08h30 Family Service
The first Sunday is a Communion Service
History of our Church
The Presbyterian Church north of the Umgeni has been a story of ups and downs – as would be the case with any organization active over a period of 100 years. However, suffice it to say that God’s grace has continued and we have been blessed over the years to have seen real growth in our ministry. Perhaps an anecdote from our early beginnings will illustrate more clearly how good God has been to us… In the Congregation’s Official Minute Book there is an entry from 19 which describes the our church as being ‘weak and struggling’; well, here we are almost 100 years on, still growing and serving withal the fervor that was once in the hearts of those who began this fledgling congregation.
The Church work commenced in 1901, when a small group of Presbyterians met in a schoolroom in a house in Greenwood Park, which was a suburb developed along the then only road from Durban to the Natal North coast.
As the group grew, application was made to Presbytery to be recognized formally as an Extension Church under Frere Road Presbyterian Church and this was approved in 1904. From 1905 Frere Road Presbyterian Church provided a visiting minister on a monthly basis and work commenced on the first permanent Church building in North Coast Road This building was consecrated in February of 1906.
This building remained as a Church until 1950 when a new building (‘Parkhill’) was erected on the opposite side of the road. The original wood and iron building is still standing (known as the ‘Tin Temple’ it is now used as a base for the Swiss Stone Masons).
In the meantime the development of the cane fields for residential development continued apace on the sea side of the ridge and in 1956 Church extension work was begun in the Durban North suburb. A new Church building was erected in 1958 in Norrie Avenue, Durban North and the ‘Parkhill’ building was sold.
Church growth was considerable and again a new building was erected in 1971 on a large site in Mackeurtan Avenue.
In 1983, the majority of the congregation at that time, under the leadership of Rev. Charles Gordon, left the Presbyterian Church, set up an independent Church and retained the Church buildings and all its assets. The ‘Presbyterian’ minority met initially in the private home of Keith and Ann Duane and then in a series of school buildings throughout the North Durban area as the congregation grew.
Fairly recent residential development continued northwards in the cane fields. And the current Church building is in the suburb of Sunningdale, on one of only two sites that was made available for Church buildings. This building too was soon enough too small for the congregation and a number of extensions have been made to accommodate our growing congregation.
In short it may be said that this is a ‘die-hard’ congregation that the Lord Jesus has seen through many difficult times – from being described as ‘weak and struggling’ to experiencing a painful split and loss of all assets – we are still worshipping and serving, by the grace of God, and trust that this will continue for many more generations.
The Church Building, Architecture and Symbolism
At North Durban Presbyterian Church we consider symbolism and meaning behind architecture to be a very important part of the congregation’s life and worship – a building’s functionality should be balanced by its interpretive qualities. For this reason some may find it interesting to note the ‘stories’ behind much of our Building.
The current Church complex was built in 1992 on a site in Sunningdale Estate reserved for a place of worship and purchased From Tongaat-Hulett Properties Ltd. The building was designed by a late member of the Session (eldership) of the Church, architect Derek Leslie under the guidance of the then Minister, Revd. Dr. J R Elias. A flexible layout in the Sanctuary was planned allowing for a variety of forms of service. Such flexibility is frequently made use of for special services e.g. Tennebrae, weddings and funerals.
The prime focus in the Sanctuary is a cross suspended in the arch.
The arch is naturally lit during the day and at night the wall in the recess behind the cross is illuminated. The cross itself is made from two planks of ironwood so finished by the artist, Guido van Besouw, as to leave the natural shape of the wood and enhance the grain.
This was designed and made by the ladies of the Westville Presbyterian Church with whom the congregation had a special relationship.
To the left of the cross, built into the fabric of the building is the seven branched candle (Menorah) exemplifying the relationship of the Christian Church with God’s chosen people of the Old Testament.
Two stained glass windows frame the front wall of the Sanctuary. These were designed and made by the artist Guido van Besouw. They were commissioned in memory of centenarian Humphrey Jones and two sons of Walter and Gertie Strachan. The right-hand window emphasizes the outstretched hand of the Father, the sacrificial obedience of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the worshippers. The left-hand window represents the Holy Spirit spreading the Good News throughout the world and, in particular, Africa.
A small chapel is situated at the front of the Sanctuary for private prayer once again in a simple but pleasing wooden finish, designed and made by Ed Thiel.
The Church Furnishings
The furnishings inside the Sanctuary were donated by many people and other Church denominations to assist in the upliftment of the congregation. The communion table, pulpit, lectern, baptismal font and flower stands, some made by Paul van Besouw, are made in natural wood and in keeping with an overall theme of simplicity and strength.
Memorial Book and Garden
In the foyer is a glass topped display unit in which lies a memorial book. The pages of the book are turned regularly so that the memorial entries are shown on the relevant day of worship. Family members may arrange for an appropriate entry to be placed in the Memorial Book.
Outside the south end of the Church building is a memorial garden for contemplative prayer. Ashes from loved ones can, by arrangement, be buried or scattered in the garden. A central feature of our Garden is a beautiful fountain, donated by Basil and Linda Vorster, a symbol of God’s life-giving water, Christ Jesus, in whom we find perfect peace and life everlasting.