Rondebosch church celebrates 125 years

The Rondebosch Dutch Reformed Church will go into festive mode this weekend, with congregants celebrating the 125th anniversary of the church this Heritage Month.

Reverend Jan Momsen, who has been conducting services at the church for the past five years, said church records prove there is an immense amount of history behind the church, which was established on September 10 1891.

“In those days, everybody wanted to be at the church, because it was the ‘in thing’ at that time. Like people go to the rugby today, people used to go to church and that is why the community came together to build this amazing church,” Reverend Momsen said.

The late 19th century saw the farms in the Wynberg area being sold mainly as a result of the phylloxera disease in the vineyards making way for residential erven, substantially increasing the number of residents housed in the suburbs of Newlands, Rondebosch and Claremont.

The distance to the Dutch Reformed (DR) Church or “Moederkerk” in Adderley Street and inclement weather resulted in poor church attendance. The Circle of Church Management, called “Die Ring”, then decided that a new congregation needed to be formed in the southern suburbs.

Reverend Momsen said the community came together, raised funds and donations were received from various people, which essentially led to the construction of the church.

“What is so special about the Rondebosch Dutch Reformed Church is the historic way in which it was built and how this community came together to build a church for the community,” he said.

Reverend Bernard Petrus Jacobus Marchand was appointed for a period of three months, followed by his permanent appointment at an annual stipend of 250 pounds plus a rent-free home. A stipend fund to raise money for a five year-period was successful, with contributions received from members of the coloured community as well as wealthy English-speaking donors.

A suitable rented hall was found and the Rondebosch community became known as the “Glena Hall Congregation”. Reverend Andrew Murray of Wellington led the first service on January 19 1890.

On September 10, 1891, at a formal meeting in the home of the first reverend, Reverend Marchand, the church was officially declared a congregation.

Reverend Momsen said church records revealed that both the sermons and hymns sung during the morning and evening services, held in a school room of Glena Hall, were in English – a unique and historic decision in the history of the Dutch Reformed Church.

“The slowly growing community were criticised for their decision to build a church of their own. Notwithstanding this, Reverend Marchand advanced the purchase price of 600 pounds for six erven of the centrally situated old ‘Rouwkoop Estate’,” he added.

Building activities commenced in October with an effective building committee organising the laying of the foundation stone by Judge President De Villiers on November 9 1891.

“Reverend Marchand was passionate about education playing a leading role in establishing both Rustenburg Girls’ and Rondebosch Boys’ Schools. His term as chairman of the Rustenburg Girls’ School from the founding date in 1894 to 1917 is recorded on the school website. At both Rondebosch Boys’ School and Rustenburg Girls’ School, houses were named after Reverend Marchand – at RBHS his photograph and a short description is in one the corridors of the main building,” Reverend Momsen said in sharing his views on Reverend Marchand’s importance in the church’s history.

Celebrations at the church start on Saturday September 10, at their sold-out “Feesmaal”, a festive celebratory dinner, and continues on Sunday with a celebration service at the church on the corner of Derry and St Andrews roads, Rondebosch, at 10am.

“We are very excited and this is one of those milestones you just have to celebrate because this church has some amazing historic moments behind it and are thrilled to be sharing these moments with the people who have supported the church over the years,” Reverend Momsen said.

For more information, contact the Rondebosch Dutch Reformed Church during office hours on weekdays, from 9am to 1pm, on 021 686 4315 or email ngkrbos@mweb.co.za