Three counts of Rose
Rose stared at the clock wishing it could move quickly so that she could live her life. The time had finally come to appear before the Church Council. She had been accused of many things and wrong doings. This was the time to set the record straight. The provost at the reception of the church office had served her with nice lemon tea and snacks and informed her that she would beckon her to go in at exactly four thirty. Rose loved tea, lemon tea and she wondered how the provost knew this.
She had been a Youth Chairlady at the church for three consecutive years and she had risen through the ranks having started out as a normal church member seating at the back pews. She would duck out every church service and kept a very low profile. She had been chosen as a leader a while back when she was pursuing her Masters Degree in Marketing when the pastor asked her to do an article about customer service in the Church.
‘Rose Kasena, please come to the office after service,’ the announcement was beamed on the plasma TV screens across the whole church. It was the church way of doing things. UCC was a digital and modern church. Every announcement was done like a news bulletin and the church media crew did it to their best rivaling the mainstream media. All eyes from the back benchers’ crew stared at her. She had felt a bit coy and cold on that Easter morning.
When the church service ended she didn’t rush home, and thought maybe her prayers had finally been answered, that she would eventually land her dream job. This Urban Church of Christ in Mombasa was very big, in terms of size and membership, so a call to the pastor’s office would mean a lot.
‘May I come in?’ Rose asked before she entered the Pastors office.
‘Come right in,’ the pastor said in a smoother and less husky voice different from the one he used at the pulpit to scare congregants on the dangers of missing heaven.
The pastors office was a big one, Rose had not entered before. The leather seats, the carpets, the air condition and the sleek mahogany tables all exquisite as though it belonged to a government minister. The pastor is a minister too, Rose mused.
‘Kindly have a sit,’ the pastor said.
‘Thank you,’ she sat down meekly.
‘I understand that you are an MBA student,’ he said, clearing his throat.
‘Yes I am, sir,’ she said, her heart beating faster in anticipation of a life-changing offer.
‘Can I ask for a small favor from you?’
‘Anything for you Pastor,’ she said.
‘Kindly do me a proposal on how I can treat the church members better.’
‘What do you mean pastor? Kindly expound.’
‘You see,’ he said, ‘the congregants are like my customers. Contented customers tend to pull in more customers.’
‘So, customer service in the Church?’
‘Exactly! Will it be ready within a month?’
‘Excellent. After you finish up, kindly send it to my personal email and copy the Church mail,’ ‘Take this business card, it has all details. You may also send a text once done.’
‘Okay pastor,’ she answered in a determined tone, ready to rise up to the occasion. She knew that the Pastor wielded power, power that controlled the masses in the Church, bending their minds towards accepting Jesus the Savior. Rose walked out of the office and disappeared in the crowds of people who had come for the second service and were slowly trickling in and filling the pews. She deeply knew she could deliver the task at hand.
The article was the best she had done since she started her studies. She had done a similar Seminar Paper for her Masters. The pastor applauded her and thanked her, telling her that her reward is in heaven. Rose read the return mail from the pastor and thought it was a joke. She expected some monetary gain by doing that assignment.
‘A fifty page document, well researched, not plagiarized goes like that and pastor has the audacity to tell me my reward is in heaven? Hunger and lack of rent on earth cannot be rewarded in heaven. I have bills to pay!’ she wondered, shaking her head. ‘The church ought to be more considerate!’
Easter had passed. It was customary for the church to replace its leadership every Easter. ‘Epiphany should reinvigorate your souls,’ pastor kept on saying at the end of the every Easter weekend. The Church holds an election via secret ballot when replacing its leaders for every department. Pastor and the outgoing leadership fronts names for each position, departmental heads and their deputies plus their committees. The departments ranged from Media, Youth, Choir, Hospitality, Instruments, Ushers, Teens amongst others. Roses’ name was floated and appeared on the ballot papers on the voting day.
