Two dreams have merged in the informal settlement of Zandspruit, Johannesburg, where a group of young, Christian architects have launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a church for a congregation that has been meeting in a tent for almost 20 years.
“For me as a Christian it has always been a dream to design a church,” said Dirk Coetser a member of the group, Architecture For a Change. Little did he realise that as his dream began to centre on a group of Zandspruit worshipers who he repeatedly noticed gathering in a tent, that members of the community had already started working on plans and drawings for the church of their dreams.
The tent church community came to his attention while he was working on another project in the area. He noticed that the old tent was used for church services and various other community gatherings. After a year the young architects visited the church.
“We introduced ourselves to the church leader, Pastor Sipho, explained what it is that we do and why we were there. It was a matter of faith that God could use our skills for a bigger purpose. Pastor Sipho started to cry, and showed us plans and drawings that they have been doing themselves as their need is big.
“To me personally the dream of building a church became much more than a dream, but a calling from God. It gives a God given purpose to our skills and talents as building designers and constructors. After the initial visit we visited the church a few times. What I learned there as a Christian was that in a multiracial country like South-Africa, God bridges all divides, and that we are one big family in the name of God. They tuught me as an Afrikaans person how to worship. They showed the love of God’s family by accepting us in their church and community.
“Accepting a challenge such as this one does test one’s faith. Its not an easy journey, but its faith that keeps it alive,” said Coetser.
Architecture For a Change have designed a building that will be constructed from lightweight steel with a cross-shaped cut out to create a visual beacon and to allow for ventilation. A composite skin will be assembled from various layers to provide energy efficient insulation and electrical lighting will be powered by a solar system. It will be a much safer and more permanent structure than the existing tent.To encourage community engagement, the project will incorporate material sourced from the Zandspruit community, such as a window made from gathered glass bottles.
But funding the construction of the church in a high density, low resources community that has an estimated 70% unemployment rate was always going to be a challenge. In what may be a first in South Africa, over the next month the young designers will campaign to raise $47 000 design and construction costs using the crowdfunding website makearchitecturehappen.com. Anybody who wishes to support the project can pledge a contribution online via the website.
Pastor Sipho says that many people in Zandspruit are without hope and that when they see the completed church/community centre it will raise great trust in the Lord and promote much love and caring within the community.
View a video about the project: