Historic church becomes place of worship for new congregation

2008-11-02 00:00

The congregation of the Jesus Celebration Centre (JCC) held its first service in the former Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) at the Msunduzi-Voortrekker Museum premises in the city centre yesterday.

The deputy director of the museum, Henriette Ridley, said the congregation of the DRC, Pietermaritzburg, had dwindled in recent years to the extent that it no longer needed to use the historic church building.

“The congregation was just too small and they are now holding all their services in Merrivale,” she said.

The church is not the original Church of the Vow built by the Voortrekkers after the Battle of Blood River in 1839. That historic church is still there.

As the original congregation expanded, it erected two other church buildings adjacent to the first church — this particular building being the third church that was built during the 1960s, Ridley explained. It can accommodate up to 500 people.

The museum is buying the church building from the DRC, but in the interim it has been sub-let to the JCC, a congregation which works towards the empowerment of formerly disadvantaged communities.

The JCC’s Pastor Vincent Harper said the congregation had been making use of the Tembalethu Education Centre to hold church services on Sundays and rejoiced that they finally had such a magnificent church at their disposal.

He said the JCC was established in the capital about two-and-a-half years ago.

“We start up congregations in different communities … a lot of the people we attract are from disadvantaged communities, not only physically but also spiritually.”

He said the JCC is negotiating for a piece of land in Woodlands where the church hopes to establish a “Dream Centre” for people who have no hope to make a fresh start and enable them to dream again.

There it intends to focus on victims of HIV and Aids and abused women and children, and to run skills development programmes.

“It is good to empower people rather than simply give to them,” said Harper. The JCC also operates a feeding scheme.

A ribbon tied to the gates was ceremoniously cut by Harper’s wife, Joan, before the gates were unlocked and the new congregation entered the church for the first service yesterday.

uMngungungdlovu District Mayor Yusuf Bhamjee was a guest along with a church elder, Pastor David Peters.

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