‘Rose, please come here,’ Pastor called her to the altar to introduce her to the Church. It was the tradition that the pastor introduces the contestants so that the congregation can make a choice. She was supposed to be chosen as the leader of the Youth department. The voting underwent in phases; phase one was for the first service and phase two for the second service. An eligible voter was a sound adult who was a registered member. Not just any member. Being a member at UCC, you had to pay a joining fee and pledge a monthly amount which you have to honor for 12 months on the trot and that qualified you to be entered into the church books.
The votes were counted after both services and the results were to be made official. The provost who had now known Rose sent her a text message congratulating her for being the incoming Youth Leader. Sunday came, and the new leaders were paraded before the congregation, prayed for and ready to be commissioned. The outgoing leadership handed over in an auspicious ceremony with lots of photos, videos, selfies and other such life distracters. Rose couldn’t imagine how she became a leader since she was not a paid up member of the church. She was born again, correct, but her life struggles had lowered her self esteem to a point she didn’t have what it took to be a leader.
Rose would be engrossed with midweek and weekend meetings with other leaders. She detested these constant meetings and considered them a waste of time since many agendas were left unattended before the next meeting. It was futile. She only enjoyed one training, the one conducted by the pastor on Sunday Morning before first service. Pastor carried out a leadership series on John C. Maxwell books.
She was now through with her Research Project at the University. She was scheduled to graduate the first week of December, after which she had some issues to handle. One, and perhaps the most important was to find gainful employment which she would have to juggle with her leadership position in church, and her family and society in general was putting undue pressure on her to get married. She was already fed up with her mother’s constant questions on whether she had a fiancée, and she was sure everyone had a notion of how she was supposed to live her life. Her mother would probably want her to get married while the pastor would have asked her to be committed to God’s work. Her heart would yearn for employment in spite of the many rejected job applications she had received.
Taking up the mantle of leadership at the Youth department was daunting. She had to draft the Youth activities Calendar which was to be merged with the church calendar to ensure harmony. With the help of the other members of the Youth leadership she was able to come up with activities to attract the urban youth and to make sure they grow spiritually. The draft was presented to the Church Council in the monthly meetings. It was accepted with glee as it had fresh ideas and was bound to bring the much needed change in the youth department.
One of the activities was setting up a youth service, they planned that it had to be held every Saturday at two in the afternoon. The youth service was to be launched in style. The planning was also done in style- re-arranging the hall to give it a youthful look, repainting and rebranding everything to suit the youth. This youth event was hyped on social media, themed ‘Youth Entertainment Lounge’. Fun-in-Christ was the tagline. Pastor volunteered to be the guest speaker and the event went on well. A record number attended, food was served and everybody was happy. Rose felt elated to be the leader of the moment!
Internally, Rose felt hollow and unaccomplished. She had dedicated herself fully to church activities but waiting for her heavenly reward was beginning to make her skeptical. She lived a dissonant life, fulfilling the immediate needs of the church while hers took a back seat. She worked on bringing and retaining new members to the church. The pastor kept telling her that she ought not to give up and that something big was about to happen in her life. It did, eventually, but not as the pastor had envisioned. She also found it ironical that youth brought her prayer requests for jobs while hers had not been answered yet. Would God be fair if she answered theirs before hers?
She resorted to books. Rose would buy books from Soko Ndogo- a second hand bookstore in Mombasa town. She used the little monies she had acquired from her blog-The Pool-Pit, which she started as a platform to cast a stone at life. From serving the unresponsive God, who was only interested in receiving offering and scaring people about Hell, to the frustrations of not getting married, she was thirty-two. She found solace in books. She would read anything that she found. Eventually she settled on Literature, Philosophy and Psychology as her favorite genres.
