Head of Anglican church retraces spiritual journey

From Left: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit. (File, Standard)
It would take a teenager who hanged himself in a school to awaken the spiritual life of another teenager.

Years later that teen would rise to become one of the most influential religious leaders in the world.

Archbishop of Canterbury and head of Anglican Church Justin Welby was only 18 when the suicide occurred at Kiburu Boys Secondary School in Kirinyaga County where he was volunteering as a Mathematics teacher in 1974.

Welby was the teacher-on-duty when the student committed suicide and took the painstaking role of cutting the rope to bring down the body.

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An excerpt in The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, explains that the incident jolted him to the reality of life and death marking the start of his journey to become the leader of the Anglican Church.

Welby who was elected Archbishop in 2013, was sent by the Anglican missionary in the UK to volunteer as a teacher in Africa before he could join university and landed in the school where he taught for about eight months.

Kirinyaga residents recalled that he used to live in a fabricated house with a friend.

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The current school’s board vice chairperson Harrison Mwangi said, “The Archbishop was not a committed Christian then and the suicide incident inspired his strong following for Christ.”

Kiburu Boys’ Secondary School started during the colonial period as a mixed day school, it progressed to a mixed boarding and later administrators transformed it into a boys’ boarding school.

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Forty six years later after the suicide case, the Archbishop will be visiting the school tomorrow.


“We are looking forward to the visit as a school and we will let him know of the strides we have made since he left,” said Mwangi who also serves as a church leader at Kiburu Anglican church.

Kirinyaga diocese bishop Joseph Kibuchwa said besides the school the Archbishop will also tour other church-sponsored institutions in Kirinyaga including Anglican Mount Kenya hospital and St Andrews Kabare Theological College.

“We are honoured to host a guest of his stature in the county and we are happy for that. We look forward to the visit especially because it will inspire the young boys at the school,” said Mr Kibuchwa adding that he will also be at St Thomas Cathedral in Kirinyaga.

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The school’s principal Geoffrey Njoroge disclosed that the Archbishop will lay a foundation stone of the new modern dining hall expected to cost Sh26 million.

“We have prepared a plaque on the same with writings on commemoration of his teaching at the school in 1974,” said the principal adding that they will prepare English breakfast for the Archbishop.

“We want to accord him good treatment. We will be seeking caterers to prepare the breakfast that will have mushrooms and other accompaniments. We are honoured to have him visit our school,” he added.

Njoroge noted that the school’s performance has improved over years since its establishment in the 1950’s.

“Of the 146 students who sat 2019 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education, 44 managed to score university entry point, up from 38 students who joined university in 2018,” he added.

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Anglican ChurchJustin WelbyArchbishop of CanterburyJackson ole Sapit