One Hundred and Forty Years in Cape Town

An adventure in the world’s most beautiful city.[i]
In November 1875 three individuals met for prayer in Long Street, Cape Town. They wanted to start a church.

CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher
CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher

After getting some advice they wrote to CH Spurgeon in London, who had begun a Pastor’s training college, and asked if he could send someone to lead the church-planting initiative. Spurgeon responded warmly and selected William Hamilton.

Hamilton was clearly a leader amongst his peers and committed to evangelism. It was said of him, a ‘harmony between Calvinistic theology, evangelical activism, and Christian piety was a characteristic feature of Mr Hamilton’s ministry.’

On the basis of this faith-filled request from just three Christians, Hamilton got organised and set sail from London.

The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa
The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa

The first Baptists had arrived in 1820 and had begun congregations in Grahamstown and other places. William Hamilton’s arrival represented a possible breakthrough in Cape Town itself.

The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton
The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton

Three months at sea
After a three-month voyage, he arrived in Cape Town in November 1876 (a full year after Spurgeon received the letter of request). It’s difficult to imagine what a three-month journey by ship must have been like. But, considering missionary travels in the 19th century, we ought probably to be a little more gracious at the occasional forty-minute delay before our 12 hour flights to Europe.

Hamilton held a meeting on the 12th November in the Temperance Hall, Long Street which gathered 60 curious people.

Long Street, Cape town, c.1860
Long Street, Cape town, c.1860

The church was constituted on the 19th November 1876 when just nine people agreed to become members by signing this covenant statement:

‘We do hold that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be our only rule of faith and guidance. The Scriptures teach the doctrines of the Trinity, man’s fall, redemption by the substitution of the Son of God, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the final judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal reward of the righteous and eternal punishment of the wicked. While God, in His sovereign mercy, can call whom he will, the world is invited to embrace the Gospel.
The Church of Christ, as set forth in the New Testament, is composed of those who trust alone to Christ for salvation, profess His name before the world, and obey the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We shall endeavour to the utmost of our ability to further the cause of God among us by fervent prayer, diligent attendance on the means of grace, pecuniary assistance in support of the Ministry, and by trying to get others to attend the house of God.’

Sunday Services
Soon the church grew and Hamilton was formally appointed as Pastor.
Regular prayer meetings were held in a ‘portrait saloon’ in Caledon St, and Sunday services were started in the Oddfellows’ Hall in Plein Street.

Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870
Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870

Fruitfulness in evangelism
Hamilton’s evangelistic zeal bore much fruit in Cape Town. Twenty-six conversions were reported as having taken place at one evening meeting.

After a few years the church had grown to such an extent that they were able to build their first church facility. The site they chose was in Wale Street. The construction of the building took a while but was finally completed in 1882. I had discovered this building before relocating to Cape Town in my copy of Spurgeon’s The Sword and the Trowel.

Like Spurgeon's sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes
Like Spurgeon’s sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes

Here is Spurgeon’s announcement of the completion of the Wale Street building:

Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon's the Sword and the Trowel
Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon’s the Sword and the Trowel

The text, written by Spurgeon, reads: ‘Most of our readers must be familiar with the story of Mr. Hamilton’s work in Cape Town; for our pages have often contained notices of his self-denying and arduous labours. Leaving the Pastors’ College in 1876, he accepted an invitation from a small company of baptized believers, who desired to form a church upon what they considered the principles of the New Testament. For some years, in various halls and with varying success, the work was prosecuted with great vigour; and at last on March 9th, 1882, the pastor had the inexpressible delight of preaching in the new chapel, of which an engraving is given above.’

Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton's building is clearly visible on the left.
Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton’s building is clearly visible on the left.
The Wale Street church building by local artist Desmond Martin
The Wale Street church building by local artist Desmond Martin

Spurgeon later said of Hamilton, ‘He has accomplished marvels, and has often made our heart to sing for joy.’ [ii]
It was also said of him, ‘He was quite something new in the religious world of the Cape. He was unconventional both in dress and manner, and of boundless zeal and energy. He got quickly to work, and found quite a number of people interested in his mission.’ [iii]

Wale Street before and after...
Wale Street before and after…

Hamilton not only preached in the city centre but also in the suburbs.

As I searched in the National Archives, at the National Library and online, not only did I discover Hamilton’s amazing story, but also that it was his preaching that led to formation of Wynberg Baptist Church. That was of particular interest because in 1983 a number of idealistic young people from Wynberg Baptist Church launched out and began what was to become Jubilee Community Church.

So, in a very real sense – in a manner where you can trace a direct connection – the roots of both Jubilee Community Church and Cape Town Baptist Church go back to the pioneer evangelist William Hamilton.

More growth
The congregation outgrew the Wale Street building and, in the middle of the last century, moved to a site that stretches between Kloof and Orange Street where they enjoyed decades of fruitful ministry until falling somewhat into decline. The pastor and congregation reached out to the leadership of Jubilee to see if we could join hands and enter a new season of revitalisation and growth. Amazingly, the collaboration has worked and has become a story of unity, peace and strength which we trust will benefit the city.

