A story is told of a middle couple worshippers in Nairobi who sauntered into a Sunday Service in a renowned church accompanied by their six-year-old son recently.
The dad donned rugged jeans and bling bling hung loosely on his neck, the mother wore a tight-fitting jean and their son’s attires matched his dads.
The boy carried a new toy gun…at the middle of the sermon, the boy donning Mohawk hair style, dark sunglasses bedded on his forehead stood up and began “shooting” the congregation, starting with the pastor to their chagrin of worshipers.
But such occurrences have no space in Kitengela St Monica Catholic Church.
Not under the priest in charge, Fr Felix Ongaka.
In the last few weeks, a banner has been pinned on the church wall conspicuously noticeable to all worshippers indicating dozens of clothes banned during Sunday services.
The images of the banned attires for both male and female are displayed for all and sundry.
Here, seemingly there is a silent rule within the church precincts,
“This is the place of worship not a marketplace or fashion galore”. It’s evident, the new order is slowly sinking into worshipers.
“When the priest (Fr Felix) read a rioting act to the worshippers a section took it as a dry joke. However, the reality began sinking when dozens of ill-dressed worshippers were turned away one sundry morning. The dress code “cops” have brought new order into the church, ” said Nancy Njambi, 24, who was once turned away for wearing “body skimming” trousers.
A team of moral “cops”, both male and female, are always on duty by 6 am, before the first service, manning the main gate.
They do not look like the lot that mince their words on dress code offenders. In case one slips through the mean looking moral cops and they are noticed during the service matching orders are issued on the spot.
Teen worshippers are grappling to adjust into the harsh reality.
Here, ladies are not allowed into church in miniskirts, slitted skirts or dresses, transparent attires, cleavage showing clothes or tight garments. Stiletto shoes are not welcome
“Ladies’ dresses and skirts should be below the knees and should not have long slits. Football jerseys and sports attires are not allowed,” reads part of the banner.
The banner also has several verses from the bible inscribed in bright colors for everyone to see.
“Also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God,” reads 1 Timothy 2: 9-10.
Men’s worshipers are not spared either. They are not allowed into church in rugged jeans, shorts, sweatpants, sleeveless t-shirts showing bulging biceps. They are also required to wear “modest” shoes.
No one is allowed in church with necklaces and large bungles. ‘Non ordinary’ hairstyles are discouraged.
Children are not allowed into the church compound with toys. Their dress code should be modest with no “funny” hair styles before they are allowed into the Sunday school that runs concurrently with the main service.
“Initially worshipers feared to come to church but nowadays they are singing to the new church rhythm. Kitengela St Monicah Catholic church is among the biggest worshiping centers in Kitengela town boasting of four Sunday services. The new sheriff (Fr Ongaka) has transformed the church,” said Mr John Odour, 52, a worshipper.
During the service, worshipers are encouraged to actively participate as per the procedures of the Catholic church. Movement in church during the service is discouraged.
“Dress code in church is not new, as worshippers usually ignore what is expected of them. Faith and morals are intertwined. Permanent christian foundation stipulates worshipers should be morally upright, “he said insisting the church won’t relent in this new direction that will also rope in surrounding Catholic stations.
Fr Ongaka took over as priest-in-charge early in the year from Fr Ben Asuka and might have borrowed a leaf from John 2:13-22.
“…Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves. Take these things out of here! Stop making my father’s house a marketplace!”