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Life that flourishes and grows

1975 painting of St John's Church by Malcolm Bates

By Alastair Buchanan

Down through the years, whenever I have been asked to share my testimony, I have always, (as far as I can remember), expressed how grateful to God I am that he brought me to St John’s church, Wynberg. This was at a time when I was going through a period of depression, really. I was at a very low point in my life when I had begun to realise that I was not the sort of person I had hoped I would become.  Things had gone quite seriously wrong in my life, mainly around a relationship with a girlfriend and I had been living a pretty loose and wild life. As an Anglican, I had been baptised and confirmed and attended church for Christmas and Easter, so although I thought of myself as a Christian, it was very nominal and I knew my life was not in good shape.

Things changed one night. A friend and I, who had attended school together, were in the habit of going to a blue movie club on Sunday nights. When he didn’t come for a couple of weeks, I phoned him and he said he had been going to church. It turned out that he had a girlfriend who was in the choir at St John’s Church. Knowing I was going through a very bad patch, he invited me along, saying he found the sermons very interesting and he thought I would too. So that Sunday evening, I went along with him and this became a regular occurrence. Each week, I listened to Bruce Evans, Brian Hill and some of the other ministers and heard about a commitment to Christ.  I had never really grasped this before - even though I had been at a church school, and went to church as part of the school programme, it hadn’t touched my life at all.

The Jesus of my dream

However, as a child, I had had a dream about Jesus and him calling me. I hadn’t understood it, and I tried to put it out of my mind. It kept cropping up every time I thought of my future.

Anyway, when I heard these sermons, I felt it had something to do with the Jesus of my dream.

Brian Hill I think was the youth pastor, and he arranged a coffee bar at Glebe Cottage. My friend and I went along and we heard testimonies from converted hippies and people like that. I realised that this was actually what was missing in my life, so I knelt down at my parents’ house that night (I was staying with them at the time) and I gave my life to Christ the way it was explained to me. I was quite disappointed that I did not see any change in my life, until I made an appointment to talk to Bruce Evans. He and Joan just talked me through the process of what it means to believe that God accepts you when you make a commitment to him. I felt so undeserving of God’s forgiveness and they explained to me the gospel and walked me through it. They helped me understand that the good news was about us depending on what Jesus had done on our behalf, not about us earning or ‘deserving’ it. I walked out of there convinced that I was born again and now one of God’s people and then I started attending there.

St Paul's College 1980, Alastair in the middle, back row. Also pictured are other well-known ministers in the parish: Allan Smith, Trevor Pearce, John Atkinson

Later on, I felt called to go and study at Bible College and went to St Paul’s Theological College and was ordained in the Anglican ministry. After a couple of years in ministry, I felt the Lord was leading me into another expression of Christianity. Now I am basically a retired pastor from Jubilee Church, but working in an inter-church, inter-denominational, bridge-building ministry, working with pastors in the townships, Cape Flats and suburbs. We are seeking to work towards the building of a united expression of the body of Christ where we can respect one another.  To go by the saying, “We can do more together than we can do apart.” I feel that often the things that divide us are the non-essentials, though we are all agreed on the essentials of our faith. (I am talking mainly of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians in all the denominations.) That, I believe, gives us a platform to accomplish more and have a better witness for the body of Christ.

A recent picture of Alastair and Suzanne Buchanan

I am always grateful for my grounding and the teaching of St John’s from Brian Hill, Bruce Evans, David Prior, David Cook, Ernie Ashcroft and others who had a huge influence in my life. I am blessed by what I have received from St John’s and pray often for my Anglican brothers and sisters. There are many, friendships that I have kept over the years. For example, Jonathan Reed was involved at St John’s in those early days, and he and I got involved in a church plant from Jubilee in Khanyisa church in Gugulethu. Many, many of us have been blessed and gone on from St John’s to make helpful and godly contributions within the body of Christ in Cape Town and beyond.

"Happy 190th Birthday St John's Church!!..Your faithfulness to the biblical Gospel has blessed me and many others and I am praying confidently that it will continue to do so in many years to come too."


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