Re-united
The continuity of our history, the strength of two churches coming, as it were, back together; of 140 years of faithful prayer and evangelism, should give us an awareness of the faithfulness of God, and a momentum that is from God. The strong encouragements we have received from former members of the two Baptist congregations that met on this site have been overwhelming. The present congregation feels as though we are being carried by generations of prayers, of faith, of giving, of longing.
We are not merely having a go at something in the city-centre. God is at work!

Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town
Jubilee Community Church, Kloof Street, Cape Town

 

This is a new beginning. We are trusting God to enable us to renovate the larger auditorium space and grow beyond our current 180-200 or so up to a significant size that will be a blessing to the city and a testimony to God’s grace.

Spurgeon wrote to Hamilton several times. As far as we know, no letter of has been preserved. But I found a line from one of Spurgeon’s letters which simply said, ‘My heart is thoroughly with your work.’

But this is not a story about dead heroes. Paul reminds us that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the growth. And it’s God who has preserved this city-centre space for the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, on the 19th November – the 140th anniversary – we give thanks, because we’re not only part of a current expression of the church in Cape Town, we’re also joining with one hundred and forty years of history in our city, and we’re joyfully aligning ourselves with the faithfulness of a gracious God.

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] https://www.goodthingsguy.com/environment/cape-town/
http://www.southafrica.net/blog/en/posts/entry/Cape-Town-voted-the-Worlds-best-city-here-are-22-reasons-why
[
ii] Sword and Trowel vol. 1885
[iii] http://zalookup.com/library/books/TheHistoryOfTheBaptistChurchIinSouthAfrica.pdf

Professor John Lennox and Michael Ramsden in Cape Town!

John Lennox and Michael Ramsden
John Lennox and Michael Ramsden
Good News for Cape Town!
It is with great joy that we were able to host the visit to Cape Town of Professor John Lennox and Michael Ramsden.
Professor Lennox is a highly respected academic from Oxford University who has debated Richard Dawkins on three occasions and who regularly receives invitations to speak on matters of faith at leading academic institutions. Michael Ramsden is the European Director of RZIM and a much sought after speaker to business leaders as well as on university campuses.
Lex Loizides
(On behalf of Jubilee and RZIM)
To hear John on Jo’burg’s Talk Radio click here. This is a brilliant example of how to answer questions intelligently, in a confident and winsome manner.
Prof John Lennox and Michael Ramsden in Cape Town
Prof John Lennox and Michael Ramsden in Cape Town
Prof Lennox and Michael Ramsden fielded tough questions at Jubilee in Cape Town.

Tuesday 12th 

University of Cape Town Vice Chancellor’s Open Lecture
Professor John Lennox
‘A Matter of Gravity – God, the Universe and Stephen Hawking’
This event was oversubscribed.
See the VIDEO here which includes VC Max Price’s excellent introduction.
Prof John Lennox delivers the Vice Chancellor's Open Lecture at The University of Cape Town
Prof John Lennox delivers the Vice Chancellor’s Open Lecture at The University of Cape Town

Wednesday 13th

1.00pm – 1.45pm
Lunchtime: UCT Mission with John Lennox and Michael Ramsden
‘Has science buried God?’
John Lennox speaks in Observatory, Cape Town
John Lennox speaks in Observatory, Cape Town
7:30pm 
Engaging Hearts and Minds 1 – John Lennox
Followed by Q&A
Venue: Jubilee Centre, 21 Nelson Road, Observatory, Cape Town

Thursday 14th 

1.00pm – 1.45pm
Lunchtime: UCT Mission with John Lennox and Michael Ramsden
‘Christianity and the tooth fairy!’
Prof John Lennox also spoke at one of South Africa's top high schools
Prof John Lennox also spoke at one of South Africa’s top high schools
7:30pm 
Engaging Hearts and Minds 2 – John Lennox
Followed by Q&A
Venue: Jubilee Centre, 21 Nelson Road, Observatory, Cape Town

Friday 15th

Prof John Lennox speaks to students at the University of Stellenbosch
Prof John Lennox speaks to students at the University of Stellenbosch
John Lennox speaking at Stellenbosch University
1.00pm – 1.45pm
UCT Mission: Michael Ramsden
Michael Ramsden addresses students at the University of Cape Town
Michael Ramsden addresses students at the University of Cape Town
‘Michael in the Lions Den’ – Q&A
 For more info: Open Secret
Michael Ramsden speaks to students after his lecture at UCT
Michael Ramsden speaks to students after his lecture at UCT
Michael also spoke brilliantly at a business leader’s dinner in Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town.
John Lennox and Michael Ramsden will address business leaders in Cape Town
John Lennox and Michael Ramsden will address business leaders in Cape Town
7.30pm
Business Leader’s Dinner with John Lennox and Michael Ramsden
‘Truth and Trust in Life and Leadership’
Moyo Restaurant, Kirstenbosch Gardens
Professor John Lennox will be speaking at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa
Professor John Lennox will be speaking at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa, Sun March 17, 2013

