A haven for the community

It is certainly one of the more unusual New Apostolic churches around. The brothers and sisters who live in Leiden—a district in the township of Delft near Cape Town—have just moved into their new church.

It is definitely a church. There is no doubt about that. “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” These words are engraved on the dedication plaque that was unveiled by District Apostle Noel Barnes on 21 June 2015 shortly before the dedication service of the new church Leiden Central in the township of Delft, some thirty kilometres east of Cape Town.

Delft and its many troubling issues

The new church wants to offer a safe haven especially to the young people in the area. Delft is notorious for its high crime rate. Some 150,000 people populate the township that is known for its substandard schools, high unemployment, drug abuse, and gang crime. The idea was to build and offer a safe place where children and young people from in and around the community can meet for various informal activities, and so get them off the streets.

“The church’s specific purpose is to serve the community,” is what District Apostle Barnes had in mind with this multi-purpose building. The activities are open for anyone, whether Church member or not. That probably explains the unique design of the new church building. .

A place of worship turns into a multi-purpose hall

Sure, worldwide the New Apostolic Church has buildings that serve multi-purpose functions. There are churches that are comprised of a church hall, a social hall for fellowship, and here and there even a large gymnasium as in Brampton or Lindsay in Ontario in Canada. This is nothing new. But when divine services, social gatherings, and sports activities all take place in the same hall that is just a little unusual.

The gallery where brothers and sisters normally worship on Sundays turns into seating for spectators during the week. The main floor that usually holds rows and rows of chairs for the divine services is taken over by soccer players or volleyball players during the week, depending on how the removable court markings are placed. But the altar area remains sacred. It is off limits during the week and is partitioned off with a movable wall.

Soccer tournament and dedication service

It was the sports-loving youth that took possession of the multi-purpose building first. Excitement was running high as four soccer teams comprised of New Apostolic youths met to compete in an area tournament. The proceedings were opened by the drum majorettes of Leiden Avenue Primary School. Then it was on to serious business as the teams of Leiden Central and Leiden 2 battled it out for the bronze medal. Erica North and Erica West competed for the trophy, with Erica North as the winning team. At the conclusion, everyone in the hall joined in to sing “We shall remain united”.

The dedication service for the new church on the following Sunday concluded with an impressive arrangement of the same hymn. During the service, District Apostle Barnes had made it clear that the altar is and remains the focal point in the Lord’s temple. He went on to say that while the church was firstly a place of worship where we serve God, it can also become a safe haven for many in and around the community. At the end of the dedication service, the District Apostle handed the keys of the building to the rector, Evangelist Louw.

A story of rapid growth

The history of the Leiden Central congregation cannot be separated from the history of the township of Delft. The township was established in 1989 as an integrated service land project to house the many families seeking their own dwellings. Much of Delft consists of government housing projects, Leiden included. With the influx of people into the new suburb, New Apostolic members also found their way into the area. They had to attend services in Voorbrug, which was the nearest congregation then. They faithfully walked from Leiden to Voorbrug for church activities. Starting in the year 2000, the members gathered for services in the house of a Priest. Soon additional house congregations had to be opened: Leiden 1A, 1B, and 1C. With the growing population came the building of schools. After discussions with the principal of a school, Leiden 2A and 2B were accommodated in the classrooms of a pre-fabricated school building.

But accommodation continued to pose a challenge. Then the construction of a proper school building on Leiden Avenue was announced. Bishop Adonis was requested to do a scripture reading at the turning of the sod ceremony. Musical items were also rendered by one of our choirs and an orchestra. After negotiations with the principal, the congregations Leiden 1, 2, and 3 were combined and offered the use of the new school for their divine services. In 2004 the Church identified a plot that would be suitable for a church building. Negotiations were not without complications, but in January 2006 the offer to purchase was accepted and approved. In April 2014 the turning of the sod ceremony took place. Today the New Apostolic Church in Leiden has more than 2,000 members.

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