Church celebrates 40 years of faithful service

The Parish of Christ the Mediator clergy, Reverend Ashley Ceylon, Reverend Desiree Jackson and Rector Reverend Dean Apples, with the Bishop of the Diocese of False Bay, the Right Reverend Margaret Vertue, second from left.

The church by the station celebrates 40 years of faithful mission. service and ministry in Portland.

On April 11 1981, about 50 congregants of the Parish of Christ the Mediator laid their foundation stone, in Wall Street, Portland.

Today while the parish has 1 800 registered members, only 109 guests were allowed to attend the 40th anniversary service inside the church due to national Covid-19 lockdown regulations on Sunday April 11.

To accommodate regular church attendees the parish had a service on Saturday April 10.

Special guests included Bishop of the Diocese of False Bay, the Right Reverend Margaret Vertue, who brought greetings and congratulations from the Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, former rectors and representatives from each organisation, as each prayer group.

Bishop Vertue explained to those joining the service virtually that Mitchell’s Plain is one of the largest townships in South Africa and that it was conceived as a “model suburb” by the apartheid government.

“It was built during the 1970s to provide housing for ‘coloured’ victims of forced removals due to the implementation of the Group Areas Act,” she said.

Mitchell’s Plain churches at the time experienced the harshness of the apartheid regime, the death of people in detention, the outbreak of persecution and being detained.

“Christ the Mediator parishioners here in Portland, Mitchell’s Plain, are familiar with these experiences, yet 40 years later we stand firm, we preach the word of God freely. Our faith is not shaken,” she said.

Bishop Vertue said society could no longer work in silos, especially not during the pandemic.

She asked: “Are we pooling resources? Are we talking to each other? Are we sponsoring hand sanitiser and masks for those who don’t even have the money to buy bread?”

She said the coronavirus was so infectious. “Is our Christian witness infectious? Drawing people to Christ like a magnet?” she asked.

Bishop Vertue encouraged Mitchell’s Plain churches to start “Let’s talk” groups about the virus and its effects to be among the first and to further bereavement support groups in the diocese.

“I continue to encourage the men in our parishes to host men’s webinars as a ‘Let’s talk’ group. Men cannot keep silent about gender-based violence and abusive patriarchy,” she said.

Mitchell’s Plain Anglican Archdeacon, Reverend Ruth Swartz, said as people began to settle in Mitchell’s Plain at a painful time of relocating, from areas across the city, gathering for worship was uppermost in their minds.

“Small spirit-filled gatherings in homes, then later in schools, community halls and eventually this church building are the powerful testimony of people, who always trusted God, irrespective of their circumstances,” she said.

Archdeacon Swartz encouraged parishioners to reach out, recognise, engage with each other and involve the people of God in the church, as they journey towards their eternal home.

Geraldine February, a member of the church’s 40th anniversary committee, said with the relocation of people to Mitchell’s Plain it was a necessity to establish the Anglican church.

The parish started as a chapelry under the auspices of Christ the Redeemer, in Westridge, with Rector Reverend Peter Hipkin.

Prayer meetings and holy communion were done at parishioners’ homes, while Sunday services were held at Portland High School, then at Portland community centre in 1979, initially attended by 50 worshippers.

Church founding members and parishioners, Kathy Caesar and her husband Joseph, from Portland. Ms Caesar was one of the first members of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship and Mr Caesar was a member of the first parish council, started the brigade and was a lay minister.

Ms February said it was a historic day for that first service, which was conducted by the then Suffragan Bishop of Cape Town, the Right Reverend Patrick Matolengwe.

“We are fondly called ‘die kerk by die stasie’ and the name Church Christ the Mediator, was chosen by the chapelry council,” she said.

The Portland parish had given birth to Christ the Saviour, in Lentegeur, and Christ the Reconciler, in Tafelsig, which branched off as chapelries and later became parishes.

Their present chapelry is Christ the Good Shepherd, in Eastridge.

Due to the size of the parish, a number of priests served their curacy here and for many years it was a training parish for deacons.

“A number of renovations were done to the buildings,” she said.

Ms February said they built a hall to accommodate the increase of parishioners and they have a garden of remembrance for the internment of ashes.

She said during the level 5 lockdown restrictions the church continue to reach its parishioners via video links, voice notes and regular communication on the various social media platforms.

“Even though churches could reopen for in-person services, the restrictions on capacity has resulted in us continuing with live-streaming of our services, which has proved effective in reaching everyone, within and outside of our parish.

“We were very thankful that during the season of Lent and over Easter , we could journey with our people by in-person worship,” she said.

The church established a Covid-19 team, ensuring all protocols are adhered to, including the wearing of masks, sanitising, physical distancing and keeping all people safe.

Parish rector, Reverend Dean Apples, said despite lockdown restrictions, the church has continued to be a beacon of hope to the people of the community.

“While many of our parishioners face joblessness, have been retrenched, families have been affected by bereavement, ministry and support were given telephonically,” he said.

At their annual All Souls Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, in November, families were invited to join in remembering those who had died.

He said last year was especially difficult as funerals were restricted to 50 people.

“Services of comfort could not be held, so families could find closure and healing at such a service by bringing along a photograph of their loved ones and some flowers as we lit candles in their memory,” he said.

Over the years social responsibilities at the parish included soup kitchens in Eastridge and Beacon Valley.

They deliver food parcels to families in need; had a pyjama drive in winter where items were delivered to the Beaconvale community frail care centre, including toiletries and Easter eggs; delivering Santa Shoeboxes to cancer patients at Tygerberg Hospital, Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital’s paediatric ward as well as orphanages in the area.

On World Premature Day gifts were also delivered to the local district hospital.

Reverend Apples said these services were possible due to the support and financing of parishioners.

Their Anglican Women’s Fellowship also supports a ward they adopted over the years at Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital.

He said Bishop Vertue brought good wishes and prayers from the Chapter and the Diocese; and blessed their new pulpit, altar furnishings and requisites.