Easter Sunday service at Munyange AIPCA in Othaya, Nyeri County, was prematurely suspended after worshippers turned violent in an ongoing leadership dispute.
What was supposed to be a colourful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ turned into a chaotic fist and shouting match as riot police forcibly ejected churchgoers who had turned the place of worship into a battleground.
In a surprising turn of events, blows flew, women pulled at each others’ hair and old men were wrestled to the ground as the fight for the church by rival factions turned ugly.
Children stood at a distance as they watched the church’s embattled Archdeacon Elijah Mwai hurl unprintable insults at his flock, accusing some members of threatening to kill him.
Some members are said to have urinated inside the church.
“How can someone be so disrespectful to God that they urinate inside His house?” an elderly woman was heard wondering.
Police lock church
Police had to lock the church as the two factions fought over leadership positions.
Members of one faction had arrived as early as 6am and locked themselves inside the church and started their worship services, barring the rival group from accessing the premises.
This, the Nation learnt, was in revenge after they were locked out by their rivals during the Good Friday service.
This, according to police, was not the first time the church service was disrupted over similar squabbles.
The wrangles started in 2016 and were sparked by the creation of a committee that controls church’s business and the appointment of the church’s archdeacon.
The committee is headed by Stephen Kurenja but is facing opposition over alleged misappropriation of church money and fraudulent appointment of a parish archdeacon.
Some church members challenged the appointment of Archdeacon Elijah Mwai, saying he had bribed his way to the parish post.
The matter was initially resolved by retired Archbishop Amos Kabuthu, who formed a new committee.
However, the decision was challenged in court and an order was issued in March this year overruling it.
According to Mr Kurenja, the wrangles are fuelled by an unnamed outside people who want to control church money.
“This is no ordinary war. There are people outside the church who are inciting church members to revolt and cause disorder,” said Mr Kurenja.
He claimed that retired Archbishop Kabuthu did not have any mandate to appoint a committee as he no longer held office.
“He is retired. He cannot make such decisions,” said Mr Kurenja.
In the order issued by Nyeri Resident Judge Jarius Ngaah, the church has been directed to resolve the wrangles in the next two months.