History of St John’s Church, Wynberg

St John’s Church, Wynberg will celebrate its 180th birthday in 2014. An account of this history can be given in three (roughly) 60-year periods:

  • 1834 - 1891
    • St John's Church established
    • Legal authority

  • 1891 - 1956
    • Growth of St John's Parish
    • Affiliations with Anglican Communion

  • 1956 - 2014
    • Charismatic renewal
    • Social Justice and Unity
    • Rebuilding

1834 – 1891:   Birth & Legal authority.

A group of evangelical Anglicans started worshipping together in Glebe cottage, Waterloo Road in Wynberg. As their numbers grew it became necessary to build a church. Legal authority was embodied in Ordinance 6 of 1833 (known as the Wynberg English Church Ordinance). The church was built and first consecrated in 1834. A few decades later all individual Anglican church Ordinances were to be incorporated into one Act of Parliament (Act 10 of 1891). St John's church did not want to be included for fear of jeopardising it's evangelical expression. Therefore an Act specifically concerning St John's Church, Wynberg, referred to as the St John’s Act (Act  9 of 1891) was promulgated. This Act superseded Ordinance 6 of 1833, and is still in effect.

During these years St John's strove to establish a place of evangelical worship in the Wynberg area, as opposed to the Anglo-catholic stance of the Anglican diocese under Bishop Robert Gray.

1891 – 1956:   Growing & Connecting.

Garrison on parade outside St John's Church, circa 1900

Garrison on parade outside St John's Church, circa 1900

St John’s Church had established a school in Diep River and Ottery Road, Wynberg. In 1897 land was purchased in Diep River for the building of St Luke’s Church. In 1907 Christ Church was built in Kenilworth. These were followed by the establishment of St Philips Church, Kenwyn (1921) and Emmanuel Church, Wynberg (1928). These five churches were overseen by a Parish Rector, who was also the Minister-in-charge of St John’s church.

St John’s pursued its evangelical tradition and needed the offices of a Bishop, but wished to remain within the Anglican Communion. Numerous approaches were initiated by various parties to work towards a relationship between St John’s Parish and the Anglican Diocese. This eventually became possible after the Bishopscourt Declaration of 1936 declared the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA) an independent association from the Church of England in South Africa. The CPSA restored it's link with the Church of England (in England) under the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This paved the way for St John's to successfully negotiate a working relationship with the CPSA.

A Declaration of Association with the Anglican diocese was duly signed by the Archbishop of Cape Town and representatives of St John’s Church in 1956.  In this declaration the "Church of St John, Wynberg with her ... churches (Christ Church ... St Luke ... Emmanuel and Wetton Church) are to be recognised as Churches within the Parish of St John, Wynberg. .... The Parish will be regarded as a Parish of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town, and shall in future be known as The Parish of St John the Evangelist, Wynberg, in Association with the Church of the Province of South Africa."

St John’s Parish enjoys a good relationship with the Anglican diocese, and by this association is part of the broader Anglican Communion. This relationship is still in force and serves the Parish well. (See St John's Church Profile).

1956 – 2014:   Re-building & Reconciliation.

In the 1970s the charismatic movement had a profound effect on the life of St John’s Church and Parish. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were exercised regularly in formal worship and in smaller groups. Through the teaching and evangelistic  gifts of a series of highly talented ministers, a large and active congregation worshipped at St John’s Church.  Through the 1980's St John’s spoke out strongly against the injustices of the apartheid regime and became a focus of support and unity. Forced removals under the Group Areas Act and various other factors eventually resulted in a marked reduction in the size of the congregation. 

The clergy concentrated on healing deep wounds and on encouraging and equipping the remaining congregation to continue to grow spiritually and fulfill its mission. Healing and strengthening relationships within the Parish family was pursued. These difficult times brought the congregation closer together and a strong feeling of mutual dependence and “family” developed.

Major efforts were employed to build up the church as a place to which families and young children could come, and to change the worship to a more contemporary style which was welcoming and attractive to the youth. St John’s Church sought to be a spiritual home to any generation, culture, calling and condition.  Many displaced people from central African countries have found a home at St John’s Church. Their numbers have grown and they participate energetically in the life of the church.

The fruits of rebuilding and reconciliation started to become realised as the first decade of the 21st century progressed.  Much effort was directed toward outreach in the adjacent military base, with the most dramatic impact being on the children’s church - to the extent that physical and human resources to accommodate the increase in numbers were all but overwhelmed. The youth flourished accordingly.  New full-time staff positions of Youth Pastor  and Children’s Worker needed to be, and were, created.

God's grace and provision is evident in St Johns' 180-year history and we continue to experience His unfailing love and generosity to this day. Currently a relaxed, positive era prevails at St John’s church. The makeup of this church is multi-cultural and multi-generational which is a blessing, despite occasional challenges.  

In 1999 the Church of the Holy Spirit, Kirstenhof was established by the Parish. Gradually the status of the five “planted” churches has evolved to that of equal partner with St John’s Church.

The ‘Parish of St John the Evangelist, Wynberg’ is now a group of six churches with a shared history and ethos that is accountable to and in communion with one another.