2020.

________  Accessed 7 May 2020.

_______ Accessed 7 May 2020

Rebecca D. Costa, 2010: The Watchman’s Rattle, A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Philadelphia PA. Vanguard Press.

The Anglican Church of Kenya, Constitution 2002, Nairobi Uzima Press.

The Anglican Church of Kenya, Our Modern Services, 2012 Nairobi Uzima Publishing House.

Thomas S. Kuhn 1968, 1970: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

William John Torrance Kirby, The Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy in the Thought of Richard Hooker: Christ Church, Oxford. A Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Oxford
Trinity Term, 1987.

Williams, Rowan, ‘Is there a Christian Sexual Ethic?’, in Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1994), pp. 164  Google Scholar. Accessed 9 May 2020.


[1] Description by Andrew N. Porter in The Imperial Horizons of British Protestant Mission shows how “Christianity became not only the ‘state’ religion but an imperial religion.”

[2] Prof. Aloo O. Mojola,  2020 pp. 177:  Modernity, Post-modernity and the information age: Prospects and Challenges for African Theological education in the twentieth century, in “Utu, Ubuntu and Community, Reimaging and Celebrating the Web of life and the dignity and worth of all humans”: Nairobi, Tafsiri Press.

[3] It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s word.



[6] ACK Diocese of Mt. Kenya South report 2015 on “Kiama kia Athuri” The committee Synod: Min. Synod /15/10/4.

[7] Rebecca D. Costa 2010: The Watchman’s Rattle, A Radical New Theory of Collapse, Philadelphia PA. Vanguard Press.

[8] Jews came under Roman rule between Pompey’s conquest in 63 BCE and the collapse of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 CE.


[10] Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai comforted Rabbi Joshua, who wondered how Israel would atone for its sins without sacrifices, with the words, “My son we have another atonement as effective as this: acts of kindness, as it is written (Hosea 6: 6), ‘I desire kindness and not sacrifice’” (Avot deRabbi Natan 8).

[11] Because there were so many ill, during the C14th. black death and so few priests remained as the disease progressed, Clement VI declared that the dying could make their confession to anyone present – “even to a woman”, said an English bishop (Tuchman, p.94) – and that it would still lead to salvation. This was a big deal for the Church, as previously only the clergy were permitted to perform last rites.

[12] This is already applicable in an emergency, full communicants other than a priest may baptize. (OMS 2002: 43)

[13] J. E. Lesslie Newbigin,  “ On being the Church in the World”, The parish Church? Exploration in the Relationship of the Church and the World (ed. G. Ecclestone; Oxford: Mowbray, 1988) 25-42


VISIBILITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE SHADOWS OF COVID-19- The case of the Anglican Church of Kenya

( this is part one of a two part series …)


Rev. Canon Francis Omondi




The coronavirus has exposed and exacerbated deep ecclesiastical problems in the identity and witness of the church. Measures to mitigate the pandemic has pushed our church, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), further into the downward spiral of shadowiness. For safety reasons, we have had to abstain from physical, public gathering. Not therefore, able to hear God’s word read or preached, and receive the sacrament, in a way we are used to. It has been unsettling.

The Church’s identity is fundamental to her visibility and therefore witness. Church’s visibility is the most powerful message the world can receive. A message the world can trust because it shows God present in our world. This visibility encourages and motivates the world to look at her attributes as a reflection of the God she represents. Tied to the Church of England, the ACK shares the identity of a diverse “fellowship of one visible society whose members are bound together by the ties of a common faith, common sacraments, and a common ministry”, as Bishops in Lambeth 1920 envisioned[1]. This has crystalized into the Anglican way of following Jesus in the world in the “fulness of Christian life, truth and witness.” The ACK is an integral part of the Anglican Communion[2], which binds her to the order and doctrine of the Anglican Church. But her context is different, demanding therefore a unique response to best enhance our visibility. Until the emergence of this global pandemic we have had little motivation to rethink and adjust our visibility in context.

