Pioneer church celebrates anniversary

The VGK mass choir rendered a song.

The first church built in Mitchell’s Plain recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Long-time congregant and church council member Japie Saal recalls being involved in the construction of the Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk, (United Reformed Church), in Westridge, which hosted its anniversary celebrations at Parkhurst Primary School’s hall.

Around the time the church held its first service on Sunday July 22 1979, it had been was part of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde (NG) Sendingkerk from which it later broke away to start the Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk (VGK) which had “sub-churches” in Tafelsig, Lentegeur, Rocklands and Beacon Valley.

The establishment of these sub-churches resulted from a growth in the congregation and, said scribe and secretary, Ralph Carelse, were “the children of our church”.

There is, however, one main church council and big gatherings are held at the main church in Westridge.

The growth could, perhaps, be attributed to the work done by the late Isak Van Der Vyfer who died in 2014, and whose job, as church scout, had been to go door-to-door to collect people from their homes to gather at the church.

Part of the church’s mission is to contribute to its surrounding community, and to this end, it runs a soup kitchen for the people of Heinz Park.

“People would receive their pension at the post office, we would go out there every week and feed people,” said congregant Jennifer Carelse.

Reverend Johannes Wiese, from the Tafelsig sub-church, recalls that when he moved to Mitchell’s Plain in 1982, it was rough and they were battered by sand and wind, often having to cover their faces with a wet cloth to protect themselves from the harsh elements.

“We only had one youth (group), travelling to Lentegeur in 1979 to get to youth. As young theologians we were taught by people like (retired reverend Jan) Mettler. We made use of Parkhurst Primary School, where most of our services were held. The church was not done at the time,” he said.

Reverend Vincent Van Breda, who was part of the church’s youth committee in the 1980s, said: “There was tension and difficulties. It wasn’t always easy as the older folk had a different view of what young people should do in church and in the community, but we learned from this. Being a part of this community is a big deal to our church family, serving them and bringing them the word of God. May the next 40 years be even greater than before,” Mr Carelse added.

As the Plainsman celebrates its 40th anniversary, we’ll be highlighting the stories of people and places in Mitchell’s Plain who turn 40 this year. In addition to this, we’ll be publishing a souvenir edition in which we celebrate Mitchell’s Plain, it’s people and the Plainsman’s role in recording the history of this, at times troubled, but always vibrant and dynamic community.

We invite you to share those stories with us and stand the chance of winning a shopping voucher.

Businesses who would like to advertise in this special edition can contact Abba Bartlett at abba.bartlett@inl.co.za or 082 843 8153.

To share your story with us, send an email to simoneh.debruin@inl.co.za or call 021 488 4608.