From church choirs that sing virtual anthems to star-studded musical performances and an Easter Sunday Concert at the Duomo in Milan, the use of music to succor others has been reinvented globally in creative ways during the COVID-19 lockdown.
But if there were a prize for innovation and sheer persistence in bringing the joy of religious music right to people’s doorsteps, it could well go to Rev. Paul Machira Marakwet, Resource Mobilizer at All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi.
Known as Uncle Paul, the Anglican clergyman and Sunday school teacher at the cathedral’s Children & Teens Center, knows a thing or two about spreading happiness along with faith.
One recent Sunday morning, his sermon, accompanied by four-piece band, in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Nairobi, reached halfway around the world when it was featured in The Guardian.
“I’m happy today, so happy,” the band members sang in unison, filling the apartment complex with music and inviting parents and children to dance and pray. “In Jesus’ name, I’m happy.”
Machira brings his entertaining balcony service and Sunday school everywhere, offering spiritual nourishment to Kenyans during a period of prolonged social isolation and stress. As of July 9, Kenya has reported 8,975 cases of coronavirus according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Uncle Paul credits another Sunday school teacher at the cathedral for coming up with the idea and delivering the first balcony services for children. It was such a hit that the teacher sought Machira’s help in spreading it mtaani, a term meaning “in the neighborhood” in Swahili.
“This Sunday school mtaani allows us to do ministry to children who do not necessarily go to church,” Machira told The Guardian, “and children who do not necessarily have access to the internet...You’ll find children being confined in their houses from the time they wake up till the time they go to bed.”
In a recent Facebook post, Uncle Paul described the impact of a sermon delivered in an apartment building parking lot July 5:
“Our Bible lesson was well received yesterday and so were the songs. And just as we turned to board the car in a rush to dash to our third and final Sunday school mtaani engagement yesterday, the sweet voice of a child called out to us and the six of us spontaneously turned towards where the voice was calling from.
“It was a young girl of not more than 5 years calmly waving at us unnoticed from a balcony. When she saw that she had caught our attention, she, with a heart-warming, crystal clear voice, called out again WE LOVE YOU!!!! and continued to wave at us.
“She sounded like an angel and I believed what she’d told us. The earnestness of her voice betrayed what was in abundance in her heart and I was honored to have fanned its love for God and his people in our 50 minutes together.”
Rev. Paul Machira Marakwet was ordained a priest in September 2013 in the Nairobi Diocese. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa and a Master of Art Leadership (Christian Ministry) from Pan Africa Christian University.
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