Shekinah Church honours pioneers

Shekinah Full Gospel Church when it started out a the tent in the 1980s.

Shekinah Full Gospel Church celebrates its 40th anniversary this week, honouring those who’ve pioneered, planted, and played an important role in the history of the church.

Started in the Woodlands home of founder Edwin Edson, the church later relocated to Woodville Primary in Woodlands at which time it was called Blessed Hope Tabernacle.

In 1994, the church building was built in Beacon Valley.

Over the years its name was changed to Shekinah Tabernacle Full Gospel Church, then Shekinah City Life Centre and today it is known as Shekinah Full Gospel Church of God.

Congregant Carmelita Witbooi said when they started attending the church in 1985, it had been housed in a tent that moved over most of Tafelsig, Eastridge, Lentegeur and Beacon Valley.

“As the tent moved, so the church grew until finally the tent became established on the premises the building stands on today.”

She remembers as a child, that the male congregants would work at the building site in the evenings and over the weekend, while the women would ensure continuous supply of sandwiches and food.

Church members were encouraged to contribute to the building fund by giving the exact amount of what a brick or a chair would cost.

Pastor Dean Carelse described their founder as a “groundbreaking innovator and pioneer”.

“We acknowledge the pioneering efforts of Pastor Eddie Edson and Sister Helvetia Edson, his wife. Pastor Eddie did church ministry outside the box.

“He was unconventional, improvising with tent campaigns while Shekinah didn’t have grounds to build its sanctuary.”

They believed that they shouldn’t just preach the gospel but live it out in real ways.

Whether it was the feeding of the poor, helping families with groceries and money for bus fare to get to work or an interview, said Mr Carelse.

However, he added: “Not everything that we did succeeded but the church always rallied together to improve its service offering to the community.”

As the church grew, the needs of the community changed. More and more social ills became prominent and required the church to think innovatively. Shekinah initiated a night school to allow adults and early school leavers to finish their matric certificates.

“The church, though eager, made some critical errors. We were not adequately equipped with the skills to engage and equip those who wanted to leave the world of gangsterism.

“For example, young men who sold drugs had to receive some type of skills training to help them become gainfully employed. Our association with some prominent individuals who desired to change their lives and leave a life of crime didn’t always reap the expected results.

“The unwillingness of some of these men to totally leave their old life had a negative reflection on the image of the church,” said Mr Carelse.

Under the leadership of the moderator of the FGC and former pastor of Shekinah, Bishop Stafford Petersen and his wife Nicolette Petersen, church projects grew, particularly the women’s ministry.

A feeding plan started with one man deciding to open up the church doors to mothers and housewives on Tuesdays.

This grew to daytime services on Tuesday and Thursdays, where Awie Goliath, a pastor in church at the time, would walk from house shop to house shop, asking people within the community to donate towards soup and bread. And they did.

“All over Beacon Valley and Lentegeur we had shop owners dropping off produce and loaves of bread,” said Ms Witbooi.

Mr Petersen continued in this legacy of giving to the community by initiating the school shoes projects, she said, and families and people from all over would donate school shoes to children who did not have.

“Pastor Stafford co-ordinated with the Lee University in USA and along with our local youth, hosted the CapeFest Youth Festival. This international interaction ignited passion in our young people to not just settle for what could be found within our local community but expand our horizons,” said Ms Witbooi

Caretaker and cook at the church, Christina Calvert, co-ordinates the Prison Ministry.

“I love working in the community with people,” she said.

This church has taught my community and I to serve with excellence. My passion is to serve as far as I can.”

Another congregant, Tracy-Lee Scott said the church’s involvement in marches related to the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence on Women and Children, had impacted her significantly.

“It was always symbolic of the presence the church had in the community reminding us that the church should be prevalent outside its walls. It also allowed for a moment of solidarity and unity in the community.”

The creative arts department under the tutelage of Dolly Petersen who has recorded an album with the choir and performed at the Baxter and Artscape theatres, became very popular.

Ms Petersen still heads up the music department today.

Shekinah will be celebrating its 40th anniversary from Thursday to Monday September 20 to 24.

Follow their Facebook page Shekinah 40 years for more information, email them at shekinahadmin@eject.co.za or call 021 376 1281/71.