Word Service and Miracles Service, 11am, Sunday 14th July 2013
Led by: Dr Jennifer Irungu and several others
Lord, give me strength! It’s clearly something I lack, because I just didn’t have the stamina to stay to the end of the service at today’s church, the Kingdom Church, which meets in an airless, windowless upper room in what I think used to be a cinema in Great Junction Street. Despite the ministry’s ambitious desire to build beautiful, state-of-the-art facilities by 2015, the present accommodation leaves much to be desired – hot water in the ladies’ room, a toilet cistern that fills up quick enough to let every user flush, and a layout that doesn’t make you worry about fire egress to name just three things. Yes, to echo a link sent to me earlier in the week, the building of a mega-church all boils down to toilets and parking.
Call me a wimp, but after three hours and twenty minutes – yes, that’s three whole hours and another twenty minutes on top – I had to give up and make my escape. And you know what? The service was still going strong as I snuck out. It seemed fitting, therefore, that Dr Jennifer Irungu’s sermon urged us to “put on the face of an ox”, a beast with stamina if ever there was one. I didn’t join in when everyone else touched their faces and declared that they were putting on the face of an ox in Jesus’ name, so maybe that’s why I found myself failing.
I almost feel inclined to take back what I said about the length of the service at Central: Jesus at the Heart. Almost, but not quite.
I should explain about the ox face thing. It would seem that Bishop Climate Irungu, the husband of today’s preacher, has declared 2013 the year of supernatural anointing, and that July is the seventh month and seven is the number of completion. Therefore many things previously incomplete are to be completed this month. Furthermore, the year is to be divided into four quarters in which the faithful are to assume the characteristics of the living creatures witnessed in Ezekiel 1 – man, lion, ox and eagle. We’ve had three months of man, three months of lion and now we are to put on the face of an ox until the end of September. Still with me? There’s more to come.
Women are like oxen (charmed, I’m sure) because women are strong, we can multitask and we already operate like God (!), whereas men, poor creatures, require all the strength they can get. But we must all put on the face of an ox and ask for divine strength. Once you have the face of an ox you will become an abundance magnet, a favour magnet, a miracle magnet, a money magnet and a wealth magnet. Amen? Someone say Amen?
I think you get the picture. All of Dr Jennifer’s sermon was amplified to genuinely painful decibel levels as she screamed her way through this kind of stuff for roughly an hour. In fact, everyone who used a microphone, except for the woman who read out the announcements and the very thin girl with the extraordinary high heeled shoes who sang one of the songs, held it far too close to their lips, so that every plosive and sibilant was an assault on the eardrum. It was actually physically painful – seriously, I’m talking breach of health and safety law here – and even after the already unbelievably loud singing they still cranked it up further when Dr Jennifer began to preach, two hours and ten minutes in.
The first two hours had been filled with lots of hypnotic repetitive singing, led by a deafening contralto, followed by intercessory prayers, then lots more singing (more upbeat this time with African gospel rhythms, but with no lyrics on the projector and the words indistinguishable in the feedback and reverb, so joining in was possible only if you knew the songs already), and then holy communion, which came in a little sealed plastic tub a bit like this, with a wafer in a separate blister pack on top, and then a bit more singing and a pep talk on tithing. The tone was exuberant, verging on the hysterical, with people up on their feet dancing, whooping, waving huge purple flags and shaking a tambourine.
So, three hours and ten minutes in, Dr Jennifer had finished her sermon and was ready to move on to the anointing. People came forward, arms open, to be touched on the forehead. Three of them fell down and were laid on the floor and covered with red cloths until they could recover their strength – oxen temporarily felled – but I’m afraid I just couldn’t take any more of it. I was hot and tired and hungry and my ears were ringing, and continued to ring for about an hour afterwards. How much cochlear damage did I do by staying as long as I did?
The Kingdom Church describes itself as “Committed To A Big Mission”, “By becoming the best and the biggest church organization in the world.” That’s quite an ambition, and clearly they have some enthusiastic followers who will help them to build their educational facilities, elderly care homes, gyms, Christian restaurants and all the rest. Who says Christianity has anything to do with humility when there are empires to be forged?
Well, good luck to them. If the comments I found online about Bishop Climate and Dr Jennifer Irungu have any foundation in truth (and I won’t repeat them here lest I court a libel suit) then they will reap as they sow. Meanwhile, Jennifer definitely gets a fashion prize for her daring yellow suit with sparkly gold fishtail pleats and not-quite-matching gold shoes. They eclipsed even the skinny singer’s white patent wedge heels, and hats off to her for standing up in those for two hours without falling over.