A Brief History
So in 1903 the Scottish born Presbyterian Minister, the Reverend Edward Marshall came to Middelburg in order to gather together the Scotsmen in the area to form the first Presbyterian Church in Middelburg – on the 24th of April the first Board of Management for the congregation was constituted and the first church was built in long St (now SADC St). On the 9th of May 1904 the Reverend Marshall was inducted into full-time parish ministry at the thus newly established St John’s Presbyterian Church. Sadly the Reverend Marshall passed away only a year later, at the age of 43, he is buried in the Old Middelburg Cemetery.
Between 1904 and 1923 the Witbank Presbyterian Church was ministered to from the Middelburg congregation, a situation that may surprise some modern readers since Witbank would appear to have been a greater hub at the time. However, the situation reversed in 1924, when the Witbank congregation experienced much growth and the St John’s congregation went through a period known as ‘the lean years’, when little growth was seen and numbers dwindled. For the next 60 years the St John’s congregation would be ministered to by the ministers of the Witbank congregation, who would travel here once a month to officiate at a communion service.
Thanks be to God though, that the lean years did not last forever… In 1980, true to the strength of faith and character that have marked so many of our families over the years, the congregation decided to sell their property and purchase new land begin a new building programme. In 1984 the building was completed and the congregation petitioned Presbytery to send a licentiate minister to take care of the ministry here – They sent the Reverend J.D. van Schalkwyk, who remained here for 5 years and did sterling work in establishing a new and vibrant ministry here – this marked the beginning of a new era of growth and enthusiasm regarding the ministry and life of the St John’s congregation.
In recent years there has been steady growth and the ministry has remained stable and meaningful. The ministers that have served the St John’s congregation over the past 25 years include: Revs. Mel Broughton, Ewald Moerman, Llewellynn Scott, Jaco Bester and, our incumbent minister, Andries Smit.
Throughout our history of over 100 years we have learnt to trust in the faithful care and provision of our Father, we have come to rely and stake our very lives on the grace and mercy of Christ our Lord, and we have learnt to depend on the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry – it is our humble prayer that God will continue to use and bless us as we strive to serve him with ever increasing faithfulness and determination to live for the glory of Christ.
So what about St John's Presbyterian Church in Middelburg today?
This long history would mean very little if we did not learn from it and seek to grow from it, which is precisely what we as a congregation strive to do… In our mission statement we declare: “Becoming a Church built: on Christ, by Christ and for Christ!” And there are a few things about us as a congregation that this mission statement sums up; firstly, that we are deeply aware of the reality that we are always “becoming” – never having fully ‘become’ – this points to our desire to always grow and learn, for we will never perfectly arrive, the key issue lies in the fact that we want to be a community of faith that always seeks to be more faithful and more diligent in our service to Christ. Secondly, that we are built “on Christ” – he is our foundation and cornerstone, his gospel is where we root ourselves, and nowhere else do we find our identity; not in politics, not in culture, not in philosophy. Though all these things play important roles in shaping the way we minister and give expression to our identity, they do not determine our identity. Thirdly, that we are being built “by Christ” – we acknowledge that all growth is only the result of Christ’s work and faithfulness to us, not the result of our own effort and striving. So in all things glory must always be given to Christ and to him alone, for it is only from him that our ‘being built’ continues. Finally, that we are being built “for Christ” – not for man, or for reputation, or for the sake of our own prestige. We serve and minister for the sake of Christ and his glory, all things we do for the community and individuals in it are done not for us or for them, but for Christ!
All this having been said, there are many ways in which our members can become more involved in the life and ministry of our congregation – our ministries are various and there are many opportunities to give expression to our faith that exist within the life of our church. Information regarding these ministries can be found in the regular intimation leaflets handed out every Sunday, or by contacting the church office.
We were truly blessed to have you visit us in a worship service – this is not the church
of any one group or person, but the church of the Lord at which all his children are welcome,
so we trust that you felt welcome and experienced a sense of God’s presence and ministry.
If you are visiting from another congregation please do take our greetings and prayers back
to your faith community, we trust that the Lord will bless your congregation and strengthen
you for service in it.
If you are not currently a member elsewhere and would like to come ‘visit’ more regularly
please feel free to do so. Our prayer is that the Lord will be glorified in all things and
at all times, AMEN.
A brief history and overview of our congregation and ministry:
When the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) ended, Lord Milner
instituted a plan that was aimed at settling the English in rural
areas throughout South Africa; Middelburg was one such area
and the result of Lord Milner’s plan for this area was the
establishment of the farm ‘Keerom’ (a farm still owned by one
of the families in our congregation, the Erichsens).
At the time there were some 6000 British troops stationed in
Middelburg and, together with a fair number of English families who lived here for non-military reasons, this created a great need for so-called English Churches in Middelburg.