Over the next few days, the focus of the New Apostolic world will be on Cape Town in South Africa. The Chief Apostle and the District Apostles have gathered in the city for the International District Apostles’ Meeting. They will conduct divine services, attend a concert in Silvertown, and celebrate the birthday of the church on Pentecost.
Something strikes young South Africans when they are in Europe for the first time: “Compared to our church buildings in Cape Town the ones in Germany are very small. And the houses in Germany are nice and big,” says Tamika, who was in Germany for the first time with the Cape Town Children’s Choir in 2015. She was twelve at the time. “In Cape Town there is a church every two or three kilometres,” Tristan Williams from Silvertown says. He is a little surprised because as an interested fellow believer he knows: “The Church started in Germany, so I thought that there would be many members in our churches there.”
Where musicians can showcase their talents
Tristan Williams first played the organ in Silvertown when he was 15. It has 2,600 pipes and it is awesome how the sound fills the large church in the heart of Cape Town. The church, dedicated in 1978, stands for the musicality of our South African brothers and sisters. It was built especially for large concerts. When District Apostle Noel Barnes took over the leadership of the then New Apostolic Church Cape in 1996, music took off in the district. He promoted music and used it as an instrument to make the Church known, for example by having fundraising concerts organised. Many of them took place at the Silvertown Auditorium, a church building that has been remodelled into a part-time concert hall. It offers great sound, 1,600 seats, and a retractable altar, creating a stage for over 200 musicians.
Many of the musicians who are known beyond the Church fence today started by playing the recorder in their congregation or singing in the children’s choir. Starting in the 1970s, the Church started to promote recorders because it allows music to be made in every congregation without the need for electricity or having to buy expensive instruments. In 2019 this idea got a new boost when around 20,000 recorders were bought from China and a beginner’s guide was created to help children learn to play the recorder. Videos were created with the individual lessons and were played on NACTV and on YouTube.
Right now, the approximately 600 active members in Silvertown are preparing for the Pentecost concert, which will be broadcast from there all over the world.
A safe haven for children
District Apostle Helper Peter Lambert, who was a guest at the 2016 Day of the Youth in Frankfurt in Germany, vividly described life in some of the gang-ridden parts of Cape Town at the time. He told the young people that one had to be alert around the clock, because gangs, drug lords, and turf wars rule the neighbourhoods, and even the way to church can become dangerous when borders between hostile gangs are crossed. “Given the high crime rate in our country, members in our area have to remain aware and alert of their surroundings to try and avoid becoming a victim of crime,” says Apostle Bradley Bourne.
In the middle of an area notorious for high crime, the township of Delft, stands our Leiden Central church. On Sundays the people gather for divine service, and during the week the altar disappears behind a partition wall and the church becomes a multi-purpose hall and a safe space where children can come after school. “A place where they can receive a meal, develop their life skills, receive homework assistance, and where they are safe after school,” says Ursula Poggenpoel-Smith, programme manager at Masakhe Foundation NPO, which organises and funds the project. “A place where they can play, daydream, or just be children.”
About 140 children of all religions—the programme is open to anyone—have again been coming to the multi-purpose hall since the end of the pandemic, during which everything had to be put on hold. In addition to receiving help with their homework, the children are taught very practical things such as hygiene, manners, and self-discipline, and are instructed in safety issues. And they receive a warm meal. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider is thrilled about this project: “That’s it, the gospel.”
Education is the be-all and end-all
“Behind the Word” is the name of a website where the ministers and anyone else who is interested can source the Bible text for each divine service and where it is explained by Markus Cromhout, a doctor of theology. Behind the Word is just one part of the website Ministry Training, where ministers can discover many methods to improve their preaching and deepen their knowledge.
The New Apostolic Church Southern Africa has taken a leading role in training ministers and Sunday school teachers. And the church members are always happy to learn something new too. For example, the members of the congregation of Tuscany Glen in the eastern part of Cape Town, kicked off their Pentecost preparations already in March by learning about Pentecost and getting to know a little more about the visiting District Apostle to whose divine service they are invited on Wednesday. Like last year, the District Apostles will fan out and conduct divine services in a number of local congregations. District Apostle Jürg Zbinden will be in the congregation of Malibu. The brothers and sisters from Tuscany Glen are also invited. The rector showcased the visiting District Apostle from Switzerland with pictures and videos. Between the presentations, the choir and orchestra entertained listeners with pentecostal hymns.