ST PETER’S CATHEDRAL CHURCH, NYERI

It was on Sunday August 12, 1913 when the Church of England began to hold regular monthly Services in Nyeri, with the first preacher, the Rev B. Laight

The history of St Peter’s Cathedral Church Nyeri cannot be complete without a brief mention of, among many other things, Saint Peter himself; also the founding of the Anglican Church; the fellowship between the Church of Scotland and the Church of England; and building of the actual Cathedral Church, as we know it today.

SIMON PETER

Simon Peter was the second born son of Mr Jonas and Mrs Leah Jonas who lived in Bethsaida. He was named Simon or Simeon by his mother as a significance of an answered prayer from his parents, for the name “Simon” or “Simeon” means “to hear”. Peter’s elder brother was named Andrew. Both Simon and Andrew in their early lives took ‘fishing’ as their profession, which was their father’s apprenticeship.

Simon and his brother moved from their Bethsaida home to Carpernaum, a fast growing business town. Married and his wife’s mother living with them (Mark 1:29-30), he continued to ply his trade from there. The Lord Jesus also left Nazareth and dwelt in Carpernaum (Matt 4:12-16) on the shores of Lake Galilee, after hearing that John the Baptist was dead.

Education of Simon:

Unlike his elder brother Andrew, Simon did not receive formal Rabbinic education, The education he received was the one related to his trade, “fishing”. He learnt all the tricks and methods of preparing the fishing nets, and also the periods of the time of day when the big catch would likely be caught. Thus a favoured man in his trade as a fisher to be called to stop his trade and be taught to become a fisher of men.

His Call and Change of Name

Giving of new name by God is always noteworthy in scripture. As with Abram, Sarai, and Jacob, the new name incorporated something from the divine name and signified a new relationship with God, and new responsibility to God a new reflection of God.

Simon was introduced to the Lord Jesus by his brother Andrew. The Lord Jesus gave Simon the name Kephas. This is a Siro-Chaldaic word which when interpreted into Greek is Petros, (or PETER in English), meaning a “piece of rock”.

The Lord Jesus confirmed him as PETER when having asked “whom do men say that I the son man am? (Matt:16:13b), and hearing the rest of the disciples response called for the personal testimony or confession. It was Simon who answered for the all: Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God. Of which in return the Lord Jesus replied to him:

“And I say unto thee, that thou art PETER (Petros), and upon this rock (Petra = > i.e. Jesus) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall nor prevail against it” (Matt16:18).

ST PETER’S CATHEDRAL CHURCH

Founding

It was on Sunday August 12, 1913 when the Church of England began to hold regular monthly Services in Nyeri, and the first preacher was the Reverend B. Laight. The Church of Scotland had held their first Service one year before on Sunday ,November 6, 1912 when the Reverend James Youngson BD, from St Andrews preached the first sermon. Thereafter the services were held regularly every month, the Scottish one on the first Sunday of the month, and the Anglican on the third. The Services were held first in the old Court House, and later in the office of the senior or Provincial Commissioner. The latter building now still standing housing the offices of the Nyeri Police Prosecutor’s Offices and District Education Teacher’s Advisory Centre, is just across the road from the Cathedral Church.

In 1913 both churches were allocated sites in Nyeri Township by the Land Office on which they might build a church, but the outbreak of the First World War prevented any building from being erected. When the war was over a joint meeting was held of the members of both churches in 1919, to discuss the building of a church in the Township. Those present included, the Bishop of Mombasa (Bishop Heywood), the Revs Dr J.W. Arthur and H.J. Butcher, Dr Philip of Tûmûtûmû and Mr Tate, the Provincial Commissioner. After some discussion the meeting passed unanimously the following resolutions:-

1. That the population of Nyeri did not justify the erection of two churches.
2. That the Church of Scotland should proceed with the building of a church on their plot since they already had some money available.
3. That the Church of England should have the joint use of the church for five years.
4. That the members of the Church of England should be invited to subscribe towards the building of this church on the understanding that, should they desire it, their subscriptions would be refunded at the end of the five years to the Church of England Chaplaincy Fund to be used for the building of an Anglican Church.

The foundation stone of the new church, which was to be called St Columba’s Church was laid by the Very Rev J.N. Ogilvie, DD in 1920. Dr Ogilvie had come out to Kenya as the Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. For several years the building progressed no further than foundation stone. This was due to post war’s economic depression and to difficulties over labour.

Meantime, since the Church of England had not began to build on their plot by 1921, the Land Office withdrew its offer of a plot of land on which they could build a church.

