Thousands of elated congregants of the African Brotherhood Church (ABC) on Sunday 10th April 2016 marked 70 years since the church was founded. A well organised band playing neatly choreographed pieces led the way for Archbishop the Most Reverend Dr. Timothy Ndambuki in a procession to celebrate the feat of its existence.
From across Africa they rose up early and filled Machakos stadium for the celebrations that were marked with several highlights. For the first time in its history, a female Bishop was consecrated. Reverend Canon Mbuki Mulandi, the longest serving sister in the church became the first woman to be ordained Bishop in ABC.
The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Reverend Canon Peter Karanja congratulated the church for consecrating a female bishop but urged for the inclusion of youth in its top leadership as the church needed energized people to serve. To date, a total of 385 women of clergy have been ordained in ABC.
The service presided by Archbishop Dr. Timothy Ndambuki, Reverend Dr. Mishak Mukwilu, Canon Peter Karanja and Canon John Mutua saw the leaders speak on issues that are currently afflicting Kenyans. Transparency, good governance as well as accountability amongst the elected leaders were highlighted. An elated Reverend Ndambuki noted that the church was marking 70 years of a holistic ministry with African leadership to transform people and their environments.
The church has also made great strides that have seen it outshine its peers. Imani II building, a colossal structure stands tall right at the centre of Machakos town. It symbolizes the capacity and will of the ABC congregant’s vision for a better future for its members and society at large. The building which was officially opened during the celebrations was built by contributions of Christmas offerings from its congregants. The Archbishop noted that his church encourages transparency and accountability, reasons that had enabled them to contribute and build the colossal structure as the church is accountable.
“I believe there’s no poor person especially when people do their best to develop themselves. With just Christmas offerings, we were able to put up this building. The highest amount we received from one member was Ksh.600,000. The building will ensure self-reliance by the church as he who depends on his brother dies in poverty. AICs have done well to de-bunk myths perpetuated by many who urge people to be poor as God’s Kingdom belongs to the poor. There’s need for more emancipation and empowerment of our people in order to effectively fight poverty,” he urged. “Erecting this building right in the hub of Machakos town is a wake – up call for other churches which have now started questioning its leadership to understand what their offerings have been doing all along,” noted Canon Peter Karanja.
ABC was first started to unify the Akamba community under the name Akamba Christian Brotherhood on April 8th 1945. This later changed to include other communities. It was founded on the political and spiritual dimensions and currently represents 36 ethnic communities. Simon Mulandi as its leader. “When ABC was started, there were rifts, hatred and ethnicity spread all over. Nevertheless, strong institutions that the founders put in place have ensured that the church continues to thrive. Its congregants were proud of their indigenous ways as it represented them and their ways of living. The English churches segregated indigenous churches a lot and I recall how mainstream churches like the All Saints Cathedral was a church for the whites and most of the colonialists despised the African culture which was largely viewed as inferior,” noted Archbishop Ndambuki.
While preaching from Nehemiah 2:11-18, The Archbishop urged the people to emulate Nehemiah who saw the tribulations that Jerusalem had and prayed and put to action what God had put in his heart for Jerusalem. He was saddened by the state of affairs as the wall of Jerusalem that had been broken down and the gates had been consumed by fire and urged the people of Jerusalem to rise up and build the walls. In his preaching he also referenced Philippians 1:6 which was the theme for the celebrations, “He who began the good work will see to it that its complete.”
Canon Karanja noted that ABC founders had a great vision for enhancing development in Africa. He noted that 64% of schools in Kenya had been started by churches and while the title deeds had been given to churches, land grabbers were using their connections to grab these lands. “Our governments have been slow in development processes and instead of providing public goods they wait for churches to implement development projects developed though offerings and grab them. We pay taxes to the government, why do we still have to go to India to get medication. This country has enough resources to develop itself but bad politics is our undoing. The church needs to intervene and lead the way and say no to bad politics.” He further urged for review of electoral processes to ensure a free and fair elections whilst urging Kenyans to register as voters to ensure leaders of integrity are duly elected. “I think it would be best if I deny congregants Holy Communion if they do not have a voter’s card.”
Canon Karanja noted his disappointed with the current leadership as most politicians only vie for posts in order to amass wealth noting that Kenya needed to raise and elect leaders of character and not thieves. “Devolution on the other hand has been misused and clans are fighting each other while ethnicity is encouraging thieves from our communities to steal the devolved funds. God would like to uplift Kenya but only when we have transparent and honest leaders.”
ABC roots sprung from seeds of the word of God translated into Kamba language by Rev. Dr. Krapf who met the Akamba people and appreciated their traditional ways of life whilst understanding their culture and language. He later translated portions of the scripture into Kamba. Just like other AICs, the church had its reservations about the colonial government and in 1963 it lost 65 of its soldiers in the clamour for independence.
In 1954, ABC started a Bible school in Mitamboni. The church has further managed to build primary schools, Secondary schools and health centre’s whilst building the capacity of its members. Currently it has 691 churches in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC Congo and Zambia. The church purposes to be a model to be emulated across Africa with visionary leadership that upholds respect, transparency and accountability. They are proud of their founders as they had a vision which has seen them build 300 schools, 80 secondary schools and 4 bible schools and purpose to build a University in the near future.
Various political leaders graced the event as invited guests.