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Nurturing Tender Shoots

Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor and Canon Bruce Evans unveil the plaque of the new Hall

The 8th March marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Selby Taylor Hall. This building begins with a story of young shoots being carefully and energetically cultivated.

 

It has been said,

“Children’s ministry is ministering to a person at the most critical time in their life.”

Revd. Bruce Evans, after first ministering for some years at St Luke’s and then Christ Church, became the Rector of the Parish and St John’s Minister in Charge in 1969. From its early days, St John’s had a strong emphasis on loving and reaching children and this was true of the Evans’ ministry.

 

Bruce and Joan Evans and family at St John's Rectory

Joan Evans, in her Memoirs (used with permission) describes the growth at the time:


“Back at St John’s everything was developing. Bruce had dynamic confidence, as well as courage. He really believed and trusted God and in faith he proceeded boldly. The spacious St John’s was filling up. The Western Province School boys left Christ Church and came to St John’s on Sundays. Bruce taught them religious studies at school, so they linked with us and swelled the congregation. Their parents came to the Sunday services.


“I did what I was best at and threw my skills and energy into the Beginners’ Sunday School. This developed to 60 children and four or five teachers. The whole Sunday School ‘took off’ until we had 31 trained teachers…”

 

By 1972, both office space and the need for a Sunday School Hall became imperative. The church had been renting classrooms from Springfield School next door. Eventually plans were made and the Hall was completed in March 1974. Apparently for quite some time, they had to use the Hall to continue raising funds to repay the loan on Saturday nights, in the days before Netflix, for film shows, charging something like 50c an adult and 25c for children.

 

Abbreviated background story behind the naming of the Hall:

Wynberg was chosen as an army outpost, half way between Simonstown and Cape Town.  It was too far for parishioners to travel to town, so in the early 1800s members of the Church of England began to regularly meet in the homes of those who settled in Wynberg. Most of these people were evangelical and as their numbers grew, the Cottage became too small. In order to build a church they needed legal authority, which was duly given in 1833. The first church was built and consecrated in 1834. A few decades later Bishop Gray (who had an Anglo-Catholic stance) came to South Africa and wanted to incorporate all individual Anglican Church through an Act of Parliament.

 

St John's Church and some other churches did not want to be included in this new Church of the Province of South Africa for fear of jeopardising their evangelical expression, and so an Act, referred to as the St John’s Act (Act 9) of 1891 was established and is still in effect today.

 

A relationship that needed nurturing:

The relationship between the Anglican Church of the Province and St John’s Parish did not remain static and there were a number of events over the years, most notably the Declaration of Association signed in 1956. In 1964, Robert Selby Taylor was made Archbishop and he had a positive impact on the relationship between the Diocese and our Parish. The Church Warden in 1974, John Bridgman - Laura Milandri’s grandfather -  gave a speech at the opening of the Hall on behalf of the Parish and referred to some of the journey.


A lesson to be learnt:

“There is a tremendous lesson to be learnt in the history of our drawing together, and it is right that we should recall to-night that, at a Vestry Meeting in 1950, in St John’s Parish, the Vestry would not even discuss the question of a closer association with the Church of the Province. But in the face of this inauspicious beginning, the hand of the Almighty, working through his servants Geoffrey Clayton and Stanley Wakeling – resulted only six years later, on the 30th April, 1956, in the signing of the Declaration of Association between our Parish and the Church of the Province.


Mr. Bridgman described the Declaration to be a tentative step,

“I know only too well how scared we all were that the tender plant of association would wither and die, before it was given time to take root.”
Bruce Evans, Archbishop Selby Taylor and John Bridgman feature in news

He expressed appreciation to Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor, “you handled the problems of St John’s when they were raised, with un-surpassed statesmanship and deep understanding…It gives me great pleasure, your Grace, on behalf of every parishioner of this great Parish with its five churches, to pay tribute to you for the vital role that you have played in making our Parish feel really wanted within the body of the Church of the Province. If any further testimony of our Parish’s appreciation for the role that you have played is needed, then it is to be found in the fact that all five of our separate Church Councils, unanimously agreed to name this Hall, The Selby Taylor Hall.”

 

There was sadness that the Archbishop would be retiring in three days so it was an opportunity to say farewell to him as well. “The Archbishop himself, a loving man of great integrity and sincerity, has been the one mainly responsible for this development in our relationship with the Diocese, and we thank God for it and for him… After a celebration of Holy Communion at 6.30pm, the Hall will be officially opened by the Archbishop, followed by a Chinese Dinner in the Hall. (Tickets for this are R2.50 from the Parish Secretary.) The Hall opening, therefore, will be of double importance for us,” wrote Bruce Evans in the March 1974 parish newsletter, Advance.

 

Worth cultivating:

The Selby Taylor Hall reminds us that our ministry to children is valuable, vital and worth cultivating, whatever the cost. It is also a story of God’s grace in helping tender shoots of association grow. May God enable us all to follow the example of Archbishop Selby Taylor and others in nurturing our relationships, even ones that seem to be struggling to flourish in rocky ground.

 

When we hold our Heritage Dinner in the Hall later this year, tickets will not be R2.50, but we do hope you will join us – save the date of 27 July 2024.  Our High Tea will also be in the Hall on 6th April. Contact the office for tickets for these events. Do you have a personal story about the Selby Taylor Hall, any instances of faith taking root, hope growing or challenges faced? We would love to hear them.




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