In the year 1924 another joint church meeting was held. Plans for the new church were produced and it was estimated that the building would cost £450. It was hoped to begin building in June of the same year. Building began with the fund standing at £125. This money was soon expended and a new appeal was issued in 1925. This time the members of the Church of England felt that they could not help for they were planning the erection of a church, on Capt O’Hagan’s farm about five miles from Nyeri on the way to Nanyuki. Also they were looking forward to sharing the services of the new Thika Chaplain, the Rev W.A Pitts.

However, the plans for the new Anglican Church fell through and in 1926 the Church of England Committee decided to join the Church of Scotland Committee in completing the church building on the Church of Scotland plot. Their main condition was that the name of the church should be St Cuthbert’s Church on accordance with the wishes of Mrs Anderson of Leicester who had given most of the church furnishings which were to be used in the new Anglican Church, and which would now be used in the joint church.

The Scottish Committee readily agreed to the change of name and gladly welcomed the co-operation of the Anglican Committee. Building was resumed and was supervised by the Industrial Missionary at Tûmûtûmû, Mr Nicholson, with the help of the Public Works Department (PWD) Engineer. The masons were all African who had been trained at Tûmûtùmû.

The Church building was completed in 1927, and was jointly dedicated by the Bishop of Mombasa and then Moderator of the Church of Scotland in Kenya. An agreement was drawn up for half the cost of upkeep of the building and grounds, and in which the rights of both churches were safeguarded.

Since the completion of the now St Cuthbert’s Church various additions to its fabric and furnishings had been made. During 1948 the fabric of the church was strengthened and a small vestry added. The latest addition to the furniture was the provision of pews instead of the chairs, previously used. The pews were jointly dedicated by the Bishop of Mombasa, Bishop Leonard Beecher, and the Scots Chaplain, the Rev A.D Lamont, BD, on January 10, 1954.

For some years the Church of England have had a full time Chaplain for Mt Kenya Chaplaincy Area and he had been responsible for the Anglican Services in the church. The Scottish services have mainly been the responsibility of the members of the staff at the Tûmûtûmû Mission and the first full time Scottish Chaplain to work in this area, the Rev Denis Warnock was appointed since beginning of 1954.

For the next seven years, 1954-1961, the number of the Church of England congregation increased and demand for a church building continued to be sought. Several places associated with the Church were sought which included some institutions like Nyeri Primary School, before this ground was made available when the present Provincial General Hospital was relocated and was moved from here to its present bigger sight.

The plans were drawn afresh, approved and the construction of the vicarage and the church started and completed on schedule. The cost was borne by Parishioners and friends.

This Church was consecrated and Baptised Church of St Peter on Saturday 21st July 1962 by the Right Reverend Obadiah Kariûki, the Bishop of Fort Hall, one of the first two African Bishops in Kenya, the other being Rt Rev Festo Olang, and a tablet on the North wall near the entrance records this.

St Peter’s Church Furnishings

The money for the furnishings of the church was provided by many friends. A world-wide appeal was sent to all churches dedicated to St Peter, some 1400 letters being sent out which resulted in raising £1,000 from friends in many countries. Plaques with the names of the donors are attached to the pews.

When the new Anglican Church was built, the furniture belonging to the Anglicans was transferred and extra pews were given by the Presbyterians in memory of the many years of shared fellowship in St Cuthbert’s. The dark-coloured pews in the North Transept (the Chapel), the prayer desk in the sanctuary, the lectern (with eagle), and the dark seat in the South Transept, were all part of the furnishings of St Cuthbert’s Church which lies across the road and which was shared by Anglicans and Presbyterians for many years.

THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH

After the foundation stone was erected and dedicated, the Parish of St Peter was inaugurated and launched in February 1962, by the Bishop of Fort Hall, Rt Rev O. Kariûki. The boundaries were set. The inclusion of the Northern Chaplaincy which extension was, to the West bordering the Diocese of Nakuru, to the East bordering the Parish of Mûtiira, in the present Diocese of Kîrînyaga; to the North to go as far as beyond Dodol and to the border of Ethiopia, and North of Mount Kenya into Meru. To the South was Kagongo Parish. The aim of the Parish was to extend and reach the Good News of Jesus Christ and His services to the unreached.

Since the consecration of the St Peter’s Church on Saturday 21, July 1962, the Ministry of Jesus Christ expounded and the Word of God was preached in the new settlement farms among the farmers; to schools and institutions, like Kagumo College, Kagumo High School, Nyeri Primary School, Kiganjo Police College, GK King’ong’o Prison and Open air meetings in the suburbs of Nyeri Township among settled communities of Rûrîng’û, and Government homes at Ring Road known as Mount Kenya Residential areas.

