The Reverend Edna Makau looks at herself in the mirror and sighs. She can see a streak of white hair emerging from her thick mane of Afro hair. She has always maintained a natural Afro, and the only chemical that gets in there is shampoo.
I have aged a lot in the last two years, she cannot help thinking.
Reverend Makau has been the parish minister of Makara Parish, a single-congregation rural parish of the Presbyterian Church. At 44, this is her twentieth year as a parish minister, and Makara Parish is her fourth posting. It also happens to be the parish where she has served for the shortest period, but she is glad to leave. She averaged six years in each of her three previous parishes, but the two years she has been at Makara parish feel like an eternity.
Ordinarily, her transfer to the headquarters would have filled her with gloom. At Jitegemea House, she will be mostly involved with administrative duties. She is an old style minister and likes interacting with congregants at a personal level. She has always enjoyed being anonymous to the world, but known to her congregants. She has established deep friendships in the last twenty years. Every now and then she receives visitors and calls from her former congregants. That is one of the reasons she has always preferred rural parishes.
She has friends in this parish as well, but they are few and none of them is in the leadership. The politics in this congregation has been more intense than anything she has ever experienced in her career. The elders have egos bigger than dinosaurs, but the real challenge is the administrator.
Elosy Gatakaa is the veteran administrator of the parish. She has been here since the church was established as a prayer house in 1997. She is around the same age as Reverend Makau, but she happens to be the most conniving person the minister has ever seen. She is like a cancer that has spread its tentacles to almost every part of the parish.
Elosy sits in committees of every fellowship of the parish: the Woman’s Guild, the Boys & Girls Brigade, Church school, Health Committee, Christian Education Committee…the only committees that she does not sit in are the youth committee and the Presbyterian Church Men’s Fellowship (PCMF) committee. She even attends the meetings of the Session. She ostensibly attends to take notes but she usually contributes actively in the discussions, often swaying the decisions of the Session to whatever side favors her the most. The Session is the administrative arm of the parish, and consists of the Parish Minister and the elders. The first time Reverend Makau and the elders clashed was the day the reverend pointed out that notes and minutes of the Session are supposed to be taken by the Session Clerk-an ordained elder-, not the parish administrator.
The two women elders agreed with her, but Makara Parish is led primarily by men. The seven male elders agreed amongst themselves that the presence of Elosy did not in any way affect the deliberations of the session. So Elosy stayed. Reverend Makau raised the matter with the Moderator of the Presbytery, Reverend Hank Kirimi. Reverend Kirimi looked at her sadly and told her that the issues of Makara Parish are too hot even for him to handle.
It is Reverend Kirimi who gave Reverend Makau the untold story of the parish. Elosy has never been married. Her first born daughter, Alice, was fathered by the founding chairman of the church, now deceased. He was a married man. It is unclear who the father of the second child is, because by the time the boy was born, Elosy was sleeping with all the elders of the church as well as the parish minister. The father of the third born child is only known because the child strongly favors him in terms of physical appearance. The father of that child is Reverend Charles Gitonga, the first parish minister at Makara. He is currently serving at a parish in Nyeri.
All the seven male elders are powerful and influential men. One of the elders is the long-serving MP of the area; another is an influential lawyer with connections to State House; three are influential businessmen and powerbrokers in Nairobi. One is the CEO of a bank and the last one is a senior police officer. All these men live and work in Nairobi but troop to the village every weekend to oversee the service.
They built Makara Parish from scratch, although none of them is a native of the area. They are all immigrants from other areas who purchased land and built homes in Makara at different times. Since they were Presbyterians and elders in their former congregations, they found themselves as elders at PCEA Karomo Church, the headquarters of Karomo Parish when they settled in Makara. Karomo Parish had seven congregations then. Under the leadership of the late chairman, Gerald Mabati, the Makara elders agitated for the formation of Makara Prayer House. That wish as granted in 1997. Makara Prayer House became a full church and the eighth congregation of Karomo Parish in 1999. In 2003 it became an independent, single-congregation Parish.
Because its founders are wealthy and influential, the parish is prosperous. The sanctuary is a magnificent architectural marvel constructed with the help of a fundraiser attended the who is who in government, led by the then Vice President, the late Prof. George Saitoti. The minister’s house, the house where Reverend Makau has been living in, is a beautiful, six-bedroom mansion next to the sanctuary.
There was no female elder of the church for several years. The first one, Rose, was elected when Chairman Gerald died in 2007. The second one, Faith, was elected five years ago. The two women are semi-illiterate and were vetted by Elosy to ensure that they did not pose a threat to her or to the seven men.
The eight men, including the deceased founding chairman Gerald, molded the church into an elite congregation. It attracts the Makara middle class, including school teachers, staff of the Kiromo Mission Hospital, local politicians and businessmen as well as civil servants in the area. The church has no poor people, an anomaly for a rural congregation. Reverend Makau soon discovered the reason why. First, Makara village is largely made up of an immigrant population and is therefore quite a prosperous village. Most of the impoverished natives sold land to these newcomers. The remaining natives fall into two categories: the educated and well-up ones who fit smoothly into the church, and the poor, who prefer to fellowship at Kiromo church across the valley.