Our moment of crisis confronts us with the question of whether our present ways can sufficiently guide us. Some consider the pandemic transient. They estimate the duration it would last, but ponder what we would find on the other side. Such will do everything to maintain our common life within our norms, allowing for as little as possible disrupt in the longer term. It is however clear that this crisis is monumental, and will force radical shifts in our society. The Malawi academic, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza Malawi makes a disturbing prediction of the grim future we face in his recent article[3]. He cites Mr. Kozul- Wright the Director of the Division on Globalisation and Development Strategies at UNCTAD who noted, “There’s a degree of anxiety now that’s well beyond the health scares which are very serious and concerning . . .the kind of meltdown that could be even more damaging than the one that is likely to take place over the course of the year”.

And peering into tomorrow’s world, from the depth of crisis, can the ACK seize the moment and readjust to better her visibility?

This paper examines the complications this global pandemic causes to the ACK as a case, in the worldwide church context. The issues are inter-related and the emerging ideas can apply across board. I intend to use Thomas Kuhn’s  paradigm shift theory as a framework to process this challenge, and a as signpost to guide the ACK in the direction we must take.

The epistemologist and historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, called scientific revolution a paradigm shift, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970). Science, described Kuhn, is a process characterised by pre-paradigmatic, normal and revolutionary patterns emerging from the interactions of its component scientists, what we would call complex adoptability system. According to Kuhn, a scientific revolution occurs when scientists encounter anomalies the prevailing paradigm cannot resolve within its scientific framework.

The paradigm, in Kuhn’s view, is not the current theory alone, but the entire worldview in which it exists, and all the implications which come with it. Kuhn acknowledges anomalies from all paradigms, but maintains that scientist accommodate them as acceptable levels of error, or better ignored. Rather, Kuhn notes that when enough or significant anomalies accrue against a current paradigm, the scientific discipline is thrown into a crisis. It is during such a crisis that fresh ideas, perhaps ones previously discarded, are tested. A new paradigm established from this and gains its own new adherents, sparking an intellectual “battle” between the followers of this new paradigm and the remnants of the old.


In this paper, I address the following three questions the pandemic crisis presents to the visibility of the ACK:

  1. What challenges does the Pandemic crisis pose to the ACK way of following Christ?
  2. Is the ACK way of following Christ deep enough to ease the shocks the crisis poses to her visibility?
  3. What shifts in identity must ACK make to bolster her visibility?

blue brown and yellow abstract painting

Photo by Paolo on




The Prevailing  Anglican Paradigm

The ACK Constitution of 2002 describes the church’s order of faith at length in Article III- On Doctrine and Worship. There are 14 provisions under this article that defines ACK position on following Christ. It is explicit from Article III (5) that the ACK Order of Faith aligns to that of the Anglican Churches worldwide:

The Church further accepts the Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888 which outlined the Anglican essentials for a reunited Christian Church. The text of the Articles is:

  1. a)              The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as “containing all

things necessary to salvation”, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.

  1. b)             The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
  2. c)              The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
  3. d)             The Historic-Episcopate: locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

This affirmation, together with other teachings, laws and liturgical practices approved in this province and others we are in fellowship with, can in Kuhnian terms, be regarded the ACK’s paradigm. For at the core of Kuhn’s thoughts is the notion of “paradigms,” which are scientific theories or worldview unique enough to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity, and open-ended enough to leave many problems for the practitioners in the group to resolve. The ACK’s liturgical worldview and practice, drawing from the Book of Common Prayer (1662), and Our Modern Services (OMS) translated in several languages[4].

Anglicans believe that church is the visible body of Christ on earth. She manifests this notion in the Christians gathering together, in such a gathering is Christ present, and speaks his word, read out,  and or expounded. Christ is present, in the sacraments that link Christians mysteriously to him, and in the clergy as they administer sacraments, absolution and blessings[5].

