Six Police Squad cars including a dog unit rushed to the troubled All Saints Quincy Kenyan community church Sunday when a worried Reverend Fredrick Thanji and close lieutenants called to say that the service had been taken over by “chaotic members”.
Trouble started early morning when the two sides locked in a bitter dispute revolving selection of a successor pastor, contents of a new revamped Church Constitution, composition of the Church Council members as well as property worth over $1.5 million arrived for the first Sunday service following the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the pastor at the Norfolk Superior Judge.
Both sides of the dispute appeared energized with the ruling they each saw as a win, with the pastor and his supporters upbeat that the case was dismissed, while the suing group was super charged that the judge warned the pastor against denying them the chance to pursue their grievances though the church channels laid out in the disputed 2012 Constitution that the pastor claimed is in control. As a result, both sides came early around 10.30am prepared to pursue their agendas, although different, in a service that was planned to be short to allow the church to proceed to an annual Music competition held by a group of Kenyan community churches in the region taking place in Lowell.
However, as Reverend Thanji and his group assembled into the church office to put on the priest’s robes and prepared to start the service, close to 40 members that brought the dismissed suit packed the sanctuary and started on a spirited Praise and Worship session, several members told Ajabu Media that was camped near the gate outside the church.
Around 11am, sources said, an elderly woman shifted the worshipers from the praise and worship into a prayer session that lasted several minutes, prompting the pastor to appear beside her and nudge her to cut end the prayers so the official service could start.However, the elderly lady did not budge as other members continued to prayer alongside her, urging God to intervene and save the church from falling into deeper crisis.
Efforts by the pastor and church secretary, George Gichimu to shut off the sound system so the prayers could end fell flat as they soon realized the opposing group was using an alternative, portable sound system that included a powerful speaker, microphone and a fully charged amplifier.
Sources told Ajabu media the move was a creative problem solving maneuver to circumvent the pastor’s group that had previously been preventing them from addressing the church using the main church sound system.
When it became clear that they would not stop their prayers and worship, the pastor and his assistants retreated back it not he office where they proceeded to call the Quincy Police department.” I heard Gichimu yell at the pastor frantically that “they have hijacked the service, they have hijacked the service”, then they went back into the office and called the police,”‘ one parishioner told Ajabu News.
Moments later, two Quincy Police department troopers appeared in two squad cars, one of which was carrying police dogs, apparently in readiness to quell “chaos” as reported.
Two officers rushed into the church where Rev. Thanji, who was spotted seen waiting for them anxiously, opened the door and welcomed them inside.
Less than ten minutes later, four more police cars pulled in outside the church as backup, with officers rushing inside the church where they got holed up for the next one hour in deep conversations with the pastor, parishioners and even children present.
Occasionally, a few police officers would step outside the sanctuary door with members from both sides of the dispute to talk about the problem away from the general congregation, and then would get back in for further consultations.
Ajabu Media Reporter camped outside the gate overheard the police demanding to know who owns the church and who was in the deed documents.
John Bret Giath, one of the one of the leaders of the members demanding change at the church, together with Jacob Thuo and Peter Njoroge engaged the police in a conversation, telling them that the church was owned by the membership and not one person.
They were further heard telling the police that a case that they had filed at the court against the pastor was dismissed, but threat the judge asked both sides to go back to the church and resolve the grievances there, but the pastor was refusing to give them a chance to be heard.
The group handed the police a copy of the dismissal orders, upon which the police seemed to agree with them after perusing through Judge Jeffery Locke’s notes on page 11 of the 12 page judgement.
After more than an hour of observations where they were satisfied that there was no chaos in the church as presented on the 911 call, 4 police officers left the church, but left two outside on guard just as a precaution until the service ended.”It is as peaceful as i have ever seen.Absolutely no chaos,” a police officer leaving the church told the Ajabu media reporter who sought to know how things looked inside the church where access was restricted.
Sources said that the opposing group continued to hold a one hour service on their own as the pastor refused to heed advice from his own supporters that they hold immediate talks with the opposing group in an effort to find a compromise that would restore normal order of business.
The pastors group then eventually left the church for the music festivals, with the opposing group continuing with the service uninterrupted until around 1.30pm.
Finding no other need to hang around anymore, the last two police officers also left the vicinity.
Moments later, Rev. Thanji’s defense attorney, Stephen McLaughlin rushed into the church, after he was apparently summoned by the pastor and his group.
Before they left, the opposing group members ordered Pizzas as lunch for a horde of children that was promptly dropped off by a driver from Quincy House of Pizza.
PS: We have been nominated by Kenyans in Diaspora as among the best in telling the Diaspora story in the DEAR DIASPORA AWARDS. Please vote for Mukurima Muriuki in “Best Blogger” category HERE