Reverend Makau realized that the poor prefer to fellowship at Kiromo because of the numerous contributions required at Makara. This congregation has no place for the poor. It is more of an elite social club than a church.
Elosy’s influence in the parish is immense. As Reverend Makau came to find out, if Elosy does not want something to happen, it will not happen. If she wants something to happen, it will happen. She has a firm grip on the elders of the church and they will do anything she wishes. Reverend Makau has always wondered whether it is just sex that makes the men in this church so beholden to Elosy, or whether she controls them with witchcraft.
Elosy lives in a beautiful, four-bedroom bungalow with her daughter Alice. Her two younger children escaped to Nairobi immediately they cleared form four, perhaps to avoid the embarrassment of having to smile at the different men who sleep in their mother’s bedroom from time to time. They went to live with their aunt until they joined Kenyatta University. They spend their holidays with their aunt, Elosy’s sister, and hardly come home.
Elosy’s house was built by Alice’s father, Chairman Gerald. According to Reverend Kirimi, Gerald did not even hide the fact that he was sleeping with the then youthful and sassy church administrator, who he personally hired. But as the other elders soon found out, he did not mind sharing her with them. Reverend Makau wonders whether, before the two women elders were elected, the eight men used to discuss Elosy’s bedroom skills in the vestry, as they discussed other church affairs. It is disgusting to imagine.
Perhaps because of the rot in the leadership of the church, moral decadence is rampant in the church. Sexual immorality, fraud, corruption and almost every other social vice is practiced by members of this congregation. Makau thought she could change this, even though Reverend Kirimi had warned her that she would fail.
She set out with hard hitting sermons, the fire and brimstone sermons that she had not found necessary in the previous two decades, hoping she could make this Sodom have the semblance of the fear of God. That immediately put at loggerheads with the elders and that marked the beginning of her tumultuous relationship with them.
Today, as she stands in front of the mirror, she admits that she failed. This church is just as rotten as she found it. But that is not the only battle that she lost. She lost her family as well. She divorced her husband of twenty three years early this year, after she discovered he was having threesome sex with Elosy and her daughter Alice. Remembering that discovery makes her sick in the stomach till today.
The seven men tried to have her fired after her divorce, arguing that a divorcee is unfit to lead a congregation. Somehow, according to them, it was her fault that her husband strayed. Reverend Makau took them head on. She was prepared to sue the church if she was fired. But she wasn’t fired. Instead, she got her letter of transfer to the headquarters.
She is glad to leave this place. Her heart reaches out to the new parish minister, who she will hand over to during today’s induction ceremony. She has already met him and his wife. They are a young couple, and do not have a child. Reverend Erastus Waithaka graduated from St. Paul’s School of Theology late last year and was ordained early this year. This is his first posting.
The young couple is full of missionary fire and zeal. From the conversations they had, they are ready to win this place for Christ. Reverend Makau has explained to them in detail the challenges they will face in this congregation, but they remain unfazed.
Her heart especially reaches out to Daisy, the minister’s wife. It won’t be long before the young woman finds herself fighting for her marriage. Elosy has proven to be a skilled seducer, and has felled many men with solid ministry credentials. And now her daughter has joined the fray. Reverend Makau’s own husband, Japhet, had been a faithful and loyal husband for twenty two years. Until he laid his eyes on Elosy and Alice, then he became like a man possessed.
Reverend Makau touches her hair, adjusts her collar and robe then walks across the fence to the church vestry.
Alice is excited at the idea of having a youthful church minister. He is married, but that means nothing. The minister and his wife do not even have a child together. Alice is tired of being part of threesomes with her mother’s old men. She wants a man of her own, and this young, handsome parish minister fits the bill. Since it was announced that he would be their minister, she has stalked him on social media and elsewhere on the internet and discovered that he comes from a wealthy family. According to his father’s business website, the minister is the old man’s only child, and the sole heir to a vast business. Alice wonders why such a blue-eyed boy chose a career in the church instead of joining family business.
Alice is grateful for her mother’s mentorship though. She has perfected her bedroom skills. She will give this pastor delights that his uptight wife cannot give him. Then she will bear him a son, and that will seal their union. His wife will leave this parish in tears. Alice knows that her own mother is the more formidable threat to that plan, but she has devised a scheme to outsmart her.
She is sitting at the front of the congregational pews, directly opposite the new minister. She adjusts her little dress to catch his attention. When he turns to look her way, she parts her thighs slightly, but pretends to be following the service keenly.
Daisy Waithaka senses that her husband is distracted. She follows his eyes and realizes that he is ogling at the thighs of a young woman seated at the front pews. She touches him. He steals one more look before looking at her. She glares at him and he quickly gets the message, and even looks embarassed. That, however, does not stop him from stealing one more glance before returning this focus to the service.
For the first time in the four years she has been married to Erastus, Daisy fears for her marriage.
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