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Brief introduction on the founding of the Orthodox Church in Kenya

No historian can write the history of the Orthodox Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya without tracing historical and missiological foundation of the Orthodox Church in Kenya.

The history of the Orthodox Church in Nyeri goes way back to the days of Archbishop Daniel Alexander’s arrival in Kenya. Following his arrival, three important mission centers were established; in Kiambu (who called themselves Karing’a), Nyeri and Murang’a (organized themselves as independent churches and schools) respectively in 1930s. In this three mission centres there were people who were ready after catechism for baptism but nobody could baptize them. Bishop Alexander arrived from South Africa after receiving ksh. 1000 as transport that was sent to him from Kenya. He was received by James Mbiuta in Mombasa in 1935 and later on James Mbiuta shared the good news of the arrival of a Bishop with the following founders of the Independent church formation; Johanna Kunyi, Tirus Muchiri and Stephen Muturi all deceased.

When Archbishop Daniel Alexander arrived at Mukarara in Murang’a where it became independent centre for Seminary, he called all church leaders and told them; “ I will teach and ordain you as orthodox clergy and the church shall be called Orthodox.” This message was very powerful and it was what they were waiting for. Eight candidates showed up and agreed to undergo catechism. Among the first group to be taught were those who became the first to be ordained into priesthood toward the end of 1936. These were; Fr. Philip Kiande from Nyeri, Arthur Gathuna from Kiambu, Nathaniel Miano from Kirinyaga and Joseph Wachira from Othaya among others. This was the beginning of a great mission and commission by Archbishop Daniel Alexander. He travelled everywhere, teaching and Catechizing them for almost two years and made them readers in 1936. Within the same period of time, Philip Kiande and Gathuna were ordained as deacons of the Orthodox Church while Harrison and Wachira became readers.

Before the end of1936, both; Harrison and Wachira were ordained deacons and in 1937 both Deacons Kiande and Gathuna were ordained as priests and were instructed to serve the church of Kenya. Father Athur Gathuna was made to be in charge of the churches from Thika to Mombasa, while Fr. Philip Kiande was in charge of churches from Thika to the borders of Ethiopia. Deacon Harrison served as Father GAthuna’s deacon while David Maina Wachira served as a deacon for father Philip Kiande. The four ordained clergy were enough to continue the mission work that had started. By the end of 1937, Archbishop Alexander returned back to South Africa.

After the return of Archbishop Alexander, small misunderstandings arose as per the quest on what name they were going to name the church they had founded in Kenya because others were ordained as Independent orthodox especially those from Nyeri, and those from Kiambu remained as Karing’a. Meetings were held in Waithaga-Nairobi and the others met in Karithi in Nyeri for the main purpose of establishing the name of the church. While those who were meeting in Nyeri were in progress, a bird flew over their heads and they believed that it was the revelation of the Holy Spirit that the church should remain as Independent African Pentecostal Church of East Africa (IAPCEA). However, Kiambu under Fr. Arthur Gathuna remained as Karing’a. In that mutual understanding, the priests didn’t have so many people, they worked hard together without any conflicts to find people and unite them to the church they had found from 1937 onwards. Both had two centres for their mission that is; St. Luke Kihuti Orthodox Church under Fr. Philip, and Waithaka/Dagoretti parish under Fr. Arthur. St. Luke during the time of Fr. Philip was called All Saints. In that same spirit of unity toward spreading the gospel, Fr. Arthur Gathuna among others from Uganda wrote to the Patriarchate of Alexandria asking for canonical recognition under their (omorphorion) or shepherdship.


The Orthodox Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya was established in November 2015 by the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa. His Grace Bishop Neofitos Kong’ai was unanimously elected by the Holy Synod as the first bishop of the Diocese. The diocese has an approximate area of about 50,250 square miles and is comprised of forty-seven parishes that are served by thirty (30) priests. The diocese covers the area of Central Kenya, Eastern, North Eastern and some areas in Rift valley. These areas have been divided into Deaneries namely; Nyeri Deanery, Laikipia Deanery, Nyahururu Deanery, Embu Deanery and Meru Deanery respectfully. They surround Mt. Kenya, the highest mountain in the country.

There are diverse people in the diocese with different cultures and traditions but all live together in harmony creating room for spreading the gospel of Christ.

Mission and Vision

The Orthodox Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya is a true church that is ;One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic in nature. It is Christ centered and preaches Christ Incarnate, born, crucified, buried and resurrected on the third day. Our Church, our Diocese historical dating back to 33AD and it is deeply rooted in the doctrines, Scripture, Traditions and the teachings of the Church Fathers. Each Bishop as the hierarch of the church has historical connections with the apostles all the way to Christ Himself. Our apostolic succession has remained inviolate to this day. Our mission is to spread the gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth, to places where it has not been heard people so that people may come to Christ and baptized in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:16-20) observing and holding together all the things that Christ taught.

Development: Progress and achievements since the inception of the diocese

The Diocese of Nyeri and Mt. Kenya has gone through tremendous growth and development in all aspects from its inception ranging from economic, spiritual, physical and social growth. Some of the accomplished projects include:

  1. The Chancery and Diocese Spiritual Center: This building caters for all the spiritual needs of the diocese; the priests, laity and the community surrounding it. This spiritual center is where the administration offices and all the records are kept. It is located at the center of the diocese to allow the accessibility from every side of the diocese. This center is also convenient because this where we have enough space for establishment of diocese offices and other institutions and projects.
  2. The Convent: This is a building next to the diocese center. This was built by funds or donations from our brothers and sisters in the United States of America through our brothers and sisters. This convenient could not have been started and completed without the effort of mother Johanna who labored looking for all the resources that were needed. After its completion the convent will serve as our spiritual hub for our monastic nuns in order to attend to their spiritual needs and those of the diocese as well.
  3. St. Anthony Girls Orthodox High School: The school was started in January 2020, in order to cater for the educational needs of the girls in the diocese and beyond. We were able to admit our first students February, 2020 and 31 girls were admitted into form one. The school was transformed from the previous St. Antony Day and Mixed secondary school which was not progressing well due to various infrastructural challenges in terms of management and academic excellence. It is anticipated that in the next four years the school will have about 180-260 students. Most of the students studying in the school are sponsored by the church.
  4. Motorbike project: This was the first mission that the diocese embarked on immediately when the His Grace Bishop Neofitos was enthroned in May 2016 as the first Hierarch of the diocese. Almost 95% of the clergy were issued with motorbikes to help facilitate their pastoral duties.
  5. Farming: The diocese has embarked in agricultural investment whereby it has bought five acres of land in Laikipia through the help of financial support from the church of Finland and Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) in the United States. The land is for growing maize and other food crops for substantive food production. Other farming activities are also being practiced at the diocese center like dairy keeping, poultry, bee keeping for papadhias and maize farming.
  6. Projects: The diocese has projects for women. We focused first on women because of their immediate need and interest. Now the women are doing table banking, giving loans amongst themselves to promote their small scale and large businesses.
  7. Establishment and Construction of new churches: New communities have been established and some churches under construction completed and consecrated. The Church of Saint Katherine and Virgin Mary in Kaluli-Meru has been completed and consecrated. The other semi- permanent churches that have been completed are; Saint Moses and Nektarios at Gatitu, Nyeri, St. Dionysios Orthodox Church at Naibor, Nanyuki, Saint Anne Orthodox Church in Meru Town, St. Mark Orthodox Church at Gatuanyaga, Embu, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church at Githima in Laikipia and archangel Michael at Ngamongo, Nyahururu. Other new communities include: St. Nektarios in Thika.
  8. Established Institutions and orphanages We have the following institutions in our Diocese; St. John Orthodox Secondary School, Ngoru Orthodox Secondary School, Lobere Orthodox Primary School, St. Anthony Orthodox Girls Secondary School, St. John academy and orphanage, St. Nina Orthodox mission centre and St. Makarios primary school and orphanage.

198 West 21th Street, Suite 721 Kenya Nyeri 10016