It was with some hesitation that I received an instruction from Bishop Martin that I should spend some of my vacation time at St Paul’s United in Haenertsburg with Rev Jonathan Meintjes. As a second year theological student from the College of the Transfiguration I am required to spend some time in different parish churches to see how things are done there. Not knowing much about this church I turned to the internet to view the place which I would be going to, how big it was and how many churches were there.
What I experienced about St Pauls is that as a united congregation services are not done in one specific way but there is continuous variety to cater for the different denominations which worship there together. The minister is from Anglican Communion but he has to adapt how other denominations conduct their worship. For me, this was a challenge as I am from a traditional Anglican environment where worship is usually conducted in a specific liturgical style. I did not know where to kneel or where to stand and if I should bow or do the sign of the cross as the Anglicans do. But allow me to say that it was great to get to learn how to accommodate everyone in the worship and cater for the different traditions of worship I learned that I should not be limited by my church structure only, but I should visit other denominations as well.
On my first Sunday of my three weeks here, I was given a chance to preach under the theme “Christ the King” being that date in the church’s year. It was a bit challenging as I did not know the people to whom I was going to deliver my sermon to, but I left everything in God’s hands in that as much as I do not know God knows. So Revd Jonathan, Dirk (youth worker) and I, together went through the Sunday reading as a bible study. Apparently this is the method which they use and it is useful. This method helped to prepare my sermon as I gathered some notes from how they understand the text. I was also shown how to structure the worship service using the MyAnglican software. The minister of this place is gifted when it comes to the use of technology. So I spent my first week working on my sermon. I got to experience that sitting together and going through the readings makes the load of the preacher lighter and you got to hear what other people think about the readings which could be something that you never thought of.
There is active and dedicated leadership and participation by the congregants of St Pauls. Congregants participate fully readers, side people, doing the prayers and assisting with tea duties and other tasks which I did not spot. The minister does not have to do anything on his own but there are people who assist him so that the service goes on. From this, I got to learn that as a minister encouraging teamwork and delegation of duties are a good thing to do while working and serving people. This keeps people involved in the church because they love what they do. By being committed in the church also builds their spiritual life and is also part of tithing back to God not by money but by using their gifts.
The worship of St Pauls United is not limited to Sunday worship only. Members of the church and others from the community meet during the week for cell groups at different places according to their age groups and friendships. What I experienced in these groups is that people do it in a different form. Some begin with praise and worship while some start with prayer and study the given material. These groups are an open space for anyone who wants to say something, but also, if someone is not ready to say anything he or she has a right to keep quiet. Some meetings ended with a fellowship meal which were either bring and share or provided by the host. This, for me, is a good practice of the people meeting and learning together without the minister bring present and it builds strong Christian friendships.
Upon my arrival, I was told that the church has just appointed someone who’s going to work with young people. I got the privilege to go and meet the youth group at Stanford Lake College. I really think the church has found someone who knows his role when it comes to the young people. From what I saw the youth were enjoying themselves and I believe him when he says the attendance number is rising since he came here. I think every church should do the same.
Generally, St Pauls United people are people with love and hospitality. I was welcomed with open arms to the church and into their homes, I felt honoured which make me feel sad that my time has come to an end with them. I would recommend that everyone who needs to explore different types of worship and wants to go on vacation should come to this place, just to spend time in the church and in the garden. Truly when you leave you will not be the same.