Author: Lex Loizides
Category: Poverty and Wealth, Reconciliation, Cities
Urban Mission and Reconciliation – Jubilee Community Church
Since the birth of the new South Africa in 1994, the country has been affectionately referred to as the Rainbow Nation. This represents a celebration of the rich diversity of cultures, languages and races that make up the nation. Over the centuries Cape Town has become a real melting pot of cultures, and Jubilee Community Church reflects and celebrates this diversity as a local church community.
Jubilee Community Church was launched in 1983 and for much of the first year the group met in a Scout hall under a bridge in the predominantly white suburb of Plumstead.
This was an exciting phase in which the values of the church were explored and foundations were set in place. People came from all walks of life to meet with God.
Much attention was given to building relationships. Meetings were characterized by heart-felt worship and careful exposition of biblical texts. Within a year the church had grown and the Sunday meeting moved to a local School hall in Wynberg.
Soon the church was structured on the basis of cell-congregation-celebration. Every member was encouraged to participate in a mid-week home group; on Sunday mornings each person attended a particular congregation (from 1985 there were three – meeting in Plumstead, Claremont and Rondebosch – and later congregations were also established in Muizenberg, Ottery, and Gardens); and on Sunday evenings the whole church gathered for a city-wide celebration.
The 1980s were a stormy time in South Africa, with the struggle against apartheid intensifying. In this context, building a non-racial community was an important value, and the young church was intentional about being part of the solution and not merely observing the process unfold. It was not always an easy road to tread in a deeply polarised society.
Church members participated in various projects in some of the squatter settlements (eg, housing projects, carpet-weaving, and health clinics), as well as preaching the gospel, praying for the sick and building friendships.
Strong relationships were built with residents in Khayelitsha, which later led to the planting of Uzukho Lwakhe Church in that township. In the Tambo Square squatter settlement near Gugulethu members of the church became involved in helping with a children’s crèche, while others joined the community in campaigning for adequate housing.
Eventually the authorities allocated land for this purpose and the present Tambo Village began to take shape. Transport was provided for members of that community to join the church at Sunday meetings, and this led later to the planting of Khanyisa Church in Gugulethu.
Building Diverse Worship Services
One outcome of the growing relationships developed between these racial groups was the change in the look and feel of the public meetings at Jubilee.
Songs were no longer sung merely in English, but songs were both discovered and written in a variety of South African languages. Today on a Sunday at Jubilee you can hear songs in English, Xhosa, Zulu and sometimes even French!
The church is no longer trying to demonstrate inclusiveness but is now genuinely celebrating diversity in the context of Charismatic Reformed Christian unity.
Church members and leaders are convinced that a church on a mission to reach a city like Cape Town must inevitably be multi-racial and diverse in terms of age, educational history and economic resources. The Cross of Christ should bring people together.
Jubilee Community Church has benefited enormously through the church building input of Terry Virgo and the Newfrontiers leaders who have consulted with the elders. During the 1990s the church’s leaders began to play a key role in growing the network of relationships in West and East Africa, as well as in Southern Africa.
The Jubilee Centre
At the beginning of 2000 Jubilee acquired a former warehouse in Observatory. This building was totally refurbished over a period of 18 months with ample facilities for Sunday meetings, children’s ministries, social projects, offices, and later even added a fully equipped Health Centre to serve those in the community who cannot afford private health care.
The Observatory location has proved to be an ideal setting for a church centre that serves a community drawn from such a diverse spectrum of the city’s population.
Observatory is a cosmopolitan community, accessible on public transport from both the Cape Flats and the city’s southern suburbs, near Groote Schuur Hospital, the University of Cape Town, and Cape Peninsula University of Technology residences.
Hence the rich diversity reflected in microcosm at Jubilee, where the messages at Sunday morning meetings are translated via headphones into both Xhosa and French (the latter for the benefit of francophone Africans).
Being part of the church-planting network, Newfrontiers has increased the desire of the church leaders to plant autonomous local churches, as well as grow Jubilee itself. The following churches have been planted out of Jubilee:
Current Ministries aimed at serving the City
Blessing the city means rolling your sleeves up and doing something! Many of the ministries listed here are based at the Jubilee Centre, and most are run by volunteer church members:
The Eldership Team at Jubilee fully acknowledge that there is still some distance to go, but appreciate the grace that has been given to the church in seeking to directly meet some of the needs of the city whilst maintaining a clear evangelistic emphasis in every ‘social ministry’.
For more about Jubilee check out the church’s website www.jubilee.org.za