The city of Ripon is certainly a far cry from the busy and sprawling Kenyan city of Nairobi – with its enviable temperatures and it’s amazing national park – home to big cats and White Rhino!
But both cities have at their heart a cathedral which holds a crucial position within the local community and within the country’s spiritual landscape.
St Stephen’s Cathedral hosts four Sunday services in Swahili and English – attracting congregations of between 700 and 1,000. It’s also the workplace of head verger Andrew Owino – who this week has swapped the sunnier climes of East Africa – for the slightly cooler North Yorkshire.
The father of two is spending the week here at Ripon Cathedral, discovering more about the duties and responsibilities of its vergers.
Andrew grew up in the countryside in a Christian family and began volunteering at St Stephen’s Cathedral when he left school. When the existing head verger retired Andrew was offered the job. For him it was everything he had ever hoped for: “Working in the church and making sure that everything goes well within it was like a dream come true for me. It’s something I love doing. Even when I was a child it had been my passion to be in church; I tend to find comfort in the church.”
Andrew spent a week at Bradford Cathedral before coming to Ripon. This is his first time outside his native Kenya where he lives with his wife Naomi and two sons, Marques, 5, and Lane, 11 months. When he returns he hopes to pass on what he has learnt to those who carry out the tasks of vergers in the parishes of his diocese.
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “It is a joy to have Andrew join us at Ripon Cathedral this week. He brings with him his experience of the church in a different part of the world-wide Anglican Communion. As well as revealing how much vergers in different parts of the globe have in common, Andrew’s visit reminds us that the bonds of Christian faith can transcend the boundaries of geography and culture.”
Of his time at Ripon Cathedral Andrew added: “It’s a great place with a rich history. I like the building very much. I posted a picture of it on-line and my friends back home said ‘Wow!’ They can’t imagine how lovely the structure actually is. I have found it a very prayerful place, with its several daily services and prayers throughout the day.”