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have gathered together to bless, break and share bread and to bless and share a cup of wine in obedience to the Lord’s command, given on the night before He died, to ‘do this in remembrance of me. The Eucharist is what catholic Christians understand to be the most doxological act they can do when they gather for “the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts” (1979 BCP:14 and also 2002 OMS:55). To hold such a service, there should be communicants other than the minister at every celebration of Holy Communion.  From the time of Thomas Cranmer, mainstream Anglicanism insisted that we celebrate the communion service as a community, with no fewer than two people. The Rubrics at the end of the BCP Communion office declare that ‘there shall be no celebration of the Lord’s Supper except there be a convenient number to communicate ’, which it defines to be ‘three at the least’ in a parish.

We anchor the importance of the Eucharist  in the church’s law. Along with Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is a ‘Sacrament ordained of Christ’ (Article 25)[6] and ‘a sacrament of our redemption by Christ’s death’ (Article 28). For instance, the Canons of the Church of England teach the importance and centrality of the Eucharist. Canon B14 requires the celebration of the Holy Communion in at least one church in every benefice on all Sundays and principal Feast days, and on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. Canon B15[7] teaches that it is the duty of all the confirmed, to receive the Holy Communion regularly, and especially at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.

Over time, many factors contributed to a general decline in the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday, well into the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Morning Prayer became the common service of worship on the Lord’s Day. ACK, a plant of Church Missionary Society (CMS) which was more evangelical low church did not place Eucharist as high in practice as the gathering of the Christians in worship. There are Anglicans who gather for corporate prayer without the Eucharist. According to Richard Hooker[8], Christians assembled for corporate prayer, take part in communion with Christ himself, “joined… to that visible, mystical body which is his Church.” Hooker understands the corporate prayer of Christians as having a spiritual significance far greater than the sum of the individual prayers of the individual members of the body. He had very much in mind the assembly of faithful Christians gathered for the Daily Office. Even, though, the Holy Eucharist is gaining acceptance, over Morning prayer, communion-wide as the principal act of worship on Sunday.

What Kuhn argues of Science, on being “rigorous and rigid” preparation that helps ensure the received beliefs are fixed in the student’s mind, can be said of this paradigm influencing our understanding of when the church gathers to worship, share the word and sacrament. For Scientists, Kuhn asserts, take monumental pains to defend the assumption that scientists know what the world is like. And that “normal science” will often suppress novelties which undermine its foundations. Research is therefore not about discovering the unknown, but a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education.

The Eucharist has therefore played a normative role and is a corporate, not a private act. It posits as intended to offer, according to the exhortations on the BCP service of Holy Communion, the people spiritual nourishment, “to feed on the banquet of that most heavenly food”, and to build up the body of Christ in love and fellowship. Christ ordained the sacrament to move and stir all men to fellowship, love and concord, argues Thomas Cranmer’s Treatise on the Lord’s Supper 1550, and to “strengthen and confirm our faith in him.” (Article 25)

The sacrament above all else signify Christ’s presence among us. They not only embody the reality to which they refer, but Christ’s presence given to us and received by faith.  Note that faith receives this presence and occurs when God’s people come together. In Anglican understanding, sacraments are signs that both point to and embody the things they refer to. They are both “sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace” (Article 25). They both direct our attention to the ascended body of Christ, yet they also make the ‘benefits of his passion’ available to us here and now.

 How Churches responded to COVID-19 Restrictions

The COVID 19 crisis presented us with an immense challenge in this paradigm. The civil authorities stopped the physical gathering of Christians in churches, and ecclesial authorities endorsed this. In response, the churches adjusted to the order but in a variety of ways to maintain visibility and witness.

