ST STEPHEN’S CHURCH, NEW BRIGHTON
Parish Profile, 2011
The history of St Stephen’s, curiously enough, has its origins outside the current location of St Stephen’s in New Brighton and dates back to 1869. It was in 1869 that Reverend W. Greenstock saw the need for a church to serve “the Fingo Location” on Richmond Hill. Consequently, on 4 December 1873, with the help of a loan from Rev S Brook, a site was purchased in Port Elizabeth Central by the Lord Bishop of Grahamstown and converted into the first St Stephen’s Church. Priests who served at St Stephen’s were Revds D Malgas, J W Gawier and W P Momoti.
On 1 July 1904 the Bishop of Grahamstown transferred the land to the Municipality of Port Elizabeth. But it continued to be used by the church until 1927 when the Council sold it by public auction on condition that the buildings were demolished. They were demolished and so ended the first St Stephen’s Church.
The Municipality then sold a site at Mount Road to the Diocese specifically “for a native church.” The foundation stone of this church was laid on 19 March 1927, and the church was dedicated as “St Stephen’s mission” on 26 June 1927. In the meantime, on the side, New Brighton was growing. St Stephen’s, Mount Road, ceased to be used in the early 1960’s and was sold to the United Pentecostal Church in 1967. That ended the second St Stephen’s Church.
On 14 October 1937 the Port Elizabeth Church Extension Board under the chairmanship of the Venerable HLG Edwardes with Canon J Cowan (Rural Dean and priest-in-charge of the church’s work in New Brighton) as one of its members, met to look into the question of raising funds for new churches. One of those churches was to be St Stephen’s. Mobilisation of resources, including financial resources, began with the Mayor, Mr Jack Walton, the Rector and Churchwardens of St Mary’s Church and Mr W van Rooyen playing various roles. Plans for the building of St Stephen’s were submitted by Mr Fleming of Johannesburg with Mr Owen Laton (Architect to the Church Extension Board) offering to oversee the work on behalf of Mr Fleming.
On 4 February 1941 the Native Affairs Board took a decision on the identified site, and in March of the same year authority was given for the work to proceed on the site of the present St Stephen’s. Initial funding for the new church was generously donated by some of the urban churches (Holy Trinity, St Cuthberts, St Mary’s, St Saviour, St Philip, St Barnabas, St Paul and St John’s). The foundation stone of the Church was laid by Mr JL Walton on 25 May 1941 in the presence of a fairly large number of people. He was thanked profusely by the Bishop of Grahamstown and the Church Extension Board. He also kindly paid off all the financial debt that had been incurred at that point towards the building of St Stephen’s. (Mr Walton was the son of Sir Edgar Walton, a member of St Cuthbert’s Parish). Rev D Mbopa, then Rector of St Stephen’s, took responsibility for paying off subsequent church debts.
St Stephen’s was consecrated on Saturday 26 July 1941 by the Rt Rev Archibald Howard Cullen, Bishop of Grahamstown, and the Deed of Consecration signed.
In his sermon, the Bishop expressed his “thankfulness that such a magnificent church had been built to the glory of God” church.
That marked the birth of the present St Stephen’s Church which is situated at 94 Gratten Street, New Brighton.
2.VISION AND MISSION
The leadership of St Stephen’s at the request of the Rector, Archdeacon Zweli Tom, set out to craft a vision and mission statement. He identified certain congregants to undertake that task. Led by Ayanda Mantshongo and Ntombizakhe Qongqo respectively, two teams for the vision and mission statement consulted extensively and made powerpoint presentations. These consultations culminated in the launch of a booklet on the vision, mission and goals on 29 August 2010.
The vision says we strive “to be faithful stewards of God’s gifts, empowered by the Holy Spirit whilst growing in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Against this background the Church then asked itself what it is that it wants to do that is, its mission. It became apparent that for St Stephen’s to realise its mission its members had to commit themselves anew (a) to proclaim the Good News of Christ, (b) to utilise their God-given gifts for the benefit of the Church, (c) to develop relationships and partnerships with other Christian communities, (d) to reach out and be of use to the wider community, the people of God.
