Church celebrates 40th anniversary

The Mitchells Plain United Church choir.

Live with purpose, to serve God and the community.

This was the message from Reverend Rosemary Beukes of the Mitchell’s Plain United Church as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“We reflect and have a clear purpose as a church, in Westridge, as to how do we make sense of this calling as a human being,” she said.

Ms Beukes, who was ordained at the church in May 2017, said they acknowledge the social ills of substance abuse, violence and admit to the challenges of unemployment, lack of education, the need for equal opportunities and proper medical care.

“But amid all of this, there is hope and we have to commit ourselves to the embodiment of Christ to God,” she said.

She said it was a privilege to share in the community’s most vulnerable moments but it also humbled her to be part of their pain and mourn with them, when loved ones died.

“I am able to be there for baptism, confirmation, sickness, old age and funerals,” she said.

Ms Beukes said while the church had various projects, including distributing monthly food parcels, prayer meetings, their Women’s Fellowship, a spiritual dance group, youth gatherings and bible study groups, there were individuals from the church who rendered their services to the community through their work.

These would include police officers, nurses, caregivers and teachers and those who volunteer their help.

“The church is not for itself – it is for the broader community. It is up to each individual to be of service, not just within the walls of the church but also outside. During the week you live your worship,” she said.

It is her hope that the community will be inspired to learn how to fish and not live off handouts.

“Amid all the challenges, you have this core of a believer, who has a child on tik or an alcoholic husband – to know that God sees all of this,” she said.

“It is important to believe at a time such as this.”

Ms Beukes said since the church’s inception, there had been challenges, different to today’s, and that the struggle continued.

“We need to make the church service relevant and make sure we apply it to our daily lives,” she said.

Life Deacon Jacobus Paige, from Rocklands, said the church was not yet built when he moved in with his wife and five children. Their sixth child was born in Mitchell’s Plain.

Life Elder Walter Sylvester, 73, who is the only survivor of the founding four deacons of the church, said they were tasked with expanding the church to Strandfontein, where they have been ministering in a classroom at Strandfontein High School for 36 years.

Formerly from the Presbyterian Church in Bridgetown, Mr Sylvester, his wife and two daughters moved to Strandfontein close to 40 years ago.

“My daughters were confirmed in the classroom. Their baptism was there and it was a place of prayer,” he said.

As a confirmation teacher Mr Sylvester said he was blessed to have served the Lord as a young person and still going as an elder.

Life Deacon Jan Erasmus, 88, and his family moved from Gleemoor Congregational Church, where he was a deacon, and moved to Manenberg.

They paid tribute to their first church leader Reverend Wilfred Abrahams, who served the congregation for 36 years, since January 1979.

Mr Abrahams said the Peninsula Regional Council of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) and the Cape Town Presbytery of the then Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, agreed in light of the anticipated union of the two denominations, to establish a united congregation in Mitchell’s Plain in 1978.

He became the probationer minister on January 8 1979, to plant the congregation.

“I went from door to door in Mitchell’s Plain to seek and invite Congregationalists and Presbyterians, living here as well as others seeking a new spiritual home, to come and join the congregation,” he said.

He said the local churches of the region and the presbytery were supportive and also encouraged their members living in Mitchell’s Plain to join up with the new congregation. Weeks later, on January 28, the first service was held at the Van Der Berg residence, in Portland. They then moved to two classrooms at Ridgeville Primary School in Westridge on a Sunday; and a classroom during week evenings to conduct activities.

Mr Abrahams was officially installed by the region and the presbytery as the minister and the congregation was constituted on June 10 1979. Activities at the time included Sunday worship services, and the Sunday school, Youth Fellowship and the Women’s Fellowship organisations were started that same year.

“The congregation grew steadily and there was a spirit of anticipation for a church building to be erected,” he said.

They worked hard, fund-raising to have the church built and dedicated two years later on November 22 (1981).

“I came to Mitchell’s Plain as a bachelor and got married on June 27 that same year to my inspiring wife Rachel and with her dedicated support and that of my children, we laboured unstintingly in the pastoral ministry of the congregation,” he said.

With interest-free loans and support from the presbytery and the region they built the Westridge, and later, the Eastridge churches. As time progressed, more church organisations like the Gebedskring (prayer circle) gave guidance.

Reverend Abrahams said like any family, the church had its high and low moments. “By the grace of God, we could always maintain the unity which the Spirit gives, in our serving the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.

He recalled the late Reverend Lemmie Stalmeester, who became the minister of the UCCSA, and gave thanks to the many “prayer warriors”, who had gone on to higher service, their labour and love.

By January 2015 the congregation had 13 wards and more than 600 members.

Mr Abrahams thanked everyone who had made memorable contributions to the life and witness of the church. “I’ve learnt so much from the people of Mitchell’s Plain, who took me and my family into their hearts and homes; and to them I will remain eternally grateful,” he said.

After 36 years of full-time service, Mr Abrahams retired on January 31 2015.

For more information and to get involved with their celebrations, call the church secretary, Denise Magerman, on 078 217 7943.