Our Saviour Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Wartburg
“Do you only have German services? Is it not possible to also hold an English service? These were the questions that were carried into the parsonage. The request was for Kirchdorf to hold English services, that they too could understand and attend. It seemed so impossible to do anything about this request since the Kirchdorf congregation was so big and demanded all the pastor’s time.
After the funeral of Martin Wortmann, Waldo and Dieter Köhne on the 5th October 1994, a funeral attended by many in the area, the request was again repeated concerning a service in English, in Kirchdorf.
At the meeting of the Church Council of the Congregation of Christ, Kirchdorf held on the 24th of January 1995, this request was taken up. During the discussion that followed it was mentioned, that in the past English services had already been offered, once a month in the evening. These services finally came to an end since the then English speaking members of Kirchdorf did not support the services. It was also discussed how starting such a service could be motivated since there were no English speaking members in Kirchdorf at the time.
After a lengthy discussion on what to do, it was decided to make a proposal to the AGM of the Congregation to seek permission from the congregation to make a survey and see what the interest and need for such a service were in our area.
The following proposal was formulated by the Church Council:
“The congregation is asked to deliberate on and make a decision that a survey is made of Wartburg and the surrounding area, to see if there are people in the area who are unchurched.”
Motivation: The congregation might have an assignment and a possibility in this area.
(For the original German see minutes: 24/1/95; 6.e)
The Proposal was submitted to the AGM held on the 4th of February 1995. After a lengthy debate, it was stated that if such a survey is conducted, then all the Ministers in the area concerned should be informed of our intention. It should also be clearly stated, that this was only a survey and that we just wanted to find out if people belonged to a church, and if there was interest in us starting an English service. The official resolution minuted reads as follows:
“Survey, church-mindedness of people in the village, adopted with 1 objection”
(For original German see minutes 4.2.95; 126.96.36.199)
The matter of the survey was again taken up at the Church Council Meeting of the 21 February 1995. Here the minutes read:
“Survey of Church Affiliation: This matter must be perused and suitable persons are to be asked to help.”(4)
Members of Kirchdorf were asked to help with the survey.
At the meeting of the Church Council of the 24.3.1995, it was minuted, that Pastor S. Köhne had asked members to help, had met with them and discussed the intended survey. The matter was to be perused further after Easter. (3)
And again from the minutes of the 25 April 1995, we read, that the 9th of May 1995 at 19.00 had been set as the date for the Church Elders to meet with those willing to help with the survey.
On the evening of the 9th May the following people met with the Church Council: Shelly Habermann, Werner Hillermann, Helmut + Irmgard Köhne, Karl + Ursula Köhne, Meira Köhne, Eckard Lucht, Werner Lucht, Ingmar Meister, Stefan Ringelmann, Petra Wiesinger.
Werner Lucht had provided a list with street names and names of residents of Wartburg. As they worked through the lists, those of whom the team knew, that they belonged to and were active in a church were removed from the lists. Then the different members of the team, excluding Church Council members, received their streets and names of residents on whom they were asked to call in person.
The questionnaire was finalized and a statement of who we, that is, Kirchdorf and FELSISA are, was finalized and approved.
All ministers of the different churches in the area were informed of our intention to make a survey, and they approved.
It was now time for fervent prayer, in private and also in the service, for those members undertaking the task of the survey.
On the evening of Monday, the 15th May 1995 the team met for consultation and deliberation. And on Monday evening 29th May 1995, they met again with the results. The experience was overwhelming. Only one member had met with a strong negative statement. The others were received kindly and with respect. At the close of the evening, the team was convinced, that we had to start with a service and that as soon as possible.
The survey conducted in Wartburg and among some people of the Jaagbaan Village(Noordsberg) showed interest of 85 adults with whom went 37 children to be either unchurched or church-affiliated but not active. It was said, that even if 80% were only polite in saying, that they would like us to hold an English service, then we still had a big opportunity to start some real mission work.
These results were presented to the Church Council at their meeting on the 6 June 1995. It was decided to bring this before the congregation. (2.i)
On Trinity Sunday 11 June 1995, the first gift of R200.00 was received in the Thank-offering at Kirchdorf designated: “Englische Gemeinde” (English Congregation).
At a Congregational Meeting called for the 12th of June 1995, the survey results were presented to the meeting. Because of the interest shown by the community, it was decided in principle, that we should start with English services as soon as possible. Time, place and Pastor still had to be decided on.(7.2)
At the next meeting of the Church Council, 20 June 1995, it was discussed how best to start with the English service. Tentatively, Pastor Helmuth Eggers, who had agreed to help us at least for one year, would start the services. A suitable venue had to be found.
In the meantime, the empty office buildings on the farm “Hindenburg” were offered to the congregation by Mr. Egon Eggers, the owner of the farm, as a venue for the service. At its meeting of the 25th of July 1995, the Church Council resolved that the matter of the English congregation and services should again be brought before the congregation on the 7th of August 1995. Two options as the venue should be considered. Either the rooms on the farm “Hindenburg”, or the instruction room beneath the hall.