Many churches switched to online service through internet platforms. Some turned to mass-media of radio and TV services. In doing this they continued the preaching of word of God and shared prayers. Others still who lived outside the internet and mass media orbit adjusted into the household and family worship sessions. They were home alone, but were sustained in the theological assurance of Christ’s presence in our times of need. So, in such crisis moments, people who wanted to draw closer to God, found connections through mass media and online platforms. They heard the word preached but had a challenge in celebrating the Eucharist. The sacraments are material, personal encounters. They do not exist in any other form, making it difficult to administer sacraments, such as the Eucharist, electronically. How can the Bread and wine in HD monitor, in a live-streamed Mass, make the Eucharist? In invoking the words of the institution, “the Celebrant is to hold it or lay a hand upon” the bread and the wine, there is no grey area, hence not permissible to consecrate the Eucharist at a distance.

Many parish churches, therefore, suspended the celebration of Holy Communion until they can meet together in person again. With this, ceased the practice of public Baptism for the duration of the restrictions placed upon church.

Spiritual Sacrament was an option that other churches took. We administer spiritual communion when a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but cannot eat and drink the Bread and Wine. The Celebrant is to assure this person the receipt of all the benefits of Communion, even though the person did not receive the Sacrament with the mouth (BCP:457). This enables the spiritual reception, by gazing at a celebration of the Eucharist, that is at the heart of the sacrament, even if physical partaking is not possible.

For others, the option of gazing was not workable. So, they advertised the communion service in the parish and among the congregation when they would celebrate Holy Communion in the priest’s home. This would take place with or without the presence of another member of that household. They furnished members with program and readings for the service and invited them to pray and read scriptures so that the service takes place within some kind of extended communal act of worship in that parish, even if dispersed, and does not become a private act of devotion. They had prepared some prayers for them to enable to take part in such a celebration.

In other communities, priests administered “drive-by communion”, where individuals drove through piking the communion emblems and drove away after a service. This presented a public health concern and further distort the essential link between a communal celebration and the culmination of that celebration in the reception of the Eucharistic Bread and Wine.

Priests also made personal delivery of communion to members in homes. In these cases, the priest celebrated the Mass on Sunday and consecrated all the bread to be taken to the parishioners. Then the priest (and a few Eucharistic ministers) went to people’s homes (having cleansed their hands and kept the envelopes in brand new zip lock blocks to avoid contamination). Depending on the size of your congregation, they applied the method for distributing the sacrament safely to people on Sundays in their homes.






There are anomalies for all paradigms, Kuhn maintained, which are brushed away as acceptable levels of error, or ignored and not dealt with. These responses exposed the immense anomalies accommodated within the Anglican paradigm. Although they solve the besetting problem, they provide solutions within the accepted norm, with some inconsistencies.

The most sacred feature of Christian gathering in the presence of Christ is the holy Eucharist, administered by the priest, and in the consecrated space. The Eucharists claims the actual presence of Christ and the reality of blessing in consuming the actual elements by a real congregation. One therefore draws sustained spiritual blessings because of frequent participation in such a service.

We though know that there are a variety of ways we can be in the presence of Christ and receive the blessings of real communion with him. There are Anglicans who rarely partake of communion for a variety of reasons, yet they are no fewer members of Christ’s Body because of it. We are living limbs and members of the Body of Christ wherever and however we gather. In making greater use of the Daily Office (prayer cycle) there may be an opportunity to recover aspects of our tradition that point to: the sacramentality of the scriptures, the efficacy of prayer itself, the holiness of the household as the “domestic church,” and the reassurance that the baptized are already and forever marked as Christ’s own.

Eucharists are physical elements consumed for partakers to derive spiritual virtue. Because the sacrament is “given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner”. (Article 28) So when a person cannot physically receive, their faith and love can still receive a strengthening by seeing. Even if not tasting or feeling the gifts of bread and wine that signify the body and blood of Christ, they can derive blessings from being present. It has always been our tradition that during communion no one is asked out. For those who are not taking of the communion could also gain significant benefit from those taking part.

Where physical gathering was not possible thus truncating one’s presence, an alternative is provided where the parishioners with a liturgy to do at home adapted from “Communion under Special Circumstances” (from the 1979 BCP:396-399), plus a bulletin and the lectionary readings. This is as Justin Martyr describes in his First Apology 65: “And when the presider has given thanks and all the people have assented, those called by us ‘deacons’ give to each one of those present to share the bread and wine and water over which thanks have been given thanks have been given, and they take [them] to those not present”.

