You don’t go for a sermon at the Jerusalem Church of Christ in Kawangware ‘after hours.’ The church, led by self-proclaimed prophetess Mary Sinaida Akatsa (pictured) does not tolerate late comers.
They are locked out. Like the 20 youthful, middle-aged and the old faithful accompanied by several children The Nairobian found seated on the sides of dusty Gatina Road in Kawangware 56 at 5pm.
At Jerusalem Church, service begins at 10am. Anyone who arrives from 10.05am is locked out until the service ends at around 8pm. “I arrived here at 10.30, just 30 minutes late and have to remain out till end of the service,” said a worshiper.
A number of local faithfuls travel every evening from Mombasa to attend her church service. Some cannot change churches despite the rules. One latecomer explained that, “This is the best church l have ever come across and where most of us belong.”
A tall perimeter wall surrounds the church where worshipers; women, men and children were clapping and singing at the top of their voices, accompanied by guitars and the beat of drums.
Prophetess Akatsa, fondly referred to as ‘Wa Mami’ is dressed in a white and green stripped T-shirt and long checked gathered skirt. She moves from side to side as she commands the faithfuls to sing even louder.
But why does she lock out worshipers?
“People must respect the word of God, and it begins with arriving in church on time. Period,” she stressed, explaining that people report to work early and the house of God shouldn’t be an exception.
Jerusalem Church of Christ has no seats.
Akatsa says it is not indicated anywhere in the Bible that Jesus talked to people who sat on seats. She states, “All Jesus’ followers sat down and listened to him.”
Male and female worshipers don’t mix in her church.
She says if they mix, men will start admiring the women and forget to follow the service.
“My church has beautiful women. They will make men forget the word of God,” explains the prophetess who punishes followers - mostly men - who cheat by making them carry their wives on their backs and walk in the open as people watch.
At times, she whips them, stressing that punishment is biblical.