Church celebrates 60th anniversary

David and Jean Fisher in front of Bergvliet Methodist Church.
Many members of the congregation remember how the face brick church on the block surrounded by Wesley Avenue, Homestead and Ladies Mile roads came about. 

Jean and David Fisher say Bergvliet was built to enable ex-servicemen, who had been away from home for many years, to be able to purchase a brand new house in which to re-establish family life. Bergvliet was formerly a large farm owned by Simon van der Stel. 

Ms Fisher said in the 1950s there was an ethos of going to church and people would meet in each others homes. Sisters Colleen Batty and Brenda Field were part of these 14 families. Ms Field recalls moving into Bergvliet in 1946 when she was four and Colleen was 18 months. She says the Sunday school began in their bedroom they shared. “I can’t remember how many children attended but we fitted side-by-side along the length of our two beds. The roads were dirt and the only shop was Katzens Grocers on the Main Road where Good Hope Tyres now is,” says Ms Field.

The congregation then moved to the little civic hut built next to Bergvliet Primary School where Sunday school and church services were held and Cynthia Prentice established a choir. It was a multi-functional little space where Brownies, Girl Guides, Cubs, Scouts, women’s groups and more also met.  

In due course the MOTH (Memorable Order of the Tin Hats) hall was built in Children’s Way and the church and Sunday school moved across the road. 

Finally, in 1958, they had gathered enough money and the church was built. Ms Fisher said it was multi-functional with a curtain to hide the cross during meetings and opened on Sunday for services. Reverend George Pepler laid the foundation stone dated November 15, 1958.  Ms Fisher said a picture in a newsletter of the church’s 21st anniversary shows a window at the top of the A-frame design building. “After a meeting one night there was a terrible storm. Next day they found came in to find glass behind the organ pipes and damage to pews and hymn books,” said ms Fisher. The window was replaced with a face brick brick cross.

Ms Field said the hall, dated February 22, 1970 is where a very active youth group met on Friday evenings, it was pre-television. There was also a woman’s auxiliary group that was so popular that there was a morning and evening branch. Since then the church has seen the usual family baptisms, weddings and sadly too many funerals. They have also held rummage sales, family markets, street parades, concerts and other events in their hall – for a donation. For Enid Stephens a highlight was the Sunday school anniversary prize-giving where the children received their prizes

Another was Cynthia Prentice’s junior choir singing at morning services. “Some of these young people our parents today. All the ladies wore dresses and hats to church in those days. No jeans or slacks….times have really changed,” she said.

The growing population of Bergvliet means more children. Jacobs Ladder preschool started in 1987 drawing these children from the community. “It was during the apartheid era but the preschool was open to all races, quite something at that time,” said Ms Fisher. And with neighbouring Sun Valley Primary School aftercare spilling over the church started one in 2003 to feed into the primary school.

Also of interest in the name of the road. Sydney Prentice worked for the divisional city engineers department and was a driving force in getting the name changed to Wesley Avenue. John Wesley was the founding father of methodism. A bench in the grounds has a plaque honouring Mr Prentice, dated 1990.

Their Sunday services include traditional at 7.45am, contemporary family with live band at 9.30am, with youth church at the same time. Afterwards they socialise. Mr Fisher says Methodism is born in song and floats in tea.

Their celebratory anniversary service is on Sunday November 18, at 9am, at Bergvliet Methodist Church, 2 Wesley Avenue, Bergvliet, followed by a bring and share tea. Inquiries to Lyn at 021 715 3045.