Some churches, led by their priests, maintained the celebration of the Eucharist to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God. It is a sacrifice, offered to God out of a gift from God. An offering made to acknowledge God as the source of all blessings. Making the sacrifice the most fundamental expression of doxology to the God of the universe. In the Eucharist, therefore, we offer to God everything he has given to us in the emblems, ourselves as living and spiritual sacrifices, and in our verbal praise and thanksgiving, we offer God everything he gave us.  In return he gives us our greatest need Jesus himself. And we are to offer ourselves back to God in our living and in our dying to be the Body of Christ that we have received, and to show forth in our lives what we have received on our lips.

Do we make a genuine sacrifice in the Eucharistic action? Should we not be asking the Father to make our sacrifice one with the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ which, as Chrysostom reminds us, is inexhaustible? Jesus still pleads on our behalf as our great high priest and mediator on his heavenly throne in the majesty on high. Should this not be enough and pleasing to the Father?

Kuhn insists a current paradigm when significant anomalies have accrued against it would throw the scientific discipline into a state of crisis. Such a crisis would demand retooling. Again, Kuhn explains, “So long as the tools a paradigm supplies continue to prove capable of solving the problems it defines, science moves fastest and penetrates most deeply through confident employment of those tools. The reason is apparent. As in manufacture, so in science – retooling is an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it.” (1970:76)

A crisis that locks the sanctuary, separates the clergy from the flock, would dim our visibility and stifle our liturgical life. We need not ask in such moments which is or is not permissible of the sacraments, as observed Rowan Williams[9] that leads to a dead end. Rather, the question for us sacramental people he said, was not whether a practice was “right or wrong,” but “How much are we prepared for this or that liturgical action to mean?”

Since sacraments are actions that give new meaning to things the current questions about the way we worship in this time of radical physical distancing invites the question of our preparedness for a sacramental encounter to have an alternative meaning. We should rather ask “what are we prepared for it to signify”?

How shall we gather again after the period of suspension, during which we experienced the virtual church?

The attempts to keep in fellowship opened up alternative ways of gathering, the virtual meeting. Many Christians, who tuned in to online or mass media, now have multiple stations for gathering and connecting. It will be difficult to restore the pre-coronavirus mode. We have arrived at a liberalised worship space, and this Christians anonymity will increase than decrease. For the individual Christians will have greater control of what they receive. They will shutout any that do not meet their desire.

Churches with a tradition of keeping a list of members, forming the basis for their local church and denominations, will experience trouble in monitoring their members from wandering across the field. We frowned upon moving from one church to another and regarded it as a kind of “sin”. The virtual church now gives Christians anonymity and freedom to conceal the movements. People will belong to multiple congregations, and most probably become loyal to none.

Will our pastors and priests signify Christ’s presence among us anymore?  Or will Christians stay with their newfound ways of experiencing God, as was, during the sanctions?

We have had a clergy dependent way of following Christ. Pastors and priests have played a key role in lives of Christians beyond religions matters. Their role therefore had remained vital, even in the absence of sacraments, as during the coronavirus crisis. This is because the church gathers around its priest, who besides administering the sacraments, would pronounce the blessings, grant absolution of sins, would through preaching and teaching the word edify the flock. There is a sense in which the flock is realizing the access they have to God through Christ. The irony playing out during this Easter Season is the temple’s torn curtain. Through prayers and listening to God’s words alone, some are developing an increased intimacy with Christ present in their homes. While some through the experience in the Daily Office, morning and evening prayers have found meaning in the word’s ministry and prayer.

Suppose they lift the sanctions, would Christian opt for a continued non-physical sacrament experience?

