The newly re-branded Kenyan American Pastors Association (KAPA) recently elected Rev. Dr. Joseph Kimatu as the new chairman in a move that is expected to improve the relations between the embattled pastor’s organization and a section of the Kenyan community in New England.
Rev. Dr. Kimatu, the pastor of the Tumaini Community Church based in Springfield was elected along side Rev. Samuel Kimuhu of the Saint Stephens church in Lowell as the new Treasurer and Rev. John Wachira of the Christ is the Answer Church in North Chelmsford was elected as the new Vice Chairman.
Before the recent elections, Dr. Kimatu was serving as the Vice Chairman of the organization.
The officials were elected during a meeting held at the Grace International church in Lowell on Sunday July 17, 2011.
The two will serve for the next two year term according to the rules and regulations at the pastor’s organization.
However, another election will be held prior to the expiration of the two year term to elect the other office bearers whose terms do not go concurrent with the chairman and vice chairman.
The posts that will be up for the next elections include the Secretary, currently held by Rev. Peter Kiama of Saint Johns Anglican church in Worcester, and the Vice Secretary, currently held by Rev. Carl-Philip Kihato of the ANTOR church in Rockland.
The pastor’s organization that comprises about 30 pastors from several Kenyan community churches in New England has been under sharp criticism recently for failing to effectively address some serious needs of the rapidly growing community while putting undue emphasis on national celebrations meetings that many concur is not a domain of the clergy.
Rev. Dr. Joseph Kimatu, the new KAPA chairman
Among the serious problems that has dogged the organization for the last one year were turning a turning a blind eye to charges of alleged sexual abuse by one of the organization’s member against a girl in his church, and public wrangle with the then newly created Ambassador’s Council (Now Kenyan Diaspora Advisory Council), led by another Kenyan pastor, pastor Joshua Wambua who organized a parallel Jamhuri Day celebrations in Boston while the pastor’s organization held their’s in Lowell.
During the same Jamhuri day celebrations, the pastor’s organization launched a community life insurance program where they asked Kenyans to sign up to become members of the National Association of Small Employers (NASE) which would allow them to get a term life insurance product at a significantly higher price than would ordinarily cost on the open market.
The insurance program failed to pick up steam amid complaints that the pastor’s organization did not seriously and effectively engage many Kenyans in New England who are licensed insurance agents in the negotiations with NASE which resulted in their picking of the wrong product for a burial fund-raising weary community.
Sensing that the community was not buying into the NASE program, the pastors abandoned the idea mid-stream.
Making matters worse for the organization, three Kenyan pastors who were all members of the organization were banned from attending a community Easter Prayer meeting that was to take place at the Saint Stephens church in Lowell where they used to serve prior to their dismissal on uncertain grounds.
The spate caused an outcry among Kenyans in Boston with many calling for the formation of a separate organization that would take care of the community’s civic issues in the community where all and sundry would be welcome irrespective of their religious, social or political background.
It was shortly after this that Kenyans in New England formed the New England Kenyans Association to serve the envisioned role of a united civic body for the community.
Indicating their seriousness on the issue, hundreds of Kenyans in New England turned up on the 2012 Madaraka Day celebrations to lend support to newly formed NEKA.
Supporting the move by the Kenyan community, Dr. Kimatu provided access to donations to help out with the logistics of the successful event.
However, during an interview with Ajabu Media, the newly elected chairman of the pastors Association, Rev. Dr. Kimatu was hopeful of turning the tide and bridging the gap of misunderstanding between pastors aligned to the pastor’s association on one hand, and those who are not members of the organization, as well as the wider community.
He said that everyone in the community was tired of fighting and that all should start afresh on finding ways to work together as one community where everyone needs the other.
Rev. John Wachira, new vice chairman
“Who is not tired of these fights?” Dr. Kimatu asked. “Those who are not tired can continue fighting but I think most people are ready to start finding common ground to solve our issues.insp;
I think we can do this in a bipartisan fashion”, he added, paving the way for constructive discussions with other community organization like NEKA , the Diaspora Advisory Council and others that have true community interests at heart.
Responding to the issues that have divided the community and churches in the recent past, Dr. Kimatu said that the lack of response from the Kenyan Pastor’s Fellowship was probably because no one had an experience in handling some of the serious issues like the alleged sex abuse saga in the church.
“Some of these issues are new to us. We did not know how to respond since our community is still new here in America. We do not have any structures developed so we were ill equipped to respond to such issues as they arose”, said Dr. Kimatu.
However, he hope that as the Community develops structures will be put into place to help respond effectively to many issues
He also said that he would be open to having the pastor’s organization consult with other individuals and organizations that have the interests of the Kenyan community at heart to figure out a workable solution to the burial fund raising problem.
He said that it would be easy to solve the problem if all Kenyans in the region took seriously the problems of other communities that are far from their cities, and if everyone else takes away self interest from the table.
“Right now, people have the idea that the problems that the people of Lowell should take care of the problems that occur in Lowell only and the people in Springfield the same”, said the man of God.
“We also have a problem where some people want to create their own Kingdoms and they do not want to listen to other ideas from other people. If we all refrain form that thinking, I think we can solve our problems and have a more functional Kenyan community in this region. I am very hopeful we can do this”, he added.
Rev. Samuel Kimohu, new treasuer
Dr. Kimatu has a long history as a leader dating back from the days when he was a teacher in Kenya.
Kimatu went to Gatunyu Primary School, Kirwara High School and later joined Kamwenja Teachers’ College where he excelled as a Science/Mathematics teacher. He later taught at four different schools in central Kenya until 1989 when he joined the Presbyterian Pastoral Institute – Kikuyu, under the auspices of St. Paul’s United Theological College – Limuru, now the Presbyterian University of East Africa.
He graduated three years later with a Diploma in Theology and was consequently licensed by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and ordained by the same as a minister of the Word of God on May 22, 1993.
He then served in one of the parishes in Nyeri district, after which then moved to minister at the Gatundu Presbytery in Central Kenya, before joining Thika Presbytery where he was clerk and moderator successively, also in central Province of Kenya.
Kimatu said that it was in 2001 that his church sent him to Atlanta, Georgia as a student of Johnson C. Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center under a Presbyterian Church (USA) scholarship, where he graduated in 2006 with two Masters: Master of Divinity (M.DIV) with a concentration in Psychology of Religion, Pastoral Care & Counseling, and Master of Arts in Church Music (MACM).
“In the course of my studies, I enrolled in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) and did internship as well as Residency with two CPE agencies (Emory Pastoral Care and Counseling System and Georgia Association of Care and Counseling Center). I have 5 units of CPE to my credit,” said the Pastor during an interview lat year with Ajabu Media.
Rev. Kimatu said that at the turn of 2006, before graduating from ITC, he enrolled for the Doctor of Ministry program at Erskine Theological Seminary, South Carolina, where he graduated on graduated on May 15, 2010 after four-year Doctoral studies.
According to Dr. Kimatu, his biggest priority is to be able to cultivate the unity of Kenyans in New England for the proper propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many observers who are aware of the results of the new elections believe that Dr. Kimatu’s promotion from the vice chairman to the chairman of the Kenyan American Pastor’s Association together with the rest of the team in office will greatly serve as a powerful bridge of healing a divided community and lead to a rapid construction after years of discord and deconstruction.