Iconic Alex church hits 100

Bishop Gary Rivas (white robe) and Superintendent Siviwe Waqu (black robe) dedicate the new Methodist Church building in Alexandra as part of its centenary celebrations.
Bishop Gary Rivas (white robe) and Superintendent Siviwe Waqu (black robe) dedicate the new Methodist Church building in Alexandra as part of its centenary celebrations.
Image: Mmatshepang Madibo

The historical Methodist Church building on Second Avenue in Alexandra has a new face.

The modest building that could sit about 250 is now a sprawling 750-seater complete with pressed ceilings and pillars in just three months.

On Saturday, the centenary celebrations of the church reached a crescendo when Central District bishop Gary Rivas flung open the refurbished building.

The celebrations lasted a week, starting with special services led by surviving ministers who served the church from as far back as 1939, including Pitso Moleleki, Kalamore Phokontsi, Othniel Gaanakgomo and Makgore Madibo. The church was built in 1918. It started with about 40 members and membership currently stands at 1300.

In 1932 the church was extended and in 1947 a property next to the church was purchased and a manse built.

Eight classrooms were build in 1939 and rented by the Transvaal education department for school use.

After World War II the population exploded in Alex and a branch of the church was opened in Enjabulweni, in the lower part of the township, to accommodate more people.

Other places of worship have been opened in Witkoppen, St Stithians, Leeuwkop, Sundown and Gallo Manor following an exponential growth in numbers outside the Alexandra church.

The last time there were major renovations was in 2011 with a new roof, fans, ceiling, tiling, plastering, painting and paving.

Bishop Rivas noted: "This church was founded only a few years after the establishment of Alexandra and it has always been closely linked with the life and journey of the area.

"In times of tragedy, violence and oppression, this church has stood as a beacon in the darkness, offering the light, life and hope that come with Christ's love.

"And in times of peace and triumph the church has been an integral part of bringing about a sense of community and vibrancy that Alexandra is celebrated for."

Superintendent Siviwe Waqu congratulated the congregation. "Together with the community of Alexandra, there is healing that still needs to happen, so much still needs to be transformed. There is unemployment, drug abuse, human abuse, HIV/Aids, cancer, tribalism, classicism and a whole lot of divides, and in the midst of these we will not stop proclaiming to the world: Thixo ulilanga lethu, uyakhanya phezu kwethu."

The resident minister, Moeketsi Tsosane, said he celebrated the hard work put in by his flock. "In meditation we praise, reflect, commemorate and give thanks to God for the journey of 100 years."

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