Category Archives: Travelogue

Another Posting from LUC

LUC leaving

News from Graham in Nairobi

Academies and Revivals

Apologies for the delay in updating you all on my final visit [I think!] to Nairobi.

The first Sunday I was back at LUC was ‘Academy Sunday’ – evidently it is an annual thing.  It was a delight – the LUC Academy is a private school set up in faith entirely from contributions by the Congregation many years ago and with continued parental support ever since.  The current deal is that it accepts children from infants though to the end of primary when they go on to state High Schools. Some are now studying at Universities across Europe. The children [about 415] are mainly from the congregation [they pay the going rate for fees] but there are now some children from low income local families who can also attend without the high fees. It is right next door to the Church on three floors. Interesting information is that they have a School Assembly every morning and that a Christian ethos permeates all activities throughout the day. There is an array of extra curricula options and everyone is encouraged in music, in praying and in leadership!  Also, fascinating that every Thursday for two hours after school, there is sports activities and everybody takes part……………. including all the teachers!

The children took an active part in the service and there were at least two choirs [one choir split into a smaller combo so is that a third choir, I ask?] and they were very good. The infant choir had the congregation in ecstasy with their singing, their acting and their general enthusiasm, sometimes highly idiosyncratic but a delight. They even had audience participation when we all entered into a catchy rhyme about ‘I will pray for you if you will pray for me’ with actions. Everyone clapped spontaneously at the end.  The Church was full of parents and grandparents to watch their offspring.

There was a disco style dancing and singing group with a lively Christian song but it was a bit lost on me as I am not up to speed on the words they were actually singing! The music was provided entirely by the children throughout the service – drums, piano/organ keyboard, guitar, the lot.  Interestingly, most weeks the first 20-minute period of the service involves communal singing which is partly in English but more often in Kiswahili but this week it was all in English.

Last Sunday was very different indeed. The intervening week had had daily revival meetings in the evenings and today was the culmination.  It was ‘Revival Sunday’ with a visiting ‘Bishop’ [no ‘dog collar’!] who was more of the American revivalist flavour with a strong emphasis on personal continued commitment – he speculated that we all had secret sins that even our loved ones did not know about and we all needed a close personal relationship with God to resolve issues. In the revivalist style, he encouraged an alter call and some moved to the front to receive a blessing. He also had books for sale and was leading an afternoon session at the Church.  It was all rather different from even convention-type meetings in the UK and was fast-paced and rather noisy. The Bishop had a strong loud voice and was not afraid to use it – but he also was quiet sometimes with a clearly well-developed sense of humour as well. Not sure Southampton Circuit is quite ready for this style…………………. but, who knows?

The weather has been warm and dry but not humid and the challenge of getting things done in a different environment is interesting. My Anglican colleague [who also comes to LUC when he is around] wanted to go to the Cathedral Bookshop which is about a five-minute walk from the Ministry – we went and had a quick lunch in the Cathedral Café as well. It was all very genteel and a bit ‘English Provincial’ in many ways, but a delight nonetheless.

next week will be my last week here.
Best wishes,
Graham

Some of Grahams Previous blogs can be found at

LAVINGTON UPDATE

Nairobi Notes

BA and Lavington!

Baptisms and Elections Kenyan Style

News from Lavington Nairobi

Grahams Final Post from Kenya

Another Letter from Nairobi

Methodists in Kenya

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Grahams Final Post from Kenya

Just a short note this time – On my Last visit to Lavington Church I was able to take a colleague whose wife is an Anglican Curate in Southampton – he liked the service very much as an ‘African’ event but I gather he is a middle-of-the road Anglican, neither ‘high’ nor ’low’ and likes traditional hymns and definitely not ‘modern happy-clappy’. There you go!

