A trip to the first congregation in South Africa

Many brothers and sisters—and a significant piece of history—await Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider as he travels to South Africa this week.

Claremont, which has officially been part of Cape Town since 1913, lies only five kilometres away from the 1,085-metre Table Mountain and the adjoining mountain massif bearing the biblical designation “Twelve Apostles”. The little suburb on the Atlantic Ocean—with barely 20,000 inhabitants—is the first of two travel destinations on the Church leader’s journey to the province of Western Cape.

The first congregations in the west and in the east

Claremont, Palmyra Road—so reads the inscription on the first church building of the New Apostolic Church in South Africa, which was dedicated in 1906. In 1889, Apostle Heinrich Friedrich Niemeyer sent the 37-year-old Evangelist Carl Georg Klibbe from Australia to South Africa. The emigrant, who was originally from Germany, was to establish New Apostolic congregations at the Cape of Good Hope. It was the time of the gold rush, and the earliest mines were already beginning to operate—but it was also a time of financial woes, as not all were able to partake in the economic upturn. The early efforts of the Evangelist remained fruitless. It was only once the Evangelist moved from Claremont to East London in Eastern Cape—some 900 kilometres away—that he began to have some missionary success. In 1892, the first congregation of South Africa came into being in East London, however, it had no church building of its own.

On 8 July 1893 Carl Klibbe was ordained an Apostle. In the time following, the latter went on to ordain Evangelists, Priests, and Deacons, whom he sent out to other centres in South Africa. More congregations soon came into being in Port Elizabeth, Durban, Johannesburg, and Kimberley. The development was the same here as in other areas: whenever a congregation became larger, new ministers were ordained, and sent off to do missionary work in neighbouring cities.

A church building of their own

At the start of 1903, Deacon Georg Heinrich Wilhelm Schlaphoff, the father of the later Chief Apostle Helper Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff, moved to Cape Town in order to help build up the Church in the western part of South Africa. The first divine services there took place in the Deacon’s house on Argyle Street 41, and on 10 April 1904, the first eight believers from the region were sealed in Cape Town. On 4 September, the next sealing was performed in a rented hall in Claremont, and on Pentecost Sunday, 4 June 1906, Apostle Klibbe dedicated the first church building in South Africa: Claremont.

Around the year 1900, many of the inhabitants of the area spoke German, Dutch, and Cape-Dutch, an early form of modern Afrikaans. This meant that the first divine services were conducted in German and Dutch. On 17 July 1907, the members in Cape Town experienced their first divine service in the English language. The congregations grew and the Church districts became larger. One hundred years after Carl Georg Klibbe landed in South Africa, Chief Apostle Richard Fehr conducted a festive divine service in the Claremont church building that had been erected on Harman Road in 1949.

Host to an International Apostle Meeting

Cape Town was in the spotlight on another occasion as well, this time in global New Apostolic history: the last International Apostle Meeting—in which 340 Apostles assembled with Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber—took place in Cape Town’s International Convention Centre in May 2010. At that time the Apostle Meeting passed revised formulations for the Articles of Faith and approved the expanded liturgy that has been valid in all congregations since December 2010.

Divine services, meetings, and a concert

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will be in Cape Town and George from 13 to 18 October 2017. The Chief Apostle Will be accompanied by District Apostle John L. Kriel (Southern Africa), Joseph Opemba Ekhuya (East Africa), Enrique Eduardo Minio (Argentina), District Apostle Helper Mandla Patrick Mkhwanazi (Southern Africa), and fifteen Apostles from the District Apostle district. They will arrive at the Cape Town International Airport on Thursday and Friday, and will spend time together for various meetings—and with the members in the Ocean View congregation. In the afternoon, all will make their way to the congregation of Silvertown for a musical concert.

On Sunday, 15 October 2017, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider will conduct a divine service in the congregation of Claremont, which will be transmitted throughout all the congregations of the District Apostle district. In that divine service, Apostle John George Stephens will retire after having reached the age limit for active service. He has served as a minister of the Church for 44 years, seventeen of them as an Apostle.

On Monday morning the Church leader will travel onward to George with some of the Apostles. Here too, various meetings with Apostles and Bishops are scheduled. And there will also be an opportunity to gather with Church members. On Tuesday evening there will then be a divine service in Eden Place. On 21 September, District Apostle Kriel already conducted a divine service in this hall with members from the region in order to prepare the way for the visit of the Chief Apostle.

On Wednesday morning, the Chief Apostle will have one last meet and greet with retired ministers, and then set off on his homeward journey from the George airport via Johannesburg in the afternoon. On Sunday, 22 October he will conduct a divine service for all ministers of Europe in Nuremberg, Germany.

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