The underlying philosophy and guiding principle is faith in action. Hence the formulation of various goals to realise our vision and mission. Informed by the Biblical teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, some of the envisaged goals include, (a) the initiation of programmes which can help parishioners live out their faith, (b) the promotion of spiritual upliftment, (c) the optimal use of human resources so as to encourage the proper management of assets and promotion of high standards of financial control. Last, but not least, St Stephen’s wants to create an enabling environment where its members can use their talents, gifts and abilities to reach out to the wider community.
(We invite those who are interested and want more detail to get hold of our Handbook which can be obtained from our Parish Office)
3.APPLICATION OF THE VISION AND MISSION
In pursuit of our vision and mission there is a range of activities that are in place and plans that need to be sustained. Mention will be made of only a few of those. The Church and Community Partnership Committee has established some partnership with Cowan High School in New Brighton. It is called Cowan Afresh. This is a significant partnership, given the important role Canon Cowan played in the establishment of St Stephen’s, as pointed out in the brief history above. The partnership entails, among other things, helping Cowan High School with its library, playgrounds and tuition.
Then there is the Soup Kitchen every Wednesday for one of the senior secondary schools in New Brighton. The Soup Kitchen supported partly by sponsors and partly by St Stephen’s itself through availing its cooking facilities free of charge helps learners have at least one meal a day. There are learners whose homes cannot even afford that.
Thanks to the Rector and relevant members of the Church, St Stephen’s continues to be exposed to a great deal of information and knowledge. At various times St Stephen’s has been visited by senior local education officers, the Departments of Correctional Services, Social Development and Justice (including the National Prosecuting Authority whose Eastern Cape’s Dept of Public Prosecutions’ Head and Director is a member of St Stephen’s)) plus the South African National Defence Force. Apart from sharing very useful information about their activities some of these departments also drew attention to available job opportunities. Given the high unemployment rate, especially among the youth, presentations made by these departments were very helpful. Some of the local banks have also visited our Church and shared useful information.
The parish is led by the Parish Council which consists of two churchwardens, an alternate churchwarden, the Parish Secretary plus (10) elected and coopted members. The cooption is based on the skills and expertise a member has and which can add value.
The Parish Executive which is made up of the Rector and the churchwardens meets once every month, whenever necessary, ahead of the Parish Council which also meets once a month. There is also a team of lay ministers
The current Rector, Archdeacon Zwelidumile Tom, joined the Parish in April 2009. He was made a Deacon in 1991; and was ordained to the priesthood in 1992. During 2011 the Rector was assisted by Rev Patrick Mnqathu, who was attached to the South African National Defence Force on a full-time basis. He was transferred to Mthatha by his employer. Then there is Rev Mtutuzeli Belu, a self-supporting priest who has since been appointed Chaplain to the Diocesan St Mary’s Guild. Rev Wellington Biyana, the longest serving member of St Stephen’s boasts more than fifty years’ membership of St Stephen’s very largely as a lay minister. He was made a Permanent Deacon in 2009 .
Other staff members are :
· A parish secretary (weekdays 09:00-15:00). Fundiswa Ngqina, the first ever full-time secretary was appointed about two years ago and renders invaluable service.
· Mr Nimrod Kulati who serves as a caretaker and looks after the grounds and church property
· Three casual cleaners who mainly clean the church inside
In terms of worship styles St Stephen’s combines traditional Anglican worship with less formal styles which include a wide range of “choruses” and that introduces some variety and vibrancy. The Xhosa Anglican Prayer Book 1989 remains THE prayer Book. In order to ensure maximum participation by the congregation, and to break routine,
Sunday services are sometimes conducted by the various St Stephen’s organisations and groups with prior briefing by the Rector.
Conscious of the fact that during worship some parishioners may need a quiet moment to pray and meditate, one of the vestries has been converted into a chapel. During the time for offering parishioners can retreat into the chapel where a priest joins them and assists, if necessary. The provision for such a quiet moment of reflection and prayer has proved to be spiritually uplifting, as attested to by those who have availed themselves of the opportunity to go into the chapel and pray.
In order to develop a culture of reading in children at the formative stages, there is a small library for Sunday School children in particular. Books for that library have largely been donated by the Dick family in honour of their child who passed away, rather unexpectedly.
With regard to times of service, on Sundays the Holy Eucharist is celebrated at 07: 00 and at 09:30 respectively. At the former, a said Eucharist in the main, attendance is usually very low compared to the latter where the Eucharist is sung with the church very often full to capacity.
On Wednesdays the Holy Eucharist is at 18:00 and on Fridays at 08:30 in order to make sure that as a “rule of life” members receive the Eucharist at least once a week. The weekday and Sunday services are not mutually exclusive. One can take part in any of them.
7.CHURCH ORGANISATIONS AND GROUPS
St Stephen’s boasts a wide range of organisations and groups each of which has a leader (as indicated below) and a committee :
· Anglican Women’s Fellowship (Ms Nosipho Lallie)
· Abathuthuzeli (Ms Pulane Maqhina)
· Abonwabisi (Ms Emily Dlula)
· Abakhonzi (Ms Yolisa Xelo)
· Bernard Mizeki (Khalipa Sinxoto)
· Church Choir (Eric Makubalo)
· Mothers’ Union (Ms Nombulelo Mokhosi)
· St Mary Magdalene (Ms Boniswa Poni)
· St Agnes (Ms Vuyelwa Xaba and Ms Namhla Neer)
· The Youth (Sigqibo Xuba)
· Church and Community Partnership (Ms Bongi Siwisa)
· Church Growth and Eucunemism (Sabelo Puwani)
· Health Desk (Ms Vuyelwa Ludwaba)
· Christian Education Desk (Ms Luyanda Mzileni)
· Finance Control Committee (Ms Nokwanda Benya)
· Property and Grounds (Sipho Sandla)
· GBFS(Sihle Mzileni)
· Sunday School (Ms Arosi, Ms Hanise ,Ms Ndlebe,Ms Ndzuzo and Ms Kalipa)
· Servers Guild (Ms Nthabiseng Ngoqo)
The wide spread is meant to cater for a variety of interests and to cover critical aspects of Church life. Apart from the above organisations and groups there are various wards whereby members of the congregation are grouped according to where they live. Each ward has a leader and a committee. There are eleven such Wards.
The wards meet once a month in rotation at the homes of members. Wards are meant to complement the life of the church in practical terms. Hence apart from sick visitations of their members and social interaction they also have Bible study sessions. The Rector attends the meetings, at least once.
8.DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE PARISH
The exact number of parishioners is difficult to determine. There is some flux with old members sometimes relocating for various reasons and new members enrolling, with some merely disappearing thereafter without giving any notice. But from available evidence, the updated Parish roll shows that we have 458 family units. There are just over 600 (six hundred) parishioners. About 60% of those are over 50 years of age, about 30% in the 30-49-year range, and about 10% below that. What is apparent is that the bulk of the congregation consists of grown-up persons with young people in the minority.
9.PARISH ASSETS AND RESOURCES
St Stephen’s has the following buildings :
· The main church building which can accommodate in excess of 400 people (Parishioners like to refer to St Stephen’s as a cathedral)
· The Rectory which has a lounge, a dining room, a kitchen, three bedrooms, a small study and a garage.
· An assistant priest’s house which has since been converted into a Parish Office. It has a boardroom, the Rector’s office, the Secretary’s office, a kitchen and two additional rooms. There is a disused garage.
· A hall with a stage, a kitchen and one adjacent room.
The hall is hired out to a wide range of community groups for weddings, various functions and funerals.
Then there is IDAMASA House. It is the subject of on-going discussions with regard to who actually owns it. The Municipality bills St Stephen’s for rates, water and electricity.
For the current church year St Stephen’s funds are relatively sound insofar as obligations are met comfortably and its rating by the Diocese remains highest. St Stephen’s places a high premium on sound financial management and control. Hence the innovative establishment of a Finance Control Committee which is accountable to the Parish Council.
St Stephen’s, perhaps like many other churches of the same faith, faces a number of challenges. Reference will be made to only a few.
10.1 COMPETITION WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPINGS
Mainstream churches find themselves competing among themselves and with so-called charismatic churches for improved membership. The youth, in general, tend to be attracted to charismatic churches. The question that arises is : How can St Stephen’s grow its numbers, given the steady decline in the number of young people, in particular? There is no real crisis of numbers currently. But there is no room for complacency. We are fishing from the same pond, as it were, with other churches and religious groupings.
10.2 THE SEARCH FOR RELEVANCE
Generally speaking, the number of professionals and literate persons is noticeable at St Stephen’s. These people tend to have questioning minds and seek to understand certain things (not that others do not). One of them is how St Stephen’s can be more relevant to their life in its multiple variety. Like all of us, they live in a rapidly changing world, a world that poses various spiritual, social, psychological, economic and political changes, among others. How relevant is the church, given such challenges? Is it doing enough to help people meet some of these challenges?
These and other challenges call for a recognition of the need and willingness to do things differently. In his Foreword to the Parish booklet on the Vision and Mission of St Stephen’s, the Rector draws attention to some of these issues. The way the parish sees itself, the way it organises its worship, ministry and mission needs to realise that it is in the 21st century, move away from dreary routine and become a really faith in action parish.
These, and other challenges, call for a certain type of leadership.
11.WHAT KIND OF LEADERSHIP?
St Stephen’s has come to realise that if it is to realise its Vision and Mission, it needs a leadership that is informed, transformed and transformative. It needs a leadership that is able to identify talent in the parishioners and use that talent. It needs a leadership that is not averse to suggestions and new ideas. At the highest level, one can see clear indications of an attempt to embrace the characteristics which have been pointed out.
The Rector has seen the need to empower the various leadership structures of the Parish by, among other things, exposing them to workshops. Hence the Mothers’ Union, Executives of Parish organizations and Ward leaders had workshops on management and leadership conducted by Ms Liziwe Thipa, a management consultant. Then there was Ms Nomalungelo Ntlokwana, a psychology lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, who conducted workshops for all leaders on Emotional Intelligence. These workshops are also meant to develop what Prof Barney Pityana has called a “thoughtful and critical faith.”
The passion which the Rector has for leadership can be seen in the initiative he has since taken to establish a leadership forum which cuts across denominations in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. The forum called the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation for Christian Churches which has since been formally launched promises to raise critical issues about leadership and management with particular reference to the church.
Ms Lulu Msutu Prof Henry Thipa Ms Sylvia Mkwetshana
CHURCHWARDEN CHURCHWARDEN ALTERNATE CHURCHWARDEN
Old Entry from 25th Anniverary book
St Stephen's Mission was founded in 1870 to serve the congregation living in the four major town locations, and the first building was the old Powder Magazine on Richmond Hill. The whites began to feel threatened by a growing number of blacks who had settled and built huts in the centre of the town at places like Gubbs, Strangers and Coopers locations. Through their representatives they had influenced the government to introduce the Native Reserve Location Act which was passed in 1903. This act had effectively meant that blacks who lived among whites were to be moved to New Brighton location. There was strong resistance from some black and white residents against this Act, but when blacks were promised better housing, health services and education facilities as well a property rights, most of them agreed to move to this new township. The congregation of St. Stephen's now in New Brighton worshipped for a while in Block 59 Red location, before a new church was built. The Church was built in 1907 at Red location and was of wood and iron structure. There was another built at Mount Road also known as St. Stephen's Church which remained for sometime and ceased to be used in 1960. Canon Joseph Cowan planned the present church in Grattan Street. He was responsible for the initial fund to plan the project, but the building of the new church was the responsibility of his successor. The foundation stone was laid on 25 May 1941 by Mr JL Walton who, together with the PE Church Extension Board, provided the funds for the building, which was consecrated in July that same year.
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