I wake up today in the middle of the night to look on my phone screen, a colleague whom we serve with in the planning committee was picking the guest of honor, The Archbishop of Canterbury from the airport. Its been two years since we started sitting in different committees to plan for All Saints 100 years celebrations. We have come a long way, shaping up to make sure this day, which is finally here goes on smoothly.
To many Anglican faithful, the Cathedral, as its members like calling it, has been the fountain of spiritual nourishment, while to the men (and lately women) of the cloth, it has played the perfect venue to win souls for Christ, as they are called to do. The doors of the cathedral have been open to all, those who have needed spiritual nourishment, the lost and the captive. Those who have ruled over the land, those running away from brutal attacks. Those who have started a new life and those who have departed.
The iconic architectural masterpiece that has since been classified as a national monument gives the impression of a church that was built for posterity, with the provost projecting that it can only help the growth of ‘the body of Christ. It witnessed as Kenya, which was then the british colony…..as she slept silent in the arms of London. It watched as its sons went to fight wars, in Burma. The troops were raw, lacked combat experience, and were inadequately trained …some came home, wounded and lost while for others they died in the fields of war, it watched.
The cathedral watched as Kenya became a self governed state. As sons and daughters of this land launched a resistance to their colonial master, so it watched. As our country finally achieved what it had long fought for, independence, as Kenyans felt with humility the pride to govern themselves and run institutions. When the first African archbishop was elected, the cathedral watched. The second liberation, as a refuge for those who ren away from the bullets and tear gases, the cathedrals watched…providing refuge for those who were followed to the inside of the sanctuary. Some of the teargas canisters that were thrown into the cathedral on 7 July 1997 on the day now known as the Saba saba rests here today…..many years later, with the broken clubs.
Its has stood the test of time, while other cathedrals in the world have been a target of war, even brought down to ashes this cathedral has stood tall. The cathedral holds the history of our great nation with pride, and it has done so really well for the last 100 years. Just as many cathedrals all over the world have stood tall and been custodians of history of the world. Some of those I have had the honour of visiting, Cathedral De Barcelona, St Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow Poland, and many others.
But as the Anglican faithful from across the world led by the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, troop to Nairobi for the church’s centenary celebrations culminating in a major service on Sunday, some will be paying homage to a sanctuary that has also been a refuge to the oppressed and the downtrodden. It was a sanctuary for those fleeing brutal security forces sent to crush dissent. Then, The Anglican Church of Kenya was called The Church of the Province of Kenya. Sarcastically, people started referring to it as the church politics of Kenya, hence the change of name.
The Cathedral has been the gospel centre, a place of worship. But it has also been a place of refuge where many have run to in times of sorrow and trouble, like the case of Prof Wangari Maathai and the mothers of the political prisoners, and during the agitation for democracy in the 1980s and 1990s.
This pulpit has been used to preach the gospel and convert souls to salvation, but also for agitation, especially for the rights of the downtrodden and those under the brutality of State forces.Also it has been used by some of the fiercest critics of the Government, especially the archbishops and provosts who have served at the Cathedral This is part of what we celebrate.
We celebrate 100 years of All Saints Cathedral, of God’s faithfulness and even as we remember the past, we do not the opportunity to seize the future.