At dawn of Kenya’s Independence, to be celebrated one year after St Peter’s Church was consecrated and the Nyeri Parish was launched, a lot of changes were experienced. For instance there were proposals by majority Parish Councillors to demolish this Church, and Nyeri Primary School because the majority European Settled parishioners had relocated and left the country, fearing that the structures would be of no use to ‘Christian Natives’, among many other proposals. The Bishop of Fort Hall, Rt Rev. Obadiah Kariûki defended all the institutions and property within his diocese, which included St Peter’s Church.

There were transitional changes in political atmosphere in Kenya. June 1, 1963 Kenya’s Self Rule Governnment , Madaraka Day, with minimal changes. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, leader of KANU Party which had majority members of Legislative Council, (Legi.Co.) in Kenya Parliament became the First Prime Minister. As Prime Minister he prepared Kenya for Independence Day December 12, 1963, which we celebrate after fifty years this month of December 2013 as Golden Jubilee, led by Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, the 4th President of the Republic of Kenya, son of the 1st President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

The KANU Government encouraged people to form Land Buying companies for the purpose of buying out the European Settled chunks of lands in Kenya. At the Resettlement Schemes of Mweiga and Naromoru, many Christians bought land and settled there.

1962 to 1993

The Diocese of Fort Hall, became Diocese of Mount Kenya, 1962 with Rt Rev Obadiah Kariûki as the first Bishop of the new diocese. The Diocesan Missionary Association (DMA) was formed.

The Church of St Peter was consecrated and the Parish of St Peter was inaugurated in 1962. Therefore the development of St Peter’s Church is development of the Diocese of Mount Kenya, and potentially it had the human resources and security to preach the gospel to Reach the Unreached.

Within 30 years, the Nyeri Parish grew rapidly. The population increased, and many Churches were built by parishioners near their settlement areas. The first Churches were: St John’s Kamuyu, Amboni Church in Mweiga, Emmanuel Church in Nanyuki Township, St Geoge,s Church within suburbs of Nanyuki, and St Philip’s Church in Naromoru. Many of these Churches grew congregations eventually becoming parishes: with Evangelists, Church Councils and Parish Ministers. More Mission work established congregations in Karatina, in Mathira District, Doldol in Laikipia County, and Endarasha in Kieni District.

Within this period many people who served in St Peter’s Church went for further training as priests at Weithaga Bible School, and St Paul’s United Theological College (today St Paul’s University), some others as evangelists and Captains trained at Church Army Institute, Jogoo Rd Nairobi. Some who came back served within DMA established areas of Karatina, Mweiga, Naromoru, and Doldol; while others served in many other parts of the Diocese of Mt Kenya. Some of these people were Capt Nguu, Capt J. Gatambo, Capt James Mugwimi, Capt. Julius Kimaru, Evangelist Jessee Waraki, Capt S. Wanjohi; among many others. Of these many went for further studies and became priests, and served at St Peter’s. The list of those who served in St Peter’s since 1960 to date can be found in the table within this history page.

In 1993, there were 31 established parishes and 14 trained clergy in the area which was the extent of the St Peter’s Parish by 1962. This area was the Northern Archdeaconry under the Diocese of Mount Kenya Central. The need for a diocese comprising the Northern Archdeaconry and its environs became evident. The Archbishop of Kenya appointed the then serving Archdeacon Ven Domenic Mûthoga Ndaî, his Commissary, to prepare the ground for the election an enthronement of a new Bishop. This was successfully done between January and June 1993. The Diocese of Mount Kenya West was curved out of Diocese of Mt Kenya Central, and the first Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt Rev Alfred Charles Chipman was consecrated and enthroned at St Peter’ Church on July 4, 1993, by Archbishop of Church Province of Kenya (CPK), the Most Rev Manasses Kuria DD. Bishop Alfred Chipman decided that his SEE and SEAT (Cathedra) would be at St Peter’s. Thus St Peter’s Church was elevated to St Peter’s Cathedral Church. The Bishop’s office recruited and welcomed clergy, new and retired ones to work with him in the diocese, particularly where there were Parishes with vacancies.

The Cathedral church of St Peter (or St Peter’s Cathedral Church) housed the Diocesan Offices, and the Diocese of Mount Kenya West operated from this centre. All Departments and Missions of the Diocese created and constituted had their offices, within the Cathedral’s infrastructure, which were well shared between the Cathedral and the Diocese and there were no conflict of interest whatsoever. The infrastructures include the Baden Powell Christian Community Centre (BPCCC), the Vicarage, staff houses within, and other facilities.

