WRONG DESTINATION

From an old notebook …

While on the subject of Dutch Reformed churches, it was during a military history tour of the Adelaide area in the Eastern Cape a few years ago that we were told an interesting story by our guide of an event that took place a year into the start of the Anglo-Boer War. In response to the Boer commandos invading towns along the  border of the Cape Colony, the British forces defending Adelaide at the time commandeered the well-built Dutch Reformed church for their headquarters and used it as barracks. Naturally the congregants of the church were angry at this rough-shod invasion of their church and the resultant damage to the interior. According to our guide, the rectory of the church was, for a time, used as a stable!

Once the war was over and the British troops had left, the Dutch Reformed community set about trying to restore the damage done to the interior of their church. There was little money available and their donation drive did not yield enough for the refurbishment of the pews and pulpit.

Three months later, however, they were astounded when two wagons entered the town of Adelaide laden with finely cut oak timber – apparently some sources say the consignment included a beautifully carved pulpit and matching chair. The townsfolk assumed that the British had sent this by way of compensation and as an apology for the damage the troops had caused. Within a few months the church and rectory was fully restored – all was well.

Except … two years later the mayor of the town received a letter from the mayor of Adelaide in Australia wondering whether the consignment of oak they had ordered from England for their new church had possibly been delivered to the wrong address …

Well, of course it had! What to do about it? Photographs were taken of the refurbished interior of the church and sent along with an explanation of what had happened.

FOUR RURAL TOWN CHURCHES

A striking feature of many rural towns in South Africa is the presence of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NG) / Dutch Reformed Church which is usually visible from a considerable distance. The architecture of these churches differs from town to town too, making them interesting places to visit. This one in Pearston was designed by Carl Otto Hager in the Neo-Gothic style and completed by Arthur Reid.

It was consecrated in 1887. Here is a closer view of the clock tower showing the clock face in a pedimented frame:

This is a close view of the gable finial:

Then there is the attractive Dutch Reformed church in Aberdeen.

It is reputed to have one of the tallest steeples in the country – the other is that of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George in Grahamstown.

The church, built in the Cape Gothic style, was constructed in two stages. The first was completed in 1864 and the second in 1907.

An interesting looking Dutch Reformed church is this one in Riviersonderend, which was designed by Wynand Louw and consecrated in October 1938.

Lastly, we look at the beautiful Dutch Reformed church in Heidelberg.

Although the foundation stone for the original building was laid in March 1872 and the church consecrated in July 1873, it became dilapidated over time and a larger building was required. The foundation stone for the current church, built in the Gothic style, was laid in March 1913. Note the rooster on its weathervane.

 

ANOTHER ABANDONED CHURCH

There are a number of abandoned churches dotted all over the Eastern Cape, some harking back to the early days of various settlers who needed a spiritual meeting place where they could draw succour from their belief in God and from each other as they battled to tame the land and deal with the drought or unfamiliar pests that attacked their crops. Perhaps some were abandoned once larger churches had been built and the means to get there had improved. There might have been changes in the communities themselves, with people moving away to try their luck elsewhere or through a waning relationship with formal worship. Who can tell? One such church is very close to the Southwell road.

This simple, white-washed church must have served a community for many years. The corrugated iron roof and fairly modern window frames with brass handles suggest that it may have been refurbished and used into the last century at least. There are no window panes left and the window in the transept has been boarded up with corrugated iron. This makes me wonder if it had perhaps been a stained glass window that now adorns someone’s home. As you can see, the veld has been allowed to grow to the buttressed walls and trees have seeded themselves nearby. The cement steps leading into the vestibule are broken.

Note the pale blue crosses added to the plaster on either side of the door as well as the cross-shaped hole higher up on the tower.

Surprisingly, there is still a bench in the vestibule.

The interior is cool, the walls painted a mixture of earthy tones and what had probably been white. Low brick steps lead up to the crossing, with a higher level indicating where the altar might have been. A broken bench is against the wall of the apse and a single broken wooden door leans against the entrance to one of them.

This is what the church looks like on the side away from the road: the windows open to the elements and the natural grass, shrubs and trees look ready to claim their own.

Unfortunately, it looks as though the foundation stone has been removed – putting an end to finding out when this church was built or consecrated. The building nonetheless remains as a reminder of an earlier time in this area when life was very different to what we experience these days.

BLUE

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world since I’m without you …

So sang Marty Robins, associating blue with the feeling of sadness, as in ‘I am feeling blue’. Among the symbolic meanings ascribed to the colour blue is a feeling of calm and serenity; a sense of social distancing (in the sense before the arrival of the pandemic); and cold in terms of emotions. Then too, we talk about something happening ‘once in a blue moon’, or describe the bad start of a week as experiencing a ‘blue Monday’. Whatever your interpretation of blue might be, it is a natural colour only clouds and the cover of night can hide from us. A blue sky is a part of our world – how fortunate we are that it is not bright red!

Blue flowers include a morning glory:

Plumbago:

The flowers of rosemary are also blue:

This flower arrangement has elements of blue:

I will leave you with this interesting image of a church tower that has been painted blue:

 

CHURCHES THAT REMAIN

The Eastern Cape is not only home to numerous forts, battle sites, graves and monuments that attest to its turbulent past, but there are a number of churches dotted about the countryside – many no longer in use but which remain as a testament to spiritual succour as well as on occasion providing shelter in times of need.

One of the two focused on here is a stone church at Burns Hill, a site where, in 1846, the Xhosas attacked a British wagon train, capturing and destroying half of the 120 wagons and carrying off the wine and regimental plate of the Seventh Dragoon Guards. The whereabouts of the latter remain a mystery.

The corrugated iron roof is rusted, the windows are broken, sections of the guttering have disappeared and the down-pipes have fallen off. A tall tree shades one side, otherwise its surroundings are bare except for some cactus that has taken root in recent years.

Another church that probably dates from sometime after 1856 is St. Mungo Church, situated in the Beanfield Location outside Alice. The rear of the church provides evidence of the ravages of time: a hole in the wall, sun-baked bricks exposed where the plaster has fallen off, a large crack in the wall, and evidence of broken guttering.

These images reflect the state of this church building.

The pile of bricks in the corner suggest a desire to repair some of the damage to the church.

The dusty and torn Xhosa Bible and collection plate hints at a congregation still using this place of worship, if not regularly then at least now and then.

Outside the church is a simple monument erected by Toc H which reads IN MEMORY OF THOSE WHO FELL IN THIS VALLEY ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1850. This being the Tyumie Valley, where the Gaikas under Chief Sandile attacked military settlers.

You can read a reference to this in http://www.historicalpapers.wits.ac.za/?inventory/U/collections&c=A182/R/6046