Out of the coronavirus crisis emerged acts of personal delivery of communion to members in homes, drive in communion, and rekindled spiritual communion. Others fasted the holy communion since the lockdown. The deviation was necessary to protect neighbour and self from harm. It is possible that facing a prolonged threat, though allowed physical contact, many will prefer no-physical contact interactions? Taking communion to members’ homes may turn to be the norm and that would kill the purpose of gathered people. Some will be so accustomed to spiritual communion which they found exhilarating, that they will let the sacraments live up to their purpose, spiritual pointers.

Kuhn is explicit about this prospect for empirical observation of paradigms and revolutions in scientometric data: “if I am right that each scientific revolution alters the historical perspective of the community that experiences it, then that change of perspective should affect the structure of post-revolutionary textbooks and research publications.” (1970: xi,) There are observable movements away from the norms. ACK Christians realise that the sacraments and institutions that support their practice are symbolic enactments of processes of mind, heart and deed that could be expressed in other ways. They can encounter are Christ by Prayer, his word through internet and mass media, non-physical partaking of sacraments and faithfully be in sacred fellowship with the Catholic Apostolic Church of Christ.

Will these noticed changes in perspective spark a change in how we practice faith? Probably, it would take a more potent pandemic than coronavirus, or a more dramatic event in the church, or perhaps a jarring experience in the society to force us to move.


The final part will be continued next week …answering the question of what shifts ACK must make…


[1] Encyclical Letter; Resolution 9.1 and 9.3 Lambeth Conference 1920.

[2] The Anglican Communion is one of the world’s largest Christian communities. It has tens of millions of members in more than 165 countries around the globe. Anglicanism is one of the traditions or expressions of Christian faith. Others include Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Baptist.

The Communion is organised into a series of provinces and extra-provincial areas.  The provinces are subdivided into dioceses, and the dioceses into parishes.


[4] Article III (7) of the ACK Constitution 2002.

[5] See the explanation in Our Modern Services 2012: 49-50

[6] Articles of Religion: (Thirty-nine Articles of Faith) BCP p. 622

[7] Church of England Canons, Web-edition.

[8]  See also, William JT. Kirby makes an elaborate analysis of Richard Hooker’s doctrine , Lawes III 3:1.3, 4 in Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the University of Oxford
Trinity Term, 1987.

[9] Rowan Williams  ‘Is there a Christian Sexual Ethic?’, in Open to Judgement: Sermons and Addresses (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1994), p. 164 Google Scholar.


Jesus Curses a Fig Tree; no map, but a Story

By Rev. Canon Francis Omondi


What is the road map?

The women seem to have had a clue. Jesus’ disciples had a map that guided to Jerusalem, but it was now mangled for any useful purpose. Christ did not just die, it was a violent, shameful spectacle whose shadow eclipsed his followers also all week long. The disciples’ faith took a thorough beating, making the days between the resurrection and ascension to heaven most disturbing of all. They were lost in fear.

But the women shook off the paralysis of fear, and in faith sought to understand their times. The empty tomb first greeted them with a rebuke “do not look for the living among the dead”. Then the angel gave a new map, meet Jesus in ghettoes of Galilee. There he will direct you. Yet the women kept quiet. They controlled the narrative and would not let the men revive the failed one, of the restoration of Kingdom of Israel. But the men’s tacit concerns was, is Jesus still a king? Uncertain of the future, the men from Galilee were determined not to mix things again. It was his word, back to obscurity.

One can only imagine how the petrified disciples clung together while still in Jerusalem. You would have expected them to rejoice at the resurrection. Yet fear of their fate triggers a distant memory, a recollection of the week’s Passover events. Not in detail, but some elements of the traumatic memories. Memories that they acutely remembered. It was flashbulb memories, like when one’s adrenaline bursts out to enhance memory storage, and replays events in one’s inner eyes, of what they had just witnessed at the onset of a stressful event.

The disciples recalled Jesus cursing the fig tree saying; “Let no fruit grow on you ever again”. An incident that left them amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” You would remember it too had you been there. Wouldn’t you?