The St Peter’s Cathedral Church extended its DMA mission to Kabaru in Kieni, Ihururu and Nyeri Hill, Chaka and Kîganjo, Aguthi and Marwa areas to reach the parishioners and with one aim, establishing churches within their reach. There were also Education developments, where the Mother’s Union established and run a Nursery and Primary School. The Sunday Services were maintained and the three main services: English, Kiswahili and Gîkûyû, with accompanying children attending Sunday school, became popular and convenient among the Christians. The congregations increased in number and in some services, people would stand outside the church listening via audio public systems. The Youth Church attended their services in the BPCCC hall. The Cathedral Choir maintained the liturgical singing with organists playing hymns in all services. The thought of a bigger Cathedral was ripe and the Parish Council finally decided either to extend the existing church or build a new one. The decision was made to build a new one. The sight was surveyed and agreed upon, the plans were presented to the congregation and approved. The initial estimates were made and fundraising done in Cathedral, the foundation stone laid and the construction started in the year 2009. The new St Peter’s Cathedral Church is likely to be consecrated on schedule next year 2014.

It was in July 17, 2004, after an early retirement of Diocesan Bishop Alfred, that Ven Joseph M. Kagûnda was elected the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese of Mount Kenya West. The Rt Rev J.M. Kagûnda was consecrated and enthroned as the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese of Mount Kenya West at the Cathedral grounds, by the Most Rev Benjamin Nzimbi, the Archbishop of Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), on Sunday August 8, 2004.

With Bishop Joseph M Kagûnda, the Cathedral has progressed with experienced senior clergy posted to serve diligently the ever increasing complex congregations, and parishioners of all walks of life. Many people have changed their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ, and have become prosperous in their businesses and professions. The services offered within the Cathedral Parish includes: Sunday School, Home based fellowships, East African Brethrens Fellowship, Bible study groups, Choir, Ushering Ministry, Building Praise and Worship Teams, Christian Welfare, Youth Ministry, Mothers Union, KAMA, Health Facilities and seminars, DMA, Christian Community Services and Sports, and, School Education, among others.

Some Important International Landmarks

Within the Cathedral Parish boundaries lies the famous “Treetops” where the then Princess Elizabeth spent the night during which her father King George VI of England died and she became Queen of England. Royal consent was given for the tablet commemorating this to be placed on the South wall of the Cathedral near the door date as 6th February, 1952.

Outside the Cathedral Church is the Bell-Tower, containing a bell given by Lady Olave Baden-Powell in memory of her husband Lord Robert Baden-Powell, and consecrated in her presence by Bishop Obadiah Kariûki in January, 1963. Lord Baden-Powell, the Chief Scout of the World was a resident of Nyeri and he died in 1941, in his little cottage in the grounds of the Outspan Hotel. His grave with the simple tracking sign on the tombstone meaning “Gone Home” is in the adjoining Church Cemetery (burial ground) facing Mount Kenya, as he wished.

The Parish boundaries are widespread. Services are also given by visiting people in their homes, the sick in hospitals, especially Provincial General Hospital and Mount Kenya Hospital, among other health facilities. Spiritual Ministry is also offered at Nyeri Prison, at King’ong’o, Nyeri Primary and Secondary Schools, where weekly services and teaching periods are held; and also, the Kenya Police College Kîganjo, Kagumo College, Kagumo High School, and World Orgnizations of Scouts and Guides Movements, among others.

We welcome you to this Cathedral Church. Before you leave please offer a prayer for the ongoing witness of the Christians here, pray that this building will become a centre from which the Good News will spread in ever-widening circles.

CONCLUSION

Great Lessons did Simon Peter during the three years he was a disciple of Jesus Christ, which we can say are attributed to us who worship in this Cathedral. He learnt to trust, to unquestionably believe and to be practical in his faith. Through faith he caught a lot of fish (John 21:6, Luke 5:5-6); through faith he walked on the water (Matt 14:28-29); through unquestionable obedience to his master and teacher, he paid tax with money from a fish he was ordered to catch from Lake Galilee (Matt17:27).

Great privilege brings heavy responsibility, and Peter was given “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”(Matt 16:19) – Not the keys of heaven, but the responsibility to unlock the treasures of truth to all people in the world, and particularly you and I, that they might enter the obedience of faith that realm of heavenly rule, where Christ is Sovereign Lord.

AMEN.