You see, when my Pastor comes up to the rostrum to preach, he does not preach as a conventional pastor would do, no. He does not simply raise the bible and supplicate to the Gods,or rest his hands on the Glass rostrum and give a well meaning speech with all the mild mannerisms of a God who loves his people would want him to.No, for him, preaching is a war, and a war has to be fought with gusto.
First, he thumps his old, tattered Bible onto the rostrum, takes out a handkerchief and carefully folds it onto the surface. He then glances behind him to the ushers, who at this time are mandated by the gospel to bring him a bottle of Dasani. He then looks around the church for an instance, holding the gaze of each male and female organism in the precincts of the structure in his steely gaze. And when the water arrives, he thumps onto the microphone once, then twice, then coughs as Africans are taught to ` test` the sound system. If it doesn’t reverberate through the hall, he cast a searing gaze at the youth, who by default are also mandated to take care of the ` instruments`, and chastise their inability to be keepers of the `weapons` for God`s war. If it does he will cough once more, this time to clear his throat, before shouting ” Hallelujah wana wa mungu” or the occasional ” Bwana asifiwe” when his moods are not so good.
As is customary, no preaching begins before he has re-introduced his wife, or he has told her to say ` hi` to the church.On those occasions that he leaves her out of the norm, he will not leave the altar before calling her to round up the sermon with her usual ” ushuhuda,” or a complete dossier on how the holy family, the fathers and mothers and children of the church are fairing. And greet us she does. Unlike her husband who is quick to react, she will fast take her time to adjust the humongous headgear she always dons, then stretch her long skirt well enough, glance at her placidly seated children for the moment, and stand up to wave at the church as the Queen of England would do. This is her world, by virtue of her marriage we are all her children. After her lecture on christian living, and the usual insistence on family values, spiced as usual with how ` the devil does not want us to prosper,` she will hand the microphone back to her husband, cat walk back to the front pew, wipe her ass with her hands as African women are taught to do by God knows who, and seat down with a slight humph. We are now ready for the preaching.
On most occasions, Pastor Reverend Njuge does not preach from the altar. The gospel, even with its abrasive loudness does not reach the ears well unless you are walking in the center of the church. He will always start with a small voice, a tremor in its birth, gleaning through the Biblical quotations as he tries to relate one of his many stories with what has ` been read to us.” One time it was about how his donkey fell into river Weitethie, with a whole three drums of water, and how that is related to Christ`s triumphant entry into ` Jerusaremu.’ The other it was about how he was skimmed off his change in the ” Karuri Karuri” matatus that ply the route to the city from Muchatha village, and how the same is related to the ` end times` and ` ujio wa yesu wa piri`. But today, he has none of that, because he has seen a sign in his sleep, that Christ is coming soon. And we all punctuate his aspersions with a dutiful ” amina” when it`s needed of us.
He walks between the two columns of pews with a purpose, his shoes peeping one moment from the black cloak he is in, then dissapearing into the folds as he turns to emphasize on the point he just made. And his voice changes, almost like a miracle of Christ. At the start he looks placid, now it` s a roar on its own, enough to scare the devil out of our hearts, and banish him back to hell. And when he gets really into the heart of the preaching, he takes a pause for a moment, casts us, the youths a menacing glare that forces to looks back at the motley assortment of instruments because it is not ‘ respectable` to stare back at the man of God, then walks back to the rostrum for another Biblical excerpt, and a a large swig of the Dasani.
Today, as usual I am seated behind the instruments, dutifully taking notes as a good christian ought to do. Once Reverend quenches his thirst momentarily, he asks for a ” chorus”, which everyone calls ‘ namba, or `pambio. And we all instinctively know, that the sermon is halfway through, another round is coming. So we stand up, those like Shiro who have the voices lead us in ” Ainuliwe Bwana wa Mabwana,” which we all refrain with ” ainuliwe ametenda mema” until it turns into a frenzy with all the clapping and the jumping, then he has to cough once more into the microphone, and we all shush, for the moment, and keep standing until he says ” tunaweza keti sasa, Hallelujah?
I`d say that our church is never full, but what we do`t have in numbers we reciprocate in effort, and tithing, and the God`s are never angry with us. You see, the second part of Njuge`s sermon is not about preaching, it is the altar call, the tithing, the offering and the praying part which he personally supervises. And when he calls us upon to be prayed for, there is a sudden silence in the church, as if the Demons are wondering who is going to be forcefully removed today. God bless you if your phone decides to ring just at that time, you`d be broth for the muturas in Jesus name. A moment takes, everyone looking forward to when ` someone` will walk to the front with their share of ` prayer issues,` and the mandatory tithe that goes with such. And we all look at one another, until he says ” Kama hakuna mtu akona shida, tunaeza ombea wale ambao hawajaoa bado. Tafadhali kujeni kwenye madhabahu.” That is us, our cue to rise and meet Christ through Njuge.
As usual the whole other church that is not us who are being prayed for will stretch their hands to the heavens in supplication, some will kneel, some will bang the walls in prayer. But Njuge will take his time, until the rest have said Amen, then he will start. The pastor`s prayers cannot be mixed with those of the general folks. Again his voice will rise in a dangerous crescendo, one moment pleading with God, thanking him for all the good he has done to the earth, including ` giving us life even though we did not do anything to earn it`, the other it will become a harangue of words, a constant blabber that we all say ` amen` to because it is our version of speaking in tongues. And when he is done, our knees sore from contact with the rough floor, we all rise with a bigger ` Amen,the church roars with a bigger Hallelujah, we give our offerings and tithe to the box at the front of the altar, and walk home having had our feed of ` the bread of life’ and a swim in the ” holy waters’