At the congregational meeting held on the 7th of August 1995 a document, drawn up by the Church Council, was presented to the congregation concerning the forming of an English congregation. This document was accepted as presented with one abstention. At this meeting, it was decided that the venue for the services should be the farm “Hindenburg”.
It was now the duty of the Church Council to see to it, that the venue on “Hindenburg” was made acceptable for the service. Toilets had to be built and existing buildings had to be renovated to be used as Sunday School rooms.
In the meantime, it was decided, that the survey team should invite all the people who had shown an interest in the service, to a meeting in the fellowship hall at Kirchdorf on Sunday the 20th of August in the afternoon at 15.00, for fellowship over tea, coffee and cake. Those present at this meeting were informed, that the services would not take place in the Kirchdorf church, because the German congregation used the church from 8.00 to 13.00 on festive days. The content of the document concerning the English congregation was also made known to them. This opportunity was also used to ask those present about their expectations and wishes, especially concerning the time when the service should begin. Asked when the services would begin, the hope was expressed, that it would be in the next month.
The meeting was attended by 7 English speaking people from Wartburg. Present were: Angus+Jenny McBean (Children: Kate + Sarah); Alex+Karin Pont(John, William, Mark); Joy Franz; Gertrud Kelly; Peter+Nicky Wepener; Walther+Dorothy Meyer; Hellene Peckham.
During this time, the Church Council also looked at different venues that could be used for the service since the cost to upgrade the buildings on “Hindenburg” turned out to be very high. Two other possible venues arose: The dining room in the Wartburg-Kirchdorf Schülerheim(hostel), and the house of Mr. Gerhard R. Meyer, at 4 Dawn View Dr. (Church Council minutes 22 August 1995, 6)
These options were presented to the congregational meeting Kirchdorf, on the 28th of August 1995. The Congregation decided to rent the house in 4 Dawn View Drive since it met the needs to hold services there. This meant that the services could start immediately.
Notices were again sent out, mainly handed out by the survey team to all who had indicated their interest. The first service was to be held on the 17th of September 1995, (14th Sunday after Trinity) at 4 Dawn View Drive at 9.00.
Then came a blow! At the Church Council Meeting held on the 12th of September 1995, it was stated, that the Borough of Wartburg had not been able to give their approval for the use of the house for church services. What now? It was clear that we could not go back to our invitation. The time from the survey to now had been too long already. After long deliberation, it was decided that the services should start in the parsonage since this was Church property and did not fall under the Borough law.
For that evening, interested members from Kirchdorf had been invited to practice the English liturgy to assist in the English services. When Pastor S. Köhne mentioned the dilemma to the assembled group, present on the balcony of the Kirchdorf church, Mrs Sabine Meyer spontaneously offered the use of their house, situated at the end of Dawn View Drive, but outside the Borough area, until such time as permission had been received for the 4 Dawn View venue. Again God had opened a door and showed us that HE is still in control.
With great love and concern Conrad and Sabine Meyer opened their house and their hearts to us. The lounge was prepared for the first service. Would anyone come?
The 17th of September 1995, the 14th Sunday after Trinity, dawned. What was to be expected? Long before the service started the Meyer house and yard was busy. The service area had been prepared on Saturday. Now chairs and tables were set up out side for tea and fellowship after the service.
Cars started arriving. The lounge filled up, the living room was full and people were sitting on the veranda. Many people from Kirchdorf and Pietermaritzburg had come to support the service, and many visitors came as well. All in all there were about 110 people present.
The service started at 9.00 with the announcements made by Pastor S. Köhne, who could be present because Dr. Wilhelm Weber from Enhlanhleni held the services in Kirchdorf.
Then the first Hymn was sung: PRAISE TO THE LORD THE ALMIGHTY THE KING OF CREATION. (Lutheran Hymnal 39:1-5) What a praise it was, coming from hearts filled with gratitude to God that finally we could hold our first service in the congregation of “Our Saviour” in Wartburg.
The Hymns that were sung during the service were: 39,1-5; 421,1-4;
385,1-5; 293,1-3 and 54,1-3
The readings were the readings for the Sunday Rm.8:12-17 and Lk.17:11-19.
- Pastor Helmuth Eggers preached on: Gen 1:3: “And God Said.”
- Pastor Siegfried Köhne held the Litergy
- Mr Manfred Lucht played the organ.
For this service we had an electrical organ which belonged to Reinhold Schulz. This organ was lent to us until the Kirchdorf electronic organ, that stood in the hall, could be fixed. After the Kirchdorf organ arrived, Mr. Schulz donated his organ to our congregation in Pietermaritzburg.
The beginning was made. What a meaningful day for Kirchdorf to start a daughter congregation, the day on which they in a service of repentance, humiliation and prayer remembered the beginning of the Free Evangelical Synod In South Africa(FELSISA). Our hearts were filled with gratitude towards God and optimism as we left the home of the Meyer’s. What a challenge and what an opportunity God had placed at our feet. Using us unworthy servants to be his ambassadors he wanted to build his Church.
