Silvertown, a venerable landmark

Church and concert hall—definitely a building with a history. History will once again be written this coming Sunday, when the congregation in Silvertown will witness the third change in the district’s leadership in a row.

It is probably one of the best known pictures in New Apostolic circles: nearly 300 men in black suits photographed in front of a pipe organ. Nearly all the Apostles from the around the world were there at the time. This was the Pentecost celebration in Cape Town in 2010. But where is the altar?

In 1959 the congregation in Silvertown moved into its first own church building. It offered seating for about 700. But the membership continued to grow and before long the church was too small. A new church was built and today offers seating for 1,600 visitors. Over the years, the building has witnessed a whole row of historic moments.

Building with a history

For example, the last service with Chief Apostle Ernst Streckeisen, the service for the departed on 5 November 1978. The day before the Chief Apostle had still dedicated the new church. Three days later he died following complications from a stroke.

Silvertown seems to be the number one choice when it comes to picking a venue for a change in leadership. Here, District Apostle Karl Gut passed the baton to his successor, Ernst Graf, in 1985. Noel Barnes was ordained a District Apostle here in 1996. And now on Sunday, 18 December 2016, John L. Kriel will take over the leadership of the working area Southern Africa.

The Silvertown church was also instrumental in blazing the trail for today’s transmission network. In July 1988, the first video transmission from Silvertown to Hazeldene took place.

Musical possibilities

By 2004, the church building had been remodelled into a part-time concert hall. This included the installation of a permanent platform to accommodate a choir of 150, an orchestra of 80, and a pipe organ with 2,600 pipes and 45-computer-controlled registers. There is also special theatre lighting with dimming facilities, the latest audio technology to allow for DVD and CD productions, as well as special air-conditioning for recording studios.

In the meantime, concerts take place regularly in the Silvertown Auditorium. Usually once a month. Once every three months there is a public concert for which tickets can be bought at commercial ticket outlets, and every second month there is a concert that addresses Church members, and occasionally there are performances by well-known musicians and ensembles such as the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra.

Retractable altar

And what about the altar? The altar is retractable so that the platform can be used as a stage. An unorthodox solution—although not without its parallels. There are similar altars in Bremen and Rostock in Germany. The altar area of the congregation Leiden Central in the township of Delft is partitioned off with a movable wall. During the week the building is used as a multi-purpose hall. And this is where the concert will take place this time in celebration of the Chief Apostle’s visit—not in Silvertown.

This is another typical example of how the retiring District Apostle Barnes understands church: as a joyful community in which God is active, and in which all people feel at home and safe and can find comfort.