Jesus had led his disciples to Bethpage, also known as “House of Figs.” One can imagine how many fig trees grew there. Yet he focused on this one tree. Seeing it would make you hungry, but you wouldn’t want to show it early in the morning. It was a fraud. The tree gave a false impression of having figs while it only had leaves. Plenty of dark green leaves, but no fruits. Customary, such figs would bear leaves and figs.

St. Matthew shortens the event, as if for dramatic impact and to fit in twitter, for those who care to share. He fused a two-day event into one. Had we not gathered more from St. Mark, we would not have known that the transaction had two separate stages: Jesus uttered the curse on the Monday morning, before the cleansing of the temple; the effect was seen, and the lesson given on the Tuesday, when Jesus was visiting Jerusalem for the third time.

gray trunk green leaf tree beside body of water

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The brain focuses on what is central to survival and not on insignificant and peripheral details during a threatening event, and so it does not encode them. You now understand why they would not have missed remembering Christs’ last miracle. It was a destructive miracle. This one, and the herd of pigs drowning, are the only two we find anywhere in Jesus’ work. Aren’t we grateful that he did not direct them at people, otherwise we would see people wither away like the fig tree, or drawn like the pigs.

In this acted-out-parable, Jesus warned of coming judgment upon an unfruitful Israel. Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree should warn the unrepentant Jews of the destruction and final ruin of their state by the Romans. For they professed the true religion and considered themselves the special people of God, while they were only hypocrites who did the opposite of the religion they professed. An example of abundance of leaves, but no fruit. The disciples got it! They were ready and strained to chart a path not end up like the fig tree nor the Jewish nation that the act inferred.

The story is straightforward, and its point obvious. What counts is not promise. The Christian life is all about growing and producing fruit that glorifies God. At this time of global pandemic, will the church yield fruit, or be a disappointment? This COVID-19 crisis has in a way brought Christ to the church’s doors, and he needs fruit.

I am at pains to affirm that the church today is situated to provide help for the victims as well and hope. An analogy between why figs may not bear fruit, and the church’s failure to yield its fruit, is instructive.

First, one common reason a fig tree would not produce figs is, according to Heather Rhoades [1] “too much nitrogen”. A fig tree would be affected if it’s up-take of nitrogen fertilizer exceeds limits. “Nitrogen causes the plant to have lush growth in leaves and branches, but very little if any fruit”  She states. I would relate the church’s draw for support of the society to the nitrogen fertilizer. It is possible for a church more concern with the public image given her, intake from, than the fruit, the output she affords, the society, be on a fast lane to leafy fruitlessness. In striving to fit in the influential society, she becomes complicit to its insidious culture of violence against the poor. The church today is preoccupied with image production and protection at the expense of being prophetic.

The church exists in this symbol saturated society. Here signs and symbols promise happiness, contentment, and the full human life. Such that happiness is the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and the goods you consume. Scott Lash and John Urry in their work ‘Economies of Signs and Space’ observed that, “The main export of the USA today is a so-called culture; films, icons, logos, signs.” What circulate are signs and symbols. Advertisers know that what we consume nowadays are not products so much as cultural signs.

The church need to imprint her signs and images as well. The symbols of our society promise two things: happiness and citizenship. And so do we, but differently. We are called to embody a different joy and a different belonging. It is reasonable to view Christianity and our faith through these lenses, icons, signs and symbols.

Our most conspicuous sign in the Cross of Christ. Every time we meet, we gather around this sign. We do this to remember the story of the day they crucified him on Good Friday and perpetuate the story of the last supper. This is our foundational story, the one in which we find the meaning of our lives. It is a violent story which tells of a disappeared future.  “Unfortunately, during the course of 2,000 years of Christian history, this symbol of salvation has been detached from any reference to the ongoing suffering and oppression of human beings—called “the crucified peoples of history” Said Prof. James Cone. The cross has been transformed into a harmless, non-offensive ornament that Christians wear around their necks. Rather than reminding us of the “cost of discipleship,” it has become a form of “cheap grace,” in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  an easy way to salvation that doesn’t force us to confront the power of Christ’s message and mission.

