It’s been over 100 days since the country went into partial lockdown, leaving churches in the cold with other non-essential service providers.
News that left many churchgoers in shock and total confusion did not move Paul Macharia even by an inch. The All Saints Cathedral preacher saw a window of opportunity and decided to move the church from a four-walled building to a very unusual place: estate balconies.
“The balcony to balcony church service took shape when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. I decided to take the church outside the four walls of the cathedral,” he told The Nairobian.
Planning for the services involves liaising with tenants and owners of apartments.
“If all of them are okay with us to conduct a service within their estate, we come and have a church service or a Sunday school lesson. A lot of people have embraced us,” he said.
Macharia is easy to spot from a distance because of his unique dressing style and charm.
His devotion and love for the gospel and children has earned him the nickname ‘Uncle Paul.’
The man from Rwathia village in Murang’a County has been preaching the gospel in residential places in various towns.
When The Nairobian caught up with him in one of the apartments in Kiambu town, he was donning dungarees, eyeglasses and one could easily feel his deep connection with the congregation who worshipped from balconies.
“In every place we go, we have a Bible lesson, praise and adoration songs which are in line with the lesson of that day. The response has been overwhelming though before people accept you there must be resistance because they have not experienced something like this before and we understand them,” he said.
Not everyone is open to the idea of balcony churches and sometimes, “people refuse to host us in their apartment blocks, saying that they are not comfortable with people coming from outside to make noise within the estate.”
The 43-year-old is always accompanied by a team of five, which comprises a pianist, technician and three young women who lead praise and worship.
Uncle Paul says their biggest challenge is “getting accessing apartments. So far we have been able to visit nine apartment blocks across the metropolis in areas like Syokimau, Kiambu and Zimmerman. These are hard economic times and we do not charge nor ask for offerings,” he said, adding that, “We give the gospel freely. The Lord has blessed us, so why would we go around asking for money? We are all volunteers and giving from our pockets. It’s a calling but I’m more inclined towards serving his children through Sunday school mtaani. I enjoy what I do because it’s my passion. I hope to do this until I die.”
Macharia, an alumnus of Lenana High School says he uses his car to move around and borrows another from a friend to ferry his team and equipment.
“Transport is also another problem and getting to the various destinations is not easy. Sometimes some of my team members have to use matatus because we are many. “When I was ordained in 2013, I was assigned to be the Sunday school pastor. I could not wear an Anglican priest robe because the kids could trip all over me so I decided to design this outfit. I went and bought an overall and then put the dove of the Holy Spirit. My church has been very accommodative because they see that it is practical attire.”
Paul graduated from Catholic University with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and later pursued a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Pan African Christian University.
“I later worked at World Vision for 10 years in the micro-finance department and then transitioned to full-time ministry, where I worked with an organisation called Bible Translation and Literacy for nine years,” Macharia told The Nairobian.
The father of three says that before going to minister at apartments, “I hold Sunday school in my house. My wife is my best friend. She has been very supportive of this ministry. I research any Bible lesson and understand the spirit of that particular scripture.
On Covid-19, he remains very hopeful for better days ahead.
“If the Lord could heal leprosy, he can surely heal Covid-19,” he said.
“All that I can say is that we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but we know who is in our tomorrow. God is beyond Covid-19, He can do all things and we can trust in Him. Parents should let their children get to know Jesus. My desire is that children should be given an opportunity to hear about the Lord.”