Recordings of John Lennox speaking in Cape Town

John Lennox speaking in Cape Town
John Lennox speaking in Cape Town
9.30am
Jubilee Community Church
Venue: Jubilee Centre, 21 Nelson Road, Observatory, Cape Town
8.00am & 10.00am 
114 3rd Avenue, Kenilworth
7.00pm
City Wide Celebration  – John Lennox
Venue: Jubilee Centre, 21 Nelson Road, Observatory, Cape Town
John Lennox at the Houses of Parliament, London
John Lennox at the Houses of Parliament, London (Photo: Bible Society/Clare Kendall)
You can also listen to John Lennox addressing a Prayer Breakfast at the UK Houses of Parliament here
John Lennox
John Lennox

Prof. John Lennox

John Lennox is a highly respected Oxford University Professor with formidable academic credentials. He is Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University, Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford.
Along with a razor sharp wit, John has a sincere care for those who are genuinely troubled with questions or objections concerning the truthfulness of the Christian Faith.
He has successfully debated Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (both high profile atheists), and has spoken to large audiences at Harvard, Princeton and Yale universities. This is his first visit to Cape Town.
John will be delivering the highly acclaimed Vice-Chancellor’s Open Lecture at UCT for the first time this year as well as several non-academic talks which will be inspiring, and challenging.
Our non church-going friends will be intrigued to listen to, and ask questions of, one of the finest intellectual minds in the church today. All the meetings will be relevant to those who are not convinced of the truth of Christianity.
Apologist and Evangelist Michael Ramsden
Apologist and Evangelist Michael Ramsden

Michael Ramsden

Michael has been European Director of RZIM Zacharias Trust since its foundation in 1997. He is also Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and Lecturer in Christian Apologetics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford.
While at Sheffield University doing research in Law and Economics, Michael taught Moral Philosophy and lectured for the International Seminar on Jurisprudence and Human Rights in Strasbourg.
He has been invited to lecture to a variety of groups including the White House staff in Washington, D.C., leaders at NATO HQ in Brussels and Members of the European Parliament.

Remember the Poor by Simon Pettit

Remember the Poor

Simon Pettit

At an international leader’s conference hosted in the UK in 1998 an unsuspecting network of churches was about to undergo a powerful and lasting shift.

It was a moment that has left a younger generation of leaders saying, as one wrote to me, ‘I wasn’t there to hear Simon’s sermon, but I sometimes feel like I was, such is the ongoing legacy of that one message.’

It was a sermon that re-focussed the outreach of the Newfrontiers family of churches, and has generated conferences, think tanks, and a myriad of local church initiatives across the world.

It effectively united so-called ‘social ministries’ to the apostolic and evangelistic priority of a church-planting movement.

Simon Pettit preaching in Blantyre, Malawi

Simon Pettit and his family left England in 1990 for Cape Town, South Africa to lead the team at Jubilee Community Church. He served in South Africa and Africa for 15 years, before his sudden death from a heart attack in 2005.

This message comes from those years of living and learning in a context of contrasting wealth and poverty. He quickly realised that the church cannot merely preach a message of hope but must directly engage with the needs of the poor.

Some, while not doubting the need to serve the poor, questioned whether Simon’s exegesis of Gal 2:10 was correct. Did the apostles in Jerusalem intend a general care for the poor or were they only referring to the poor in Jerusalem? A fine answer has been given to that question here.

Simon’s legacy is not confined to one church, of course, but to the whole family of Newfrontiers churches. However, the multi-racial Jubilee Community Church in Cape Town, the local church where he learnt and taught, and which has continued to remember the poor in so many ways, remains the jewel in his crown.

Many of us still share the pain of losing Simon, not only in Jubilee, and South Africa, but also in Africa and in many other parts of the world. We feel Simon’s sudden departure was the loss of a genuine father in the faith.

I hope the inclusion of this message will stir you to ‘remember the poor’ where you are.

 

For audio you can listen or download here

Simon joking around just before speaking at City of God Church, Accra, Ghana

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

Audio Message of the Month Terry Virgo

The Qualities of a Christian Leader – Terry Virgo

Terry Virgo

Terry Virgo is one of the great Bible teachers of our generation. His influence has gone far beyond the local church he pioneered in Brighton, England.

His ministry has resulted in literally hundreds of churches being planted and cared for in many nations.

Arguably the British successor to Martyn Lloyd-Jones as a passionate and authoritative expository preacher, Terry has championed the life of God in the local church in the context of global mission.

This powerful and touching message was preached in 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa on the occasion of the appointment of three new elders in Jubilee Community Church.

Enjoy!

Click here for the link

For the work of Newfrontiers, the family of churches led by Terry’s team, click here

To read about how 18th century church leader Jonathan Edwards would have been helped by having an Eldership Team click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides