Society

Old PCEA St. Cuthbert’s Church Redhill restored

Macharia-Kamau

Macharia Kamau, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows a visitor around the restored St. Cuthbert Church. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Ambassador Macharia Kamau has been instrumental in the restoration of PCEA St. Cuthbert's Church.
  • St Cuthbert's church, built in 1961, has a rich historical heritage.
  • He went to the church as a child and his father, John Cauri Kamau was one of the early members when the church reopened in 1963.

It has often been argued that, given the right frame of mind, human beings are most productive between the ages of 60 to 80. Wisdom combined with experience garnered over the years, make a potent mix for leadership and sound decision-making. This is also the period when we consolidate our legacy.

At a chance meeting with Ambassador Macharia Kamau, during the celebration of a mutual friends’ 65th birthday early last year, we happened to discuss my work and I shared my article on St. Cuthbert’s Church, which I had written in 2016. In that article, I had extolled the church building (built in 1921) for its rich historical heritage which told of the suffering of our people under the yoke of colonialism and the resilient spirit of Kenyans to bounce back to claim our national glory.

As fate would have it, Ambassador Macharia, informed me that St. Cuthbert’s Church was where he worshipped as a young boy and that his father, John Cauri Kamau (long serving General Secretary of NCCK), was one of the early members when the church was reopened after independence in 1963. In fact, his father was buried in the church graveyard in 2016.

In the course of our conversation, Ambassador Macharia was very disappointed to learn that the church building had fallen into ruin, and he promised to do something about it.

To my pleasant surprise, two weeks ago, Ambassador Macharia sent me pictures taken during a quiet handing over ceremony for the now restored St. Cuthbert’s Church. I was totally enthralled to see that my appeal for restoration of this historical site was not in vain, and I visited the church last Saturday in the company of Ambassador Macharia. The building has been treated to a complete makeover with fresh paint inside and outside. The structural cracks in the walls have been repaired as have the leaks in the roof while the floor is now finished in multi-coloured terrazzo. New hardwood paneled doors with modern locks and stained windows add a fresh look to the building while the chancel has been redone in brightly polished timber floorboards and new altar elements are in place, including a beautiful cross.

Modern lighting and switchgear feature on the inside and outside which, while they may be considered an anachronism, help to brighten the church. Although the roof is covered in corrugated asbestos sheets, which today are considered an environmental hazard, it was decided to leave them intact in order to preserve some of the dated features, giving the building an air of authenticity. The pews have been sanded down and treated to several gleaming coats of varnish.

The graveyard behind the church has been given a facelift and a white picket fence now marks the perimeter of the site. The newer sanctuary next door, which was built in 2004, was not left out and has received a complete refurbishment as well.

All this work has been carried out at the inspiration and expense of Ambassador Macharia. It has been a personal journey and he has deliberately avoided harambees because it is his hope to give back to the community through his family foundation “Redhill Philanthropy” whose key hallmarks are confidentiality and responsible giving.

Ambassador Macharia notes that many people have accumulated wealth with which they would like to contribute to good works in society, but they lack the time and the expertise to do so efficiently and responsibly. Creating a special purpose vehicle serves that desire.

His parents spent many years contributing and motivating people to build the new church at St. Cuthbert’s and the many offspring churches around Limuru. The pews were made using timber donated by his mother from their farm close by. Although the services were, by his own admission, torturously boring when he was a child, and even today he is not particularly religious, Ambassador Macharia took it upon himself to restore and refurbish the two sanctuaries because it was not about himself but, about giving back to the community.

This is a highly commendable initiative, a living example of how to be productive as we approach our sunset years, leaving behind a legacy that will be of benefit to the community.

As for me, it is always very satisfying when I see that my work has touched people in a special way and impacted on the larger community as this initiative has surely done. Perhaps the next step, as I had intimated in my earlier article, is to engage the National Museums of Kenya to have St. Cuthbert’s Church gazetted as a national monument, so that it is protected under the law.