Church ushers in a new dawn

This month the Moravian Church in Silversands Avenue, Westridge celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Reverend Nicholas Edson, who has been at the helm of the church since June 2015, said it had opened its doors on June 15 1977 with a congregation comprising five households.

Globally the Moravian church is more than 560 years old and 280 years old in South Africa.

“Many of our early parishioners came from District Six and Steenberg and our first reverend was Martin Wessels,” he said.

Today the church stands as a bastion of hope in a community afflicted with socio-economic ills and unemployment.

“Our congregation consists
of 700 people who have been
confirmed and our Sunday school caters for close to 200 youth,” said Reverend Edson, himself a “product of the church” – he joined
its Sunday school when he was 16 years old.

“I was born in Elsies River, where I attended the Moravian Church. My decision to pursue a career in theology stemmed from my inspiring interactions with the late Reverend John Swartz.

“He was a committed servant of the Lord and his leadership style was one of the many reasons why I decided to walk down this path,” he said.

After matriculating from Rocklands High School, he joined various community organisations and served as the treasurer on the church council.

“I ran youth development initiatives and also became very involved with anti-apartheid activism along with Chris Nissen (former Western Cape ANC chairman).”

Church council chairman Jacobus Cornelius, who has been on the board since 1983, described how the church had grown over the past four decades.

“Back then, we had people from various denominations and faiths attending the church. Irrespective of religion, we all had the same values and goals. Apartheid brought us together and we were very close-knit.”

Mr Cornelius said times had, however, changed and single-
parented households, unemployment, child murders and drug abuse now tore at the fibre of the community.

“Many of the original members of the church have moved out of the area, and that sense of community we once had has became somewhat fractured.

“I definitely notice the decay of the moral and value systems in our society today,” he said.

The church does a number of outreach projects in the community, running clothing drives, donating blankets to a charity in Khayelitsha and delivering food parcels to the needy.

Reverend Edson said widespread greed was one of the obstacles interfering with spirituality.

“I notice people are yearning more for material possessions, and they care less about their spirituality. When is enough, enough? Prayer is the only weapon we can use against this. There is a lack of ubuntu in our communities as a result of apathy.”

One of Christianity’s tenets – that of carrying each other’s burdens – was being lost, he warned.

Vice chairman of the church council Gabriel Cupido of Lentegeur said people needed to reach out to their neighbours.

“We need to lighten the burden of our fellow man. When someone knocks at my door, I never turn them away as I live to serve and aim to build reciprocal relationships with people in my community.”

Reverend Edson said the Moravian congregation’s core belief was that of Jesus as both shepherd and sacrificial lamb.

“My philosophy is very simple: I am to be a caring and loving person to all.

“I accept people for whom and what they are. I believe all humans have the same status despite economic or social hierarchy dictated to us by society. Jesus did not look at people’s status; he showed humanity to all.”

The church hosted an “ounag” prayer vigil on Wednesday June 14 to celebrate the milestone.