I didn’t like that we were humming hymns all day. Singing along to something that was rhythmic usurped my freedom. At school, we’d have the freedom to dance ourselves rugged the way we wanted. But at Anglican Church, it was a little different. Every time I tried to shake my body or move in any kind of energetic motion, with vigour, my sister would look at me with those glaring eyes that said, ‘Please behave.’ And then I’d cower, frightened with the possibility of my sister reporting me to our dad. ‘I will report you to the teacher. ‘I will report you to dad.’ ‘I will report you to my big brother.’ Those happened to be the most frightening phrases of childhood. Teachers used to be bad news. Fathers were even worse-they were terrible news. And then there’s the big brother who was almost seen like a cyborg-catastrophic news.
Going to Anglican Church was part of the reason why I didn’t like Sundays. I especially didn’t like the rehearsed hymns that the choir sang, and that the rest of us were expected to hum to. Then there was the issue that the music session didn’t begin with the song where the devil was kicked away and trampled upon. There was a certain energy that the song brought. And the way we did it in school was like everyone believed that we were actually kicking the devil away. I did too. It happened to be my favourite song. Naughty boys would train their kung-Fu skills with it as well. The lead singer would go like ‘Shetani akipita…’ It would be answered with a very loud ‘Teke teke teke…’ Anglican just didn’t offer the same amount of fun. I figured that was why it seemed like it was always full of old people. I would scoff silently at the preacher whenever he began doing his sermon because I didn’t understand why he’d go on while the devil was still around.
I wasn’t this abrasive kind of a child so I did not have much say on where I’d attend Church. Even if I were, I doubt if it would have changed anything. My father never used to go to church but he made sure that we did. Sometimes I would look into his eyes and deduce that they said, ‘Hey my children, just go. I love you so much that I’d sacrifice to go to hell so that you see heaven.’ Frankly, I would see that he was putting in a shift so that we’d live comfortably-my sister and I. The rest of my siblings were staying in upcountry together with our mother. There wasn’t any kind of bond with our father but he made up for it by always bringing home with him fish or chicken or chips or milk. It was always something. That was his way of winning us over. And we liked it. When my friends would brag that they’d eaten chips (wrapped in polythene paper bags) or even chapatis, I would force them into silence by asking them if their chips were wrapped in aluminium foil. And then I’d absolutely bury them when I’d add chicken and yoghurt. All the niceties would be over, however, when my mother came to visit. That was my father’s subtle way of saying that the fish, chips and chicken had been replaced by our mother’s love. So I’d keep on asking my mother who she had left our other siblings with just to get to guilt-trip her into leaving because come on.
One day I asked my father why he did not go to church and he sat down, looked into my eyes then said without blinking,’ Jesus lives in my heart.’ ‘He lives in mine too?’ I asked. ‘Well, not yet. That’s why you have to go to church so that he can live in yours too.’ That was the main reason why I never missed church. My father was many things but not a liar. Or so I thought. But I didn’t love Anglican. We used to go to Anglican because our neighbours too went to Anglican. It was the go-to-church for people who did have a little bit of swag. And I have to admit that I had lots of it. I was the kid who ate chips that were only wrapped in aluminium foil. I was the kid who ate chicken only from chicken-inn. I was that kid who drank milk so frequently like I was drinking water. Maybe it was the reason why Anglican faithful’s never used to dance themselves rugged. During the music sessions, I figured they were like ‘Okay, we can dance with vigour or energy but we are Anglicans, we have not only class but also manners.’ But it was the shamelessness with which I danced at school while humming along to gospel songs that moved me. The feeling of kicking the devil away and dancing was pure ecstasy. The vigour and joy of seeing people emancipated from rehearsed rhythmic choruses were absolutely heavenly.
Some of my friends were going to the churches that had just been founded. Some with very funny names. ‘Christ Is Here Ministries.’ To be fair, Christ was everywhere but I guess that was their way of getting the new flock. ‘Power and Faith Church.’ Maybe that one was a demonstration of how Christ had power if you believed in Him. Clubs were sprouting at the time, so were churches. Then there came what would later be referred to as urban gospel music. Clubs had drawn many a youth. Perhaps the urban gospel thing was a way to draw them back to the churches. The music also was getting a bit more interesting. We’d have more songs to dance to at school. At Anglican however, it was still the same old, same old kind of boring rehearsed hymns. The vibrancy that was sweeping across the gospel scene hadn’t caught them one bit. The songs were still the same- in fluent English and Swahili. So after a while, I decided to quit Anglican and then joined Catholic. Yeah, you heard that right. I didn’t know that I was getting myself out of the frying pan into the fire.
Of course, you can tell that I didn’t last too long there either. Anglican and Catholic are like long lost brothers. One brother must have gone away from the other to go start another life somewhere. Maybe that’s not the best of analogies but it is the only analogy that I can come up with. But well, I guess Christ is still the same. My father learnt about my hopping of churches but never uttered a word. He must have been proud that I was old enough to make my own decisions I guess. My sister wasn’t too happy because now she was coming home alone after church. Too bad my intuition said that it wanted vigour. It wanted to expend the energy that I had. And that is exactly what I got from my next church, and never looked back!