Minutes before the start of a combined worship event in District Six, Cape Town last Sunday, believers present heard about the special role the area had played in the history of our country — notably that the Freedom Charter of the ANC was born there and that the Volkskerk van Afrika which started there in 1922, was driven by a vision that the Gospel should be spread from the Cape to Cairo.
What a special event then transpired in Hanover Street, on a space where the City planners have prepared a circular area as a public place for open air events.
Retired stalwarts of earlier days participated in the programme along with worshippers from different denominations. Pastor Charles Kadalie, whose father had led so much of the City Mission activities from the 1970s from premises in Aspeling and Smart Streets, presided at the meeting. Pastor Clive Jacobs, who was groomed at the Sheppard Street Baptist Church in District Six in its heyday, but who also experienced the relocation to Hanover Park, opened in prayer. (He and his wife Ursula had been pivots in the Hippie Revival of the early 1970s.)
Pastor Joe van Rooyen, a retired former pastor of the Vredehoek AGS (the Afrikaans equivalent of Apostolic Faith Mission) and the Moravian Bishop Gustine Joemath, also semi-retired and who was theologically trained when their seminary was still in District Six, accompanied the anthems and choruses on guitars. Jesus we enthrone you was one of the meaningful anthems.
The organisers decided that there would be no preaching. A short word of greeting was however brought by Alderman Mariaan Nieuwoudt, who had played a pivotal role in the run up to the event as the person who oversees city planning in District Six. Respecting the fact that the open air event happened during Ramadan, the organisers furthermore refrained from using sound amplification. For the same reason the event was not widely advertised.
Cecilia Burger, a retired missionary who has been heading the South African branch of the Lausanne Consultation for Jewish Evangelization for many years, led us in prayer in Afrikaans at the start of the main segment of the programme.
We lifted up the name of the Father and His Son as the central content of the proceedings!
The first verse was read together by everybody: You will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings — Isaiah 58:12.
This was appropriate in view of the fact that the former bustling residential area, which gave the budding metropolis such a special cosmopolitan character in the 18th and 19th centuries, had been demolished by the apartheid legislators in the 1970s and 1980s.
The next Bible verse had a prophetic sound, depicting something of this past, but also looking to God to bring to fruition what might still look improbable at this time: I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me? — Jeremiah 32:27. This verse was read in English by Mione Latsky, one of the leaders of the World House of Prayer (Cape Town is one of seven cities where world prayer towers started in 2019).
Jeremiah 32:27 was thereafter read in different languages, including Afrikaans and Hebrew. Shamiela January, a Cape Muslim background believer (MBB) who God had used in the evolution towards the Combined Worship event, started off in the language of the old District Six. Shoshanna Phillips, the daughter of a Messianic Jewish pastor, who was raised in Israel, read it in Hebrew.
Dutch and German are the languages of early settlers whereas French, Swahili and Portuguese represent the many African refugees at the Cape. A missionary who is still learning Somali, read the verse in that language. The series was concluded by Mama Thandi Hlobo, a Xhosa speaker. She also led a prayer in that language.
Various words of Scripture were read, of which the bulk were taken from the Healing the Nation booklet. The Bible verses were read not only by church and mission leaders such as Denise Atkins, who had served as missionary and pilgrim of the Africa Evangelical Band (AEB) and her brother Pastor Theo Dennis who had close links to the culturally related Bo-Kaap, but also by a former gang leader.
Quite significant was the fact that about a third of the worshippers at the District Six event ast Sunday were MBBs who came from as far afield as Mitchells Plain and Delft. Some of them had been set free from addiction to drugs after they had become followers of Jesus. In the “jubel en juig” mode some of the choruses were sung in Afrikaans and Xhosa. At some stage, a choir of shofars resounded into the air space.
Before the closing prayer by Hindu background Pastor Terence Phillips, he shared some information about the challenge of the Covid-19 situation in India. He invited corporate prayer for that country. (Along with Marlene Gildenhuys, Mama Thandi Hlobo and Nomvuyo Xabele who were all present, Pastor Phillips heads not only the Western Cape sector of Healing the Nation, but is also the provincial coordinator of United Prayer for South Africa).
After the plenary part of the programme, believers were invited to continue praying in small groups for any issues on their hearts.
Someone who did not attend the actual meeting, responded as follows upon seeing video clips and pictures: “Praise God…I believe a mighty sound went up into the heavenlies.” A call was made — especially by believers who could not attend — for the event to be repeated.
The author spent the bulk of his childhood in Distirct Six and later also attended the Moravian Seminary there.