UK priest retraces his spiritual roots to Kirinyaga school

Archbishop of Canterbury and head of Anglican Church Justin Welby (second left), his wife Caroline Eaton, Kirinyaga Diocese Bishop Joseph Kabuchwa (right) and Kiburu Boys Secondary School principal Geoffrey Njoroge at the school. [Jacinta Mutura, Standard]

A typical Monday for Kiburu Boys Secondary School students starts with a morning assembly, with the principal and the teacher-on-duty addressing them. But this week’s Monday was different.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Head of the Anglican Church Justin Welby was the guest of the day. At 8am when he when alighted from a tour bus, the school’s scout team were already in a parade, waiting for his inspection.

A brief visit to the school brought back memories of Mr Welby’s eight months’ stay there when he volunteered as a maths teacher in 1974.

He was 18 years old when he was sent by Anglican missionaries to volunteer in Africa before he could join university, and he ended up at Kiburu Boys in Kirinyaga County.

Forty-six years later, he returned to visit the school and nostalgically recalled how his commitment to Christ started following an incident at the school in June 1974.

A student committed suicide when Welby was on duty and the disturbing task of cutting the rope to bring down the body gave him stark insight into the reality of life and death, and provoked his Christian faith.

At the school, students, teachers, and the faithful of the Anglican Church in the area were elated to host the senior-most bishop of the church.

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“It was a happy day to receive him here. We had everything prepared for him. The preparations were tiresome but worthwhile,” said the school’s principal Geoffrey Njoroge.

Mr Njoroge and the church elders took Welby on a tour of the school to show him the various changes.

Within the teachers’ quarters, Welby took a little bit longer at the prefabricated house where he used to stay with a friend then. The two-roomed house with a six-foot stone foundation had sections of the old wooden walls eaten up by termites

Memory lane

The house took him down memory lane and he posed for a photo with his wife and Kirinyaga Archbishop Joseph Kibuchwa

“He showed us where the kitchen was, the bedroom and the main room. He was so happy and the smile on his face showed how the experiences taught him about Christian life,” said Njoroge , adding that the school would renovate it.

In his brief address, Welby advised the students, “to be spiritual and always seek God for wisdom and knowledge”.

He later laid a foundation stone at the school’s dining hall, which is still under construction.

“The school has made major strides in terms of infrastructural development and academics, and I will see what I can do to help the school complete the projects,” pledged the Archbishop before he left the school for other institutions sponsored by the church.

The school presented an artistic drawing of his image and in return, Welby gave the principal a photo of himself to keep in the school.

“We would have wanted him to stay for longer but it was a busy day for him. It is only the students’ choirs from the Catholic Association and the Christian Union that got a chance to present two songs,” said the principal.

Meanwhile, Welby supported the push by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM party leader Raila Odinga to unite the country through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

The visiting clergy held a meeting with Mr Odinga where he described the BBI report as “a remarkable document” that can be used to “change the ethos and culture of the country”.

He met Raila in the company of the Head of the Anglican Church in Kenya Bishop Jackson ole Sapit, who was accompanied by other senior ACK clergy.

Raila briefed the church leaders on the journey to the working relationship with the president, the setting up of the BBI team and the on-going steps to involve more people in the preparation of the final document.

They also talked about how to work with the church to  educate Kenyans on the report.

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Kiburu Boys Secondary SchoolAnglican missionaries