Silvertown celebrates – Memories between joy and sadness

A divine service for the departed on the congregation’s anniversary? Sure! It is not out place, at least not in Silvertown (South Africa). Joy and grief go hand in hand there.

The Silvertown church in Cape Town is well known as a concert auditorium. This past Saturday, glorious voices accompanied by an orchestra and the magnificent pipe organ filled the 1,600-seat auditorium. This time, however, the congregation was celebrating itself. The occasion: “Silvertown turns 40”.

The series of events in celebration of the anniversary began on Saturday morning with a photo exhibition, tracing the history of the congregation. Different booths in the entrance hall and the church hall showcased the various phases of the congregation’s development. Members from the congregation were available to share facts from the period in question.

The highlight of the celebration was the divine service for the departed, which District Apostle John L. Kriel conducted. There are good reasons why such a commemorative service should take place in this very church.

Forging ahead with internationalisation

“Now, remain apostolic …” These were Ernst Streckeisen’s words as he said goodbye at the airport in Switzerland in October 1978. He had not even been in office for four years, but had already made his mark and set milestones: he drove the internationalisation of the New Apostolic Church on.

Ernst Streckeisen was the first Chief Apostle to convene an International Apostle Meeting, in Kitchener (Canada). He established the first worldwide governing body within the New Apostolic Church: the International Apostle Unity. And he transferred the official seat of the Church to Switzerland. This allowed for access to many countries that had until then been closed off to the Church.

Within the space of two years, Ernst Streckeisen visited the brothers and sisters on almost all continents. Australia (March 1976), Asia (July/August 1976), North America (June 1977), South America (March/April 1978), and South Africa (October/November 1978). His trip to South Africa would be his last one, and one he would not return from.

A sudden death

Thousands of brothers and sisters were lining the roads at DF Malan Airport when Chief Apostle Streckeisen arrived there at the beginning of November 1978. On Saturday, 4 November he dedicated the newly built church in Silvertown, replacing a building from 1959 that had become too small. “As far as I know, this building is currently the largest New Apostolic church in the world,” he said at the time. “We do not credit ourselves with it; it is all due to our heavenly Father in heaven.”

After the service, the Chief Apostle complained of pain in his leg in which he had developed a blood clot several years before. However, he insisted on conducting the service for the departed the next morning.

It was the first divine service for the departed by a Chief Apostle on African soil. And it was to be the last divine service which Chief Apostle Ernst Streckeisen conducted. Because in the early morning hours of 8 November he passed away following a stroke.

“For us this has great significance,” correspondent Kennard Kotze says. “The visit to Cape Town will always be remembered as a time of profound joy and deepest sadness.”

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