She slowly drifted away from the value systems she had been indoctrinated to follow since childhood like the idea of God, Heaven and Hell. Christianity was not making sense to her anymore. If God really cared for her He would cater for her immediate needs. She felt cheated and decided to remove any trace of religious and salvation beliefs in her life. By now, two and a half years later in leadership, she had a library of over 400 books on her favorite genres. She didn’t need God in her life, since God was that far away Deity who was not concerned with her affairs. Her service to the youth began to show signs of neglect and collapsed.
Fellow youth leaders started pointing fingers. She had lost the zeal that she started with. She didn’t pray, fast, give offertory nor read the bible, the basic tenets of a believer. Her Facebook posts were also drifting towards atheism and nihilism. The church members who were facebook friends could no longer comment on her posts. They were too extreme. She also unfriended her pastor and other church leaders on Social Media. Rose had gone the whole gamut from the extreme end of the Dawkins scale to the other extreme end.
It was four-thirty on the dot when the provost ushered Rose to meet the Church Council. It was the highest governing council at Urban Church of Christ.
‘Come in and take a seat,’ the Pastor said, his voice deep and serious.
‘Thank you,’ she said.
‘Shalom! Shalom!’ the greetings were exchanged. The sitting arrangement was familiar as Rose had been here countless times doing presentations on the progress of the youth ministry, and other official departmental engagements. The faces were familiar too, only that they were now shrouded in anger. Meetings always started with a prayer and the Pastor prayed to lead the seven members Council to a wise, informed decision regarding the issue at hand.
‘Rose Kasena we are concerned about you,’ said one of the council members, who was chairing that meeting. ‘We have heard many things about you and we have been monitoring you after you became a youth leader. Whether the allegations are true or not, we are giving you this opportunity to explain yourself to us,’ he said.
‘Okay I’m here,’ she said flatly.
‘We have summarized them in three counts and my colleagues will read them out one after the other starting from my immediate right and you are required to respond to every count.’ The other Council Members consulted the print-outs in front of them.
Council Member One read her the first count. ‘You are accused of slackness in your ministry towards the Pastor and towards God whereas you started with exemplary zeal. What’s your response to that?’
Rose cleared her throat and answered ‘I have no objection to that, it’s true that I have lost interest in ministry. This whole issue of serving an unseen God does not make sense to me. I wish to be relieved off my post. I’m not a believer anymore, I have been suffering in silence and the God we pray to everyday has not helped me. That’s my response.’
‘What?’ the pastor cried out, ‘you are blaspheming against the most High! You must repent.’ The council members sighed and shook their heads in disapproval at her conduct.
Council Member Two read the second Count. ‘You have, in many instances in your blog, the pool-pit, shown inclinations to nihilism and atheism. You are also leaning very much towards secular humanism. What’s your response?’
Rose, now gaining more confidence, from her new found identity, stood up and answered. ‘You said it! I started doubting the existence of deities when I saw the hypocrisy you, the Church Council, were showing. If I’m to mention a few instances, some of the church council members have been caught in bars drinking themselves silly and yet on Sundays they portray a different life. Also a member of the youth ministry was impregnated by one of you. You behave as though He doesn’t exist! I hate it that I came close to the church leaders. The liberating moment came when I researched more on the same and found that the church is just a money making enterprise to enrich a few individuals while the rest of the congregation is wallowing in abject poverty. You keep on saying that their reward is in heaven while you the Church Council are already in Heaven, flowing with milk and money!’
‘Stop it! Stop it!’ Council member one interjected angrily. ‘This ingrate should be ex-communicated!’ There was already a commotion in the room.
Council Member Three cleared his throat and read the third and final count. ‘Back to your blog, there is a post that was done on Valentine’s Day this year, you made a commentary on a classic work, Q.E.D by Getrude Stein’. In the blog you were celebrating the affair that Getrude had with her female partner. Does this mean you are a lesbian?’
Rose who was still sitting slowly stood up, smiled and answered. ‘Let not those who live in glasshouses throw stones at another man’s house!’
With that, she walked out of the door.