Diocese of Pretoria sold our church — letter of concern to Joy! Magazine

Originally published in Anglican Mainstream

According to an email circular, St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Brits, has suddenly and without any warning, been sold right from under the noses of the priest and the congregation for an amount of R850 000. ( £65,000).

The history of St Matthew’s Anglican Church dates back to 1933.  An exchange was made with the church and the owners of the Overberg Hotel, which later became the Medi Clinic, for them to build a church on the property that was occupied, and for the hotel to have the remaining church property.

A meeting, held by the Acting Archdeacon of the Madibeng Archdeaconry at St Matthew’s, informed the Church Wardens of the selling of the property and hastily announced the date of the final service, followed by the formal handing over of the property just a mere two days afterwards. In the words of a concerned parishioner, the Diocese of Pretoria has “left the congregation of St Matthew’s shocked, dazed and in complete disbelief. The members of St Matthew’s have been dealt a devastating blow; it was found that all furniture was removed including service books, Bibles, hymn books and priest vestments.”

Apparently the St Matthew’s members have reason to believe that the selling of the property may have something to do with the cash flow of the Diocese of Pretoria, as other congregations have also had similar problems. In a letter submitted to JOY! Magazine, a parishioner expressed the following: “the congregation is shocked at the action of the Diocese of Pretoria, and saddened by all that has occurred. It seems that the Diocese of Pretoria truly is determined to prevent the expansion of the Kingdom of God, but this will not stop our congregation from getting back on its feet by the grace and mercy of God!” JOY! prays that the situation will be resolved quickly.

Read the full letter below
The Editor

Dear Sir,

I have the following information which might be interesting to be mentioned in your next publication as it lies near to the hearts of many Anglican Parishioners. It seems as though Anglican Church Buildings are being sold by the Diocese of Pretoria to solve their own financial problems.  Many churches have stopped paying their dues as a result of the unpopular behaviour of the Diocese of Pretoria (which needs to be investigated seperately).  Here is our story.

1.    St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Brits, has suddenly and without any warning, been sold right from under the noses of the priest and the congregation for an amount of R850 000 to Lawwe Lyfies Crèche. The crèche rents part of the church buildings and also uses part of the stand adjacent to the church. The Municipal valuation of the church property is R880 000.

2.    This inconsiderate action of the Diocese of Pretoria has left the congregation of St Matthew’s shocked and dazed and in complete disbelief. A couple of the Church’s parisioners ashes have been spread in the Church Garden and the Priest’s mother’s ashes have also been spread over the rose garden, according to her wishes, during a service on 9 March 2012 on which date we were all unaware of the plans to sell the church. The Priest definitely would not have had his mother’s ashes strewn if he had been aware of this state of affairs.

3.     Immediately after a Madibeng Archdeaconry Council meeting held at St Matthew’s on 24 March 2012 the Church Wardens were informed by the Acting Archdeacon of the Madibeng Archdeaconry that the church had already been sold to the Lawwe Lyfies Crèche and also that the final service would be on 15 April 2012 and then on 17 April 2012 the property would be formally handed over to the them. It is ironic, especially seen in the light of the fact that, during this time where Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday would be celebrated and where the same crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday would have Him crucified on the following Friday. At this time of reconciliation and humility in the Christian Churches the congregation of St Matthew’s have been dealt a devastating blow from which it will be difficult to recover.

4.    The Church Wardens, however, acted swiftly in the form of an interdict against the Diocese to try and prevent the sale of the church as well as the removal of the church furniture which was already organised with a furniture removal company.

5.    During 2009 the proprietors of the abovementioned crèche approached the church to rent the Sunday school rooms as well as to share the bathrooms and the kitchen with the congregation. This was accepted by the church as they only used the bathrooms and the kitchen during services. They had only to pay a small rent but had to do maintenance to the buildings as well as the gardening.

6.    This initially worked very well until the Diocese decided that the rent was too little. This lead to a meeting held during the winter of 2011, between Lawwe Lyfies Crèche, the Diocesan Administrator and the treasurer of St Matthew’s, to discuss the rent. The crèche did not want the rent increased and said that instead of paying a higher rental they could just as well buy another building whereupon the Administrator nonchalantly answered that they could make him an offer for the church property. From the manner in which the meeting took place the Treasurer had no reason to believe that the Administrator was serious.

7.    No further discussion or meeting regarding the sale of the church was ever held by the congregation of St Matthew’s and never was it felt that anybody was serious about the sale of the church.

8.    St Matthew’s Anglican Church was built during 1933 for an amount of £125 on the erven making up the parking area of Brits Medi Clinic. An exchange was made with the Church and the owners of the Overberg Hotel which later became the Medi Clinic for them to build a church complete with furniture on the property currently occupied by the church then they could have the old church property. The new St Matthew’s was consecrated by the late Bishop Richard Kraft of the Diocese of Pretoria on 13 February 1983.

9.    On 14 April 2012 legal papers were issued to the Diocese in an effort to stay the sale of the church property as well as the removal of the furniture.

10.On Sunday 22 April 2012 a Service was held at St Matthew’s where it was found that our furniture, notwithstanding the served papers, was removed from the kitchen. On 24 April 2012 it was also discovered that all our church furniture was removed including all our service books, bibles, hymn books and priest vestments. It must also be mentioned that the priest vestments are his private property. The removal of the books means that they tried to prevent us from conducting services elsewhere but fortunately we still have our old Liturgy 75 booklets as well as some old hymn books which we will use at another venue.  The Services have resumed at the Priest’s house until alternative arrangements can be made.  We are surprised that the Diocese evicted us without making provision for alternative arrangements.

11.The congregation of St Matthew’s, Brits are shocked at the action of the Diocese of Pretoria especially concerning the removal of furniture etc. It seems that they are determined to prevent the expansion of the Kingdom of God in the Brits district.

·         By the removal of the furniture, books, vestments etc. it is evident that the Diocese of Pretoria is determined to prevent the spreading of the Word in the Brits district which according to the great commission found in Matthew 28: 16-20 is exactly what Jesus commanded us to do.

·         The congregation of St Matthew’s is sad at the action of the Diocese of Pretoria for the removal of our furniture etc. Is it not the responsibility of the church and diocese to promote jointly the expansion of the kingdom of God.

12.We have reason to believe that the selling of the property might have something to do with the cash flow of the Diocese of Pretoria as other congregations also have problems with them and have subsequently stopped paying their monthly dues.  Our congregation has been up to date with our dues to the Diocese and there can be no reason that we are an economical burden to them.  Our Priest has never received a salary for his duties since he was ordained as a Deacon in 1994 and Priest in 2004. Payment was not expected but respect would have been sufficient.

13.This whole shameful episode is a conspiracy which started last winter without the knowledge and therefore the necessary approval of the congregation of St Matthew’s.

14.There is a need for Church Services but the Chuch Building has been emptied by the Diocese without knowledge of the Priest or any of the congregants.and also to our best knowledge contradictory to an interdict which was served on the Diocese and the Creche.  The Church’s locks have also been changed and the Creche has been extended to the Church Building.  The Priest has offered his home for the conducting of of Church Services. Enclosed are photo’s of our church from inside and outside and a photo of our home church service held on 29 April 2012.

Ken Thompson  kwtoms@gmail.com

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