“When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm, Father you are king over the floods, I will be still, know you are God, I will be still know you are God…come on church, sing with me, when the oceans…”
As Helena’s angelic voice floats above the church, the congregation is consumed by a reflective mood of worship. Helena is the worship leader at the Destiny of Calvary Worship Centre-Ruiru, a church that was founded by her husband sixteen years ago. Helena is a medium sized woman: not tall, but not short either. She cannot be described as plus size, but neither is she skinny. She is a woman of moderate temperament and oozes grace and wisdom.
As the congregation takes over the song, Helena kneels on the altar, one hand on the microphone and the other raised to the heavens, and starts praying in tongues. Then she starts crying, and the congregation joins her in tearful petitions to the Almighty, even as the backup singers continue singing softly in the background.
After about ten minutes of prayer, she clenches a fist with her raised hand. The backup singers get the message and stop singing.
“Church, this is what the Lord is saying this morning: come to me all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“Amen!” the congregation thunders in response.
“I came that you may have life and have it in abundance.”
“Church, Christ will have died on the cross in vain if we continue to carry the burdens and the cares of the world in our hearts. He died so that we may be free; free for the bondage of sin, free from the cares of the world. Christ died so that we may be free, and in that freedom we may worship Him in truth and in spirit.”
There are shouts of “Yes Lord!” and “Amen!” as the church descends once again into a spiritual bedlam. Evil spirits are scattered as men and women of God engage in spiritual warfare. Helena brings the house to order a second time, this time by leading a song.
“Lord I lift your name on high…Lord I love to sing your praises…”
The congregation follows her lead and the gloomy mood of prayer slowly changes to in a joyous celebration. Helena stops the song after several minutes and makes a prayer to conclude the praise and worship session. As the worship team members walk down to their designated seats, Helena hands over the microphone to a sunny girl appropriately called Summer. She is a curvaceous twenty three year old who has just completed her studies at the Technical University of Kenya. She is a pastoral intern at the church.
Helena smiles at her as she hands over the microphone, but it is a smile lacking in warmth. In fact, she is using considerable effort to force the smile. Helena knows that as a Christian she should forgive; scripture says seven times seventy seven times. But it is difficult, and she is not Jesus of Nazareth. When she goes down on her knees in earnest prayer, this girl is the primary source of her tears. There have been others who have gone before Summer, but none has been a thorn in the flesh the way Summer is.
Summer is Reverend Myles Kinoro’s current sunshine.
Myles and Helena have been married for twenty three years, meaning they got married the same year Summer was born. Helena and her husband knew each other from their days as Sunday school members, teens and later youth members at Destiny of Calvary Worship Centre Main Church, which is based in Thika. Their parents were church elders-now they sit in the Bishopric Council and help the Bishop to oversee the twenty five churches that form his ministry.
Helena, Myles and the Bishop’s son Paul have been best friends since they were children. But there was a time, when they were young adults, that the relationship between Myles and Paul became strained as they fought for her affections. Both of them were good looking young men (they are still good looking middle-aged men) and both of them were committed to Christian service. In fact, both of them wanted to become pastors. Helena wouldn’t say she was deeply in love with either of them, because neither of them made her knees weak. She could have chosen either of them, and she chose Myles.
Paul is now his father’s principal assistant. He is the Senior Pastor of Destiny of Calvary Worship Centre Main Church, and the Assistant Bishop of the entire ministry. Helena has asked herself many times whether her life would be different if she had chosen Paul. It certainly would, because she would not have to endure the humiliations that Myles makes her endure. Paul has never been associated with a scandal, and by all accounts he is deeply in love with his wife Mary. Maybe Mary has her own private struggles with Paul, but at least she doesn’t suffer the public humiliation she (Helena) endures.
Myles was discreet in his sexual affairs at first, but these days he has become so reckless that it is an open secret that he sleeps around. Helena doesn’t understand how people stick to this church or why the Bishop has not cracked his whip. She has discussed this issue with the Bishop’s wife, and she was told to keep praying for her marriage and for the servant of God, Myles. Myles has slept with most of the female members of the church staff and quite a number of the female members of the general congregation. His secretary has a baby, who though has never been publicly acknowledged by Myles, is his spitting image. But the secretary, Mercy, has always been respectful to Helena, same as all the other girls and women Myles has been sleeping with.
All except Summer.
Summer is arrogant and openly spiteful to Helena, even though the latter is old enough to be her mother. Helena has actually watched Summer go through Sunday school at this same church, then on to the teens church and now the main church as a youth member and pastoral intern in the youth fellowship. She works under the Youth Pastor, Larry. Officially, Helena is the administrator of the church. That means she is in charge of all the administrative functions of the institution, and is therefore in charge of all the non-pastoral staff. Summer studied Finance in campus, so when she was hired she was seconded to the accounts office. But she refused to take instructions from both Helena and the church accountant, Mark. Helena fired her, but Myles reinstated her and transferred her from the accounts office to the pastoral team. That effectively removed her from Helena’s supervision. When Myles and Helena went home that day, they had a huge fight over that issue, and for the first time, Myles physically assaulted her. That is when Helena knew for certain that Myles was sleeping with Summer, and that was when she sought assistance from the spiritual mother of the entire ministry, the Bishop’s wife. That was a month ago.
When Myles assaulted her, but before speaking to the Bishop’s wife, Helena threatened him with divorce, and he pleaded with her to stay. He was probably afraid that her departure from his life might not only be embarrassing, but might also split the church. A church split would probably prompt the Bishop to finally crack the whip on him.
Helena initially wanted to leave, but when she assessed her situation, she realised that leaving wouldn’t be easy. Her parents are very close to the Bishop, and would oppose such a move. Just like the Bishop’s wife, they would urge her to fight for her marriage. Although she has been working at the church, she has not been drawing a salary ever since they founded this church sixteen years ago. Her husband argues that since he takes care of her needs, she does not deserve a salary. She Bachelor’s degree in Finance, but she has never worked anywhere else except in church.
When she graduated from campus, the Bishop appointed her as an intern in the finance department-just like Summer-and was later confirmed to the position. That was a paid position, but whatever savings she had then were spent in the establishment of this church. She and Myles established this church with the blessing and authority of the Bishop, but the only support they got from the Bishop was this piece of land, which is still registered in the Bishop’s name. They used their own resources to construct the first sanctuary. Of course working in such a busy institution would guarantee her a job in many other organizations. But if she leaves, Myles will not give her a recommendation. So, knowing that she wouldn’t get a job elsewhere, she decided to stay put.
But Myles realised that too, because even as Summer’s arrogance and spite towards her grows day by day, Myles has increasingly become indifferent and dismissive. She has threatened him with divorce twice after that slapping incident, and each time he has told her to “do what she wants.”
“Good morning church,” Summer says with a sweet smile. “Are you feeling blessed this morning?”
“Yes,” the congregation replies.
Helena forces another hollow smile and nods, knowing that the cameras of the church’s media team might be focused on her. The service is being aired live on Facebook, and might be aired later on Calvary Destiny TV. The services of the Main Church are usually aired live on Calvary Destiny TV, but the Bishop’s team selects three services from the other churches to be aired during the week. They selection is random, not rotational.
“Church, I feel the Lord impressing upon my heart to say this, even before I bring you the notices. And this goes to the ladies. The Lord in his immense wisdom, made us as helpers. We are supposed to take care of the men. Your husband is the king of the household, and your job is to pamper him so much ha he doesn’t feel the temptation to stray…”
Helena cannot take it anymore. She rises from her seat, walks to the pulpit and snatches the microphone from her.
“Stop the hypocrisy, Summer. Everyone here knows that you have been sleeping with my husband. If you think I haven’t been taking care of him properly and that is why he has been warming your bed, go ahead and have him. In fact, right after you read the notices, go and sit on my chair next to him, because I am out of here. Go home with him today and make love to him in his bed. Pamper him the way the Lord has shown you, and let’s see whether he will stop fertilizing females left, right and centre. He is all yours now.”
Helena walks back to her seat, takes her handbag and walks out of the sanctuary, leaving a stunned congregation behind.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/people-woman-praise-worship-shadow-2587954/
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