That Tuesday following the first service, Gwen Boulton, Nicky Wepener and Joy Franz came as the first to receive instruction by pastor S Köhne, to be accepted into membership. The son of Peter and Nicky Wepener, Stuart Wepener was also enrolled in the confirmation class. Stuart was at that time already very sick with cancer.
Here at the home of the Meyer’s we held our services till the last Sunday in the Church Year, the 26th of November 1995. On the 1 Sunday in Advent, the 3rd of December 1995 we were able to hold our first service in 4 Dawn View Drive. What a joy to finally have our own church home!
From 1995 to 2008 the Our Saviour Congregation was served by Pastors: Helmuth Eggers (1995-1996) Retired pastors from Canada and the USA served on 1-year bases, the pastors Hartel, Harlos, Bartel and then Harlos for a second 1-year term. During the times of vacancies, the pastor from Kirchdorf helped out, sometimes with the Sunday Service starting at 07.00 in the morning so that he could be back in time for the services in Kirchdorf. In 2002 the Synodical Council allowed the Immanuel Congregation, Pietermaritzburg to call a pastor who would serve Immanuel and Our Saviour. Pastor Karl Böhmer, ordained in Pretoria on the 3 November 2002, was called and served both congregations till he accepted a call into an LCMS Congregation in the USA in 2007.
On the 18 August 1996 the Our Saviour Congregation decided at its voter’s meeting, that the congregation will be regarded as “administrative independent” but at the same time be a part or “daughter congregation” (Gemeindefiliale) of the Congregation of Christ, Kirchdorf. (See minutes Kirchdorf: Gemeindeversammlung am 19. August 1996 um 19h00; 5.3 Our Saviour – Administrative Selbständigkeit)
The Our Saviour Congregation has held its own as an “independent” congregation. The membership of the congregation has had its ups and downs. Unchurched members had found a church home but sadly some also left the congregation again.
A high light in the life of the congregation during 2008 was the baptism of an adult grade 12 girl. In the religious instruction at least 3 children from the village have participated of which 2 hope to be confirmed in 2008. The total confirmed membership at present stands at 30 confirmed members. An average of 8 children from the Wartburg Kirchdorf Hostel attend the Sunday services during the school term.
A mission project to serve Our Saviour and Pella(LCSA) has be launched by the Mission of our mother church in Germany and Kirchdorf/Our Saviour. This has been approved for 5 years. The Synodical Council of FELSISA has approved the venture. Kirchdorf and Our Saviour Congregation have committed themselves for 5 years to pay one half(½) of the salary and also to provide a house and pay for transport costs of the missionary/pastor and school tuition.
On 2 June 2008 it was made known by the LKM that Missionary Christian Tiedemann had agreed to serve in this capacity as missionary/pastor for Our Saviour and Pella.
On the 5 October 2008 Pastor Christian Tiedemann was installed as Pastor of Our Saviour. The service was held at 15h30 in the Kirchdorf Church, with a reception held in the hall after the service where he and his wife Christa-Maria were welcomed. As Parsonage the house in 28 Reservoir Road was rented.
For a long time it was debated whether a new church building should be built for our Saviour and where. Many plots were looked at.
As a true gift from God, Kirchdorf was able to purchase the church building from the Ou Apostolise Kerk von Afrika, situated at 2 Dawn View Drive. On the 18 November 2012 the Our Saviour congregation held its first service in the church building. The service was opened by pastor Christian Tiedemann with the following:
Dear congregation, the announcements today a year ago read: I would like the congregation to pray for guidance in the matter of a new church building. … And today we are sitting in a new church building. We thank and praise God for this!
Let us pray: Dear Lord heavenly Father we glorify your name and give thanks to you for making this building available to us and allowing us to use it. You serve us here with your word and sacraments and we want to in turn praise and worship you forevermore. Bless us today and in the days to come and fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we do everything to your Glory, in Jesus Name we pray. Amen!
The following hymns were sung during the opening service:
- LW 206
Hymn of the month
- LW 423
- LW 424
- LW 250
- LW 219
On 17 February, 2013 the Church building was dedicated in the name of the triune God to be used for divine services for the Our Saviour Lutheran congregation.
Pastor Christian Tiedemann served the congregation till the 28 December 2014.
During a joint service with Kirchdorf and St Peter’s, Pietermaritzburg, pastor Roland Johannes was installed as pastor to shepherd the Our Saviour congregation on the 28 December 2014.
Pastor Johannes and his wife Anna with their two children, were able to move into the newly acquired and renovated parsonage at 3 Dawnview Drive on the 19 December 2014.
Pastor Johannes served our congregation until July 2019. He moved with his family to Germany, after accepting a call to serve in our sister church, the SELK. On the 1st September 2019, the Our Saviour Congregation called Pastor Andreas Albers. He accepted the call and started his service beginning of October 2019.