Anyhow, we had the usual joyful service in which this week The Super gave the sermon, the Church Minister ably lead some of the singing and the Youth Pastor made announcements about summer activities. He had a lot to announce – an additional [sixth!] Sunday Morning service and the second for young people beginning next week plus a young people’s day hike one Saturday in July plus a 4- day-away Camp for young people called ‘Jesus is my Super-Hero’. At the same time, they dedicated a new drum set and electronic keyboard which were fund-raised – it will be used I think by the various youth and young people services and midweek activities. Incidentally, the Pastor said that there were 300 in the Junior Church [this excludes those in the Crèche and all the teenagers and other ‘young people’] and there were only 60 places at the Summer Camp and 24 spaces were reserved for children requiring sponsorship.

Two items of interest were that a guest youth singing group from an Ethiopian Christian refugee’s church situated elsewhere in Nairobi performed for us today. Their pastor is also a member at LUC and introduced them. They were dressed Ethiopian style and were brilliant – VERY lively and had us all standing up to get in the beat and they literally jumped high with joy during the presentation. Great spectacle and very worthy – the Super said that LUC were an outward looking missionary church and would like to support better links with such groups.

He also announced that the Dispute Resolution Advisor to HE the President [also a LUC member and also a Minister] was in the congregation and was asked to stand – he would make a presentation at a special day conference at the Church next month concerning Terrorism and the Church. They are clearly all very concerned about terrorism in Kenya and it is mentioned weekly in the Prayers.

The sermon was about poverty and he mentioned that poverty was relative and that even otherwise affluent people could be in spiritual poverty if they were lonely or otherwise troubled or unhappy. He said that we should remember that in our own congregations there are such people, even if they have sufficient money for everyday life.        Interesting thought.

Hope you have enjoyed these notes.

Best wishes

Graham

GREETINGS STILL FROM NAIROBI

Today was my penultimate Sunday in Nairobi; Lavington United Church never fails to amaze me – the Preacher this morning was Rev Canon Rosemary Mbogo [an Anglican, obviously] who was a short middle aged giant of a personality whose booming voice would keep everyone awake and cause mayhem to the timid and the elderly! But she was a good speaker whose message was that if we ignored opportunities with our friends and neighbours, come the day, we would be accountable. No nonsense! She also mentioned that growing churches focused on their young people as they were future leaders of the Church and as a priority over the elderly. Not that the elderly should not be considered at all, but that efforts should be prioritised for the young and the very young.

Rev John Maromba [Circuit Super] took the intercessory prayers [with very feint organ mood music in the background, a la Billy Graham] but not before many announcements [and clapping for good efforts] but also some homilies. Last week the collection was Kenya Shillings KES 860,000 [£6770.oo] of which KES 446,000 [£3430.oo] was from tithing, KES 130,000 {£1000.oo] from the Sunday services offerings plus balance from many other activities. Remember there are five services every Sunday morning with about 400 people at each. He also said that at date they had now collected KES 23. Million towards building a new sanctuary. Super said that every single week since the campaign began he had new funds for the new sanctuary campaign. Tellingly [please note carefully] he said that congregational giving at church was ALWAYS directly linked to spirituality of the church membership and those who did not dip into their pockets should take an immediate look at their own spirituality. The Pastoral Team were responsible for encouraging spirituality. He publicly thanked God and the thanked the congregation for being such a generous and a giving Church. He announced that the Pastoral Team had noticed many children were attending the second and third Sunday morning services and they are, starting next week, having a sixth morning service to scoop these children out of these two services [and making more room at those services] and to have a third service on Sunday morning specifically for young people. The congregation were told to bring all their children and grandchildren and all their friends to the brand new service.

Every week we are all asked to exchange names and why we are attending – my neighbour today was named Ezra and was an Immigration Officer at Nairobi Airport – he was an enthusiastic hand clapper and lively participant in the singing [and signing] of choruses, some of which were in Swahili. I asked Ezra if Lavington was a typical Methodist church in Nairobi and he said it was the biggest Church and was also the liveliest! [For ‘lively’ I think it would be sort of ‘Pentecostal’ in the UK!]. However, it caters for everyday folk as well as some high-income members and definitely attracts many young people.

The congregation is ubiquitously called ‘Church’ by the Leaders and there is enthusiastic clapping when choirs sing [today it was the Swahili Choir [mixed] who were all dressed in bright green outfits [trinity theme] – they sway as they sing and occasionally get into a bit of a dance – ………..not like Hedge End!] There are five Bible study house groups meeting on the Sunday afternoon, so it is quite a day.

That’s all folks!

Graham

For Grahams First Post See 26th May blog click here.
For His Second Post see June 6th blog click here.
To see all the blogs click the travelogue category.

Another Letter from Nairobi

Some More thoughts from Graham

I think you should know about the two big growth industries in Nairobi.  Potholes and the security sector.  There are big pot holes in the road because it has been the rainy season [goodness – it happens every year and is called the ‘long rains’]. It does not rain – it pours torrentially for about an hour or so and it would quite impossible to walk for two minutes without being thoroughly drenched.  As a result, traffic is slow, chaotic, disorderly and endless – not helped by the traffic police at all main junctions and roundabouts – complete log-jams break out all over the city every day and the police seem unable to unravel them!

The other big deal is security – everywhere has high walls and metal fences always capped with barbed wire plus 24-hour uniformed guards on all the compounds and office blocks. Seems half of Nairobi is in guards’ uniform of one sort or another…………….even at the Churches.  Curiously, it makes it a safe city, as, unwittingly, there are guards on every corner.

Yesterday Lavington United Church was as idiosyncratic as ever……………a very old Kenyan [ a ‘Mzee’]named Phillip sits outside with me when I am waiting to go in – he is what I call ‘smart-grubby’; he is very tall and almost toothless and speaks reasonable English and is interested in where I come from and he mutters ‘Amen!’ quite frequently – I think he is a saint in disguise and I look forward to our conversations. I think there may be a lot of Phillips in Glory! He is a delight.

I forgot to tell you last week of a couple of the more regular/spontaneous happenings you will not be familiar with. New attendees are asked to stand up and introduce themselves, together with anyone who has been missing for more than a month, after which we all sing that old refrain ‘ there’s a welcome here, there’s a welcome here, there’s a Christian welcome here’ [two times!]. The other oddity is that when the sermon ends, everybody says ‘Amen’ and then there is a round of applause for the preacher In the end, there were ‘over 100’ women who turned up to the all-day Women’s Conference last Saturday…………..and they get a lunch as well[ but LUC do have a school next door which I suspect has a kitchen].

For the month of May the four Sundays have had the theme of ‘The Servant Leader’; the Super preached yesterday and made an interesting statement – ‘it is not that you hope they know, it is that you know they have hope’. Think about it.

A bit about my almost new special subject, ‘Church Finances’;  last week LUC took KES 550,000 shillings [about £4050.oo] which was made up of the Collections, the new Pledges that week [towards the new Sanctuary Fund – this is not money now, but public solemn pledges to deliver when asked later on] and proceeds of  bookstall sales and other sales. The estimated Sanctuary costs are KES 22 million and they have raised KES 14 million so far. EVERY WEEK the current progress in the weekly takings and the current status on the Sanctuary fund is announced and shown on all the CCTV screens………………………and if your car is blocking people in the car park, during the service a small ticker runs along the screen telling the owner of Car Regn XXX XXX to go and move it. The ticker stays there until someone gets up sheepishly and goes outside!  Small children are reasonably behaved, but the odd wanderer is there and is occupied by whoever is nearest and is eventually sent back through the congregation to the parents later on – very casual – all the ladies coo!

Methodists in Kenya

Some words from Graham (one of of Church members) on his adventures whilst working in Kenya

Greetings from Nairobi!

I contacted the local Methodist Church Headquarters for Kenya before I left the UK. They told me about two Methodist Churches in the City.

As a result, as I am working here for a few weeks, I am attending Lavington United Church [LUC] – Lavington which is a short taxi ride from the project apartments where we stay in the nearby suburb of Hurlingham. LUC is about the size of SJR(Saint James Road in Shirley Southampton) although it does have an adjoining Academy/Boarding School and a large prefab meeting hall and it is about to build a new Sanctuary. It is a joint Methodist-Anglican-Presbyterian Church but the Constitution evidently requires that always it is administered in the Methodist tradition. It is over 50 years old.

However, it is a BIG Church in every way – with six different services on Sunday mornings each targeted at a different type of congregation, the Bulletin lists four full time team Ministers and five assistant Ministers/Pastors plus pastoral Support staff. All nine team Members are ordained clergy. It is led by the Superintendent Minister [a Methodist of course!] and the Church Minister who is an Anglican but I do not know the denomination of the others, at least one of whom must be a Presbyterian Minister. Strangely, there is a wide social mix between people who are everyday workers through to senior business people, but they all seem to mix well.

I must tell you about today – the ‘4th Service- English/Family’ as it is called begins at 1130 but it was a little late because the third service [the Youth Service which began at 0930] did not file out until just after 1130, so we began at about 1140. The Sanctuary seats about 400 people and the overflow sit on benches outside and watch the service on CCTV screens. Evidently it is full up for all main services. For the first 20/25 minutes or so there is community hymn/chorus singing, Africa style. {A bit ‘Moody & Sankey’, in some ways, I am happy to say] The 24 person uniformed choir leads but the Church Minister is very musical and has a guitar and a strong voice and he is a sort of cheerful Master of Ceremonies and gets the crowd working. It is both joyous, noisy and sprinkled with clever wit – hand clapping, feet stomping and shaking hands with neighbours always takes place, It is all done standing up but some older people sit down when it gets a bit too much!

After this come the announcements by one of the pastors-always cheerful and identifying individuals for praise if they have done anything for the church – and this always gets a big cheer and clapping. Announcements about future events come here – next Saturday a Ladies Convention is being held in the Church and people are told to turn up early with a free gift for the first 50 –‘the maximum number is 250 people, so do not turn up late!’.

The Minister asked if any teenagers were in the congregation and one feckless youth put his hand up- he was asked to stand up and then all other teenagers were asked to stand up –there ‘ teens service’ was being held by the Youth Pastor in the next building and would they please go there – the Assistant Youth Pastor then stood up and asked them to follow him –everybody clapped when they left and the Minster said we should thank God first, because perhaps we could get another Youth Pastor from this group in a few years’ time.

People who not attended before were asked to stand up and introduce themselves – we all then sang a welcome song to them……..and we all clapped hands again! One newcomer was deaf and the Minister asked if anyone knew sign language – nobody did, but he then asked someone to write the man a note there and then [we all waited], telling him to come back next Sunday and they will have found a signer to sit with him, without fail. The man beamed happily.

The preacher was a person from the choir; a cheerful lady in her thirties. She spoke authoritively without notes for about 25 minutes and was very inspiring and enthusiastic – all services on Sunday morning have the same theme [summarised in the Weekly Bulletin] but, I guess, individually presented by the various different Preachers and the different Services.

They are very big on Prayer Groups and seem to have at least 14 house Groups that meet fortnightly or so with details in the Bulletin. They do not seem to have any Rambles though!

Just a few odd things –

  • they have a school of Prayer and you can progress from level 1 through to Level 3
  • Meetings seem to begin on weekdays at 7.0, 7.30 or 8.00………in the morning!
  • They only say the LORDS Prayer at the Communion Service [the 0700 Service on Sunday]
  • They always have a Church Bookstall selling Christian Books, CDs and other items
  • They own a school bus, as they run a school on site
  • They have a daughter Church

If you are interested – go to http://lavingtonunited.org/ .

This is New Testament Methodism I think?

I have seen nothing quite like this in the UK, but it is very thought provoking to go there.