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Why Bishop Muge’s widow will not be buried next to her husband

By Silah Koskei | Published Wed, February 14th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 13th 2018 at 23:52 GMT +3
The portrait of mama Herma Muge, the wife of the late Bishop Alexander Muge of ACK Eldoret. [Photo by Peter Ochieng/Standrd]

In summary

  • Family spokesman says they were never satisfied with probe into the bishop’s death
  • ACK doctrines state a bishop who dies while in active service is buried in church premises but is quiet on the wife

For 28 years, she never missed her late husband Bishop Alexander Kipsang Muge’s memorial service and always laid a wreath on his grave.

Herma Muge also remained committed to her husband’s calling, serving in the church long after his death. But on Thursday last week, Mrs Muge breathed her last.

She collapsed in her house at Elgon View Estate and was pronounced dead on arrival at St Lukes Hospital in Eldoret.

But Herma will not be buried next to the outspoken bishop as is tradition in many cultures around the world. Her burial is set for Thursday.

The 66-year-old will be buried in Kipng’oror, Nandi County, 70km away from St Mathews Anglican Church of Kenya, where her husband’s remains were interred.

The church has explained that as per its doctrines, any bishop who dies while active in service is buried in the church premises as a way of honouring him. However, the church law is silent on the wife. 

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“Burying the late Herma Muge next to her husband’s grave would have required the county government and the Synod to give a nod and after consultations with the family. The family was of the idea she be buried at their ancestral home in Nandi,” said the Very Reverend Bernard Kosgei of St Mathews ACK.

A Synod is an assembly of the clergy and sometimes also the laity in a diocese or other division of a particular church.

Bishop Muge was killed in a mysterious road accident along the Eldoret-Busia highway in 1990.

Herma served the church as a Mothers Union co-ordinator, covering the entire North Rift.

Noah Melly, the family spokesman, said the initial plan was to bury her next to her husband. However, this changed later and they agreed that she be buried next to her father-in-law.

“She has been staying at Elgon View but she cannot be buried there. She will be buried next to the grave of Bishop Muge’s father. We realised the process of getting approval to bury her next to her husband will be long,” said Melly.

The church buried Muge in its compound in honour of his contribution to the church and the nation.

The bishop was described as a fearless cleric, who took on the establishment to press for justice, fair and equal distribution of resources and opportunities.

His death threw Kenya into a spin and questions remain answered on the circumstances surrounding his death.

Widowed at the age of 38, Herma immersed herself in church activities even as she raised her four children.

Amon Muge, one of her sons, said their mother single-handedly brought them up after their father’s death.

“She was the anchor of our family. She literally made us who we are today through her support. We were still teenagers when our father left us. It was one of the lowest moments in our family. However, because of her determination, she picked the pieces and soared,” said Amon.

Serving church

He eulogised his mother as a devoted Christian, who loved serving the church. He said his mother also loved helping those around her.

“After dad’s death, mum continued making contributions to the church. Our parents’ efforts will always be part of Kenya’s history,” he added.

A video taken during one of Muge’s memorial services captures Herma’s feelings about his death.

“It has been many years since he left us but it still feels like yesterday. We still remember him. God’s been faithful,” she said.

On February 4, just days before her death, Mrs Muge led the clergy in a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a new chapel in Elgon View estate. The event was graced by the Rt. Reverend Dr Christopher Rutto.

Acquired land

Members of the church raised funds and acquired land where the church, to be named Bishop Muge Memorial Chapel, would be set up.

Church members said it was her idea for the chapel to be set up. It is in honour of Bishop Muge who played a key role in shaping the church.

“Mrs Muge was in a jovial mood during the event. She helped acquire the land where the chapel will be put up. She even led in the last prayer where she encouraged the congregation to contribute for the project to succeed,” said Rev Kennedy Mirmet.

On the day she died, Herma had invited four women for prayers at her home that afternoon. 

Melly said the family was not satisfied with investigations into the bishop’s death. “We decided to move on hoping the truth would be revealed some day.”

Muge’s mausoleum stands tall at the church compound and plans are underway to refurbish it.