The church is called to obey Christ and not just to accept belief. There is a powerful message for us on the interconnection of faith and obedience. One cannot believe unless they obey. We should so encourage one to obey, to be granted faith. We characterise our faith today with easier acceptance of belief than obedience. According to Bonhoeffer, “this is true, though it misses the important other-half: only those who obey can believe”. Even still, we are still saved through faith, expressed in our obedience, but discipleship is an essential part of faith.

The church will stay fruitless unless she experiences a radical shift in her view of the cross and sees it with the lenses of James Cone who states: “But when I took up the cross, I recognized its meaning… It is not something that you wear. The cross is something that you bear and ultimately that you die on.”

black and white cemetery christ church

Photo by Pixabay on

Second, “If a fig tree is suffering from water stress caused by either too little or too much water, this can cause it to stop producing figs or never start producing, if it is a younger tree” Heather observes. “Water stress will send the tree into a survival mode and the fig tree will simply not have the energy needed to invest in making fruit.” In the same way, when the church feels threatened, her survival becomes the goal. She would want to preserve her little resources, or cling to her vast wealth to keep standards. In both cases the church would be a stagnant pool instead of a river, always insular. They will judge those “other” approaching  her as a threat to her survival. By this attitude the church would deny even Jesus himself fruit.

The just, or righteous, receive the eternal reward because they fulfilled Jesus’ and the Old Testament requirements of justice, reversing the condition of the poor. Prof Nicholas Wolterstorff observes, “to fail to provide help for the needy is not a question of charity but of Justice and is to wrong Jesus himself. The just therefore will receive this reward because they fulfilled Jesus’ and the Old Testament requirements of justice, reversing the condition of the poor”. In rendering justice to his downtrodden and excluded brothers and sister’s, Jesus calls these people the “least”,  we render justice to him and in treating them unjustly we treat him unjustly. To wrong the social least is to wrong Jesus himself. This would be fruitlessness.

Jesus cursed the fig tree as an object lesson to everyone that God expects us to bear the fruit of righteousness, showing us the consequences of failing in that task.

The church has a task to give hope in our current crisis. No one can do so. Yet if the church is to succeed, she will have to learn and sing the prophet Habakkuk’s, prayer (3:17-19). It is a song of another  fig tree that did not bear fruit. The church will have to grasp what God is saying, and like Habakkuk resign to the fact that God will not relent the impending disaster, meanwhile maintaining the confidence in God’s ability and will to save. While the prophet waited for a sure disaster, our world is already being decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its medical impact is frightening, but the terror about to hit us is its social and economic damage.

As soon as Habakkuk saw God seated in his Holy temple, a vison rare in such times, he expressed his joy and faith that God is on his side and with his people. In the same way, only in sharing this vison shall the church respond in faith. As she goes out in obedience to God’s word, to help the victims, she would share the joy and faith that God is with us.

Habakkuk knew that God was merciful and gracious. He trusted his promise, though all appearances were against its fulfillment; for he knew that the word of Jehovah could not fail, and therefore his confidence is unshaken. It is in submission to the will of God, and not denying the evil at hand, will we give hope. Only then will God’s Spirit sing through us the song of faith.

What can one add to this hymn sang in inexpressible dignity and elegance. “Though the fig tree shall not blossom”, repeats the prophet’s confidence in God, which should mirror ours where the governments and international interventions fail. When our own labours bring forth no help and the staff of life shall fail…

This song shall be our sign, our icon, and hope that God is in it, with us.

Christianity here offers a story. A story that takes away our road map, and in return gives us intimacy with the Lord. We should not fear being in this crisis. The church will be born in a crisis of hope.


Canon Omondi, a priest of Anglican Church of Kenya, All Saints Cathedral Diocese Nairobi.






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