By Maureen Wambui
It's 4 pm in my mother's house in Kamulu. My sister has just woken me up from a nap and I’m not happy about it. I know the reason, even before I open my mouth to ask. It's time for home-based church service.
Today, my youngest sister Nimo is preaching. She's good, although she tends to drag on too long. My two other younger sisters do this, too, because they see church time as a game. As for my older siblings, they want the preaching to end quickly so that they can go about their other businesses. I, for one, have supper to prepare.
It is 4:15 p.m. now, and everyone has managed to crawl out of bedrooms into the living room. As usual, the TV is turned off and windows are shut. My mother believes doing so prevents evil spirits from listening in on our prayers and obstructing them. Though she is not here, her presence is felt nonetheless. We all have the notebooks and pens all of us have to note the preacher’s words, as in an actual church service, because Mum will ask to see them. The daily church services had been her idea after the government urged citizens to stay home and avoid large gatherings to curb the spread of covid-19 in Kenya.
As a very active member in church, the lockdown saddened Mum, a deeply religious Christian. But even when restrictions eased, we couldn’t go to church as doing so presented a huge risk for Dad, who has a preexisting condition. As such, these homely church services were a way of maintaining a sense of normalcy and bringing us together as a family with God in the fore. After all, where two or three are gathered in God's name, He is present.
At 4:20, one of my sisters takes to 'the pulpit', a spot behind the couch. As church coordinator, she welcomes us to another service. We sing a couple of worship songs to get into a prayerful mood. Of course, our prayers sessions are conducted a bit differently from the usual format in church, with each person praying out loud for a specific need. Today, I pray for Kenyan churches and pastors affected by covid-19. Then my sister, the coordinator, caps our prayers with one of her lasting ten minutes. We sing some more praise songs (mostly off-key) before we sit for the ‘pastor’ to start preaching.
As expected, she drones on, ignoring our attempts to cut her off by clapping in between her sermon. Eventually, she tires and after the ‘church’ announcements, we say a closing prayer and disperse.
While it took some time to get used to our home church services, they are now a fixture in our life and beat the alternative of social distancing in a physical church and running the risk of infecting Dad. Of course, God protects us all, but I bet He wouldn't look too kindly to us throwing caution to the wind.