One Parish - 3 congregations. The mother parish of the East
Rand, established in 1890.
With the discovery of gold on the Reef and the influx of miners from
Great Britain, small pockets of church work in the Main Denominations
(English = Anglican and Methodist; Welsh= Baptist; Scottish = Presbyterian) began to spring
up led at first by laity.
The first Anglican group met at a house in Elsburg, and they petitioned
the Bishop who (since Boksburg was the first mining township
proclaimed on the East Rand -
proclaimed a few days before Johannesburg) sent a missionary priest to
Boksburg to establish
a parish in 1890
A temporary church structure and hall were built, and formal
services began. The priest at Boksburg looked after the entire East
Rand. The next missionary
station was Heidelberg.
The (Second) Anglo- Boer war saw a slowing down of English-speaking
influx and church activity on the Reef, but after its end, there was a
immigration. Boksburg North, separated from Boksburg by a large ditch,
became a centre on its own,
and soon the idea was born of starting a church centre there.
culminating in the building of the St Gabriel’s church (hall - it was
intended to be) dedicated in
New churches had sprung up all over the east Rand between 1903 to 1910
and St Michael’s
had lagged behind, but not for long and ground was acquired. (3 of the Erven are still
registered in the deeds Office as
“Crown Grants” ). A new church and a rectory were built in the growing
up-market suburb of
Plantation / Vogelfontein. The town centre spread into this suburb with
the magistrate’s court
and the local market being established there.
In the 1960's the S A Wine bottling plant and shop that was next to St
Michael’s closed down and the parish was able to purchase the land. The Diocese insisted that
it be used for the building of flats to be let out that generate income. Fortunately, this
never happened and today the property provides much needed parking, as well as visibility of the
from Commissioner St.
Many years later as the influx to the Reef continued and the new
southern suburbs of Germiston (Elspark) and Boksburg (Freeway Park and Sunward Park) were
developed by JCI, the then Rector of Boksburg Fr Noel Aldridge, saw the need for the church
to acquire land in the area, and the current property of St Raphael’s was bought in the early
1970's and remained undeveloped till 1992.
At the same time a motion was proposed to vestry to close St
Gabriel’s and sell the
property. This was vigorously opposed by the congregation there who
were then challenged
to look after it all themselves, and this has left a scar that remains 40 years later.
With the creation of a new Diocese looming, there was
a push for
the Cathedral to be sited on this land, and plans were drawn for this.
This never happened, and in 1991 the new Rector Fr Amoore, challenged
council to develop the
land or sell it. A house that had facilities for the Adult Worship as
well as Youth Worship was seen and bought as a new Rectory, and
services with concurrent Youth Worship began in the house in
Advent 1991. From then the church
A hall and Youth Worship classrooms were built first, which were let
pre-primary school purposes during the week. Many lessons were learnt from this
experiment, and the building plans altered as unforeseen needs of such a school arose. It led to the
church not renewing the lease with the tenants and taking over running of a pre-primary school
ourselves. This school has subsequently been registered as a
Non Profit Company. Plans for the church have been drawn up and
approved by Diocese and
Municipality and funds are being raised.
In the 1980's the circumstance of an elderly parishioner needing
somewhere to live which was
affordable, led to the parish, inspired by Harold Flight and aided by
John Pedlar, managing
Director of Geo Constable’s printing works, raising funds and
purchasing a block of flats (now on the death of John Pedlar named Pedlar Place) for housing for the
elderly, and an association, Anglican housing for the Elderly, was established but never given a
constitution. The vision was to expand and eventually be able to offer frail care as well.
With the social decline of the area around St Michael’s and the need
for secure on-site parking, the three erven on the west side of Plein St were bought, and the erven
east of the hall in the same block as the church were bought.
To enable it to fulfil its role in the Vision of the parish, St
Gabriel’s had a hall built in the late 1990's.
THE VISION AND STRUCTURE OF THE PARISH
With the hurt of the attempted closure of St Gabriel’s in mind, care
has been taken not to reduce it (and subsequently the growing congregation of St Raphael’s)
to a “Cinderella” status by demarcating them as chapelries.
As with all parishes in the Diocese that go back that long, the
boundaries of the parish date back to Apartheid times and include the previously white suburbs. This
has however ceased to be of any consideration as people go to the parish of their choice and
cultural, racial and linguistic considerations have determined the area of ministry. Thus
for example the previously white area of Rondebult is now ministered to from Spruitview, while the
“new” “Coloured” area of Windmill Park and the “Asian” area of Villa Liza is ministered to by
Reiger Park and (the informal settlement attached to it) by Vosloorus. In addition the
northern areas of Bardene and Bartlett are closer by road to the Cathedral than to St Michael’s (St
Gabriel’s currently not offering a “family” service” ) and the cathedral Parish established a
pastoral zone in those areas.
The vision developed for the parish is of one of two pastoral areas, a
north (centred on St Gabriel’s) and a south (centred on St Raphael’s) manned by two
stipendiary priests and a non-stipendiary priest. Each church will offer a family-friendly worship
style with the whole area of Youth Worship being given great attention.
St Michael’s in the centre will be the focus of unity of the parish,
with almost all extra liturgical functions taking place there, and will in its worship be eclectic,
drawing a congregation based not on geographical proximity or pastoral care, but on the provision of
a high standard of worship. This worship will thus of necessity use the best of meaningful
ceremony crisply executed and a high standard of preaching, vocal delivery and music. In
addition, the architecture is both a remarkable strength of the building, and a
hazard for those who neglect it in order to impose a style of worship on it.
It must be added that the Diocese needs to buy into this vision. Only
for a short period in Fr Amoore's time, when Fr Selkirk was assistant in the parish and Fr Morris was with us, were we
able to live out this vision, with both St Raphael’s and St Gabriel’s offering an 8.30
service (with the 7am service where it belongs as an eclectic service at St Michael’s).
At the same time, it is desired to preserve a sense of each parishioner
belonging to the parish, and not to a congregation within it. For this reason, there needs to be
a continuity across the parish so that practice will not differ in any substantial way from
congregation to congregation, and especially that the Youth worship policy and syllabus will be the
same. At the same time the worship ethos does differ.
The Parish has the following areas of social responsibility;
* The Provision of housing for the
elderly and the maintenance of a caring relationship with the tenants in the flats.
* The running of a non-paying creche and pre-school at St
Michael’s to cater for the impoverished children of the neighborhood
owing to its decline.
* The provision of pre-school formation
of a high-quality, at a below market cost through the pre-school at St Raphael’s.
* A highly successful venture to provide
mothers of new-born babies at O R Tambo hospital with some necessities for their new-born.
The Parish ran a
feeding scheme but stopped it when it became clear that it had become merely a bonus
stopover for those from Ramaphosa Informal Settlement on their way to collect their
daily handout at new Beginnings.
In addition, St Michael’s provided a venue
for the Boksburg Clinic to dispense medication, but this ceased owing to a lack
of communication from the Clinic.