Mossel Bay Methodist Society 1906 - 2014
A Short History...
The first permanent buildings in Mossel Bay were the barracks of the Buitepos garrison erected in 1785 on the site of the present Maritime Museum. In 1845 the Dutch Reformed community erected their first church in Bland Street. From the beginning, services in english were conducted for the english-speaking community. It was the policy of the church to make a spiritual home for English non-conformists. The Methodists in Mossel Bay, mainly Cornish settlers who arrived in the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century, worshiped in the Dutch Reformed Church.
From 1859 the evening services were held in English, and morning services from 1881. By 1889 the Sunday School was predominantly English, and from 1892 Katkisasie (Confirmation) was provided in English. The Methodists contributed money for the building of the Klipkerk in 1888. The unlikely event that sparked the establishment of the Mossel Bay Society was the gold rush at Millwood near Knysna in
the 1880's. The Wesleyan Methodist Church sent the Rev C Stuart Franklin to minister to the diggers. Hopefuls from Mossel Bay formed a company to dig at Millwood. Among them were Methodists from Cornwall, the stonemasons John and William Delbridge, and former seamen, Richard and Joseph James. They begged Franklin to come to Mossel Bay to minister to the Methodists there, which he did from time to time, travelling by cape-cart.
From 1922 to 1924, the Rev C Stuart Franklin became our tenth minister and served his last pastorate here before retiring.
In 1892 the Dutch Reformed Church Council noted that the Rev James Chamberlain was ministering to their Methodist members, and asked him to hold separate Sunday services, but to conduct the evening services in the Klipkerk. The Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, which caused feelings to run high, was the ostensible catalyst that led to the formation of the Wesleyan Methodist Congregation.
On March the 16th 1903, a meeting of Wesleyan Methodists was held in the old Town Hall, under the chairmanship of the Revs AT Rhodes, District Chairman of Grahamstown, and Harry JM Withers, the 4th minister of the Oudtshoorn Methodist Church.
A commitee was formed, pledges of financial support from 15 families and individuals were received, and it was announced that Ds John Murray had offered the use of the Wilcox Hall in Marsh Street (then the Poor School, now Paddy's Place) for services. The congregation met there for three-and-a-half years. It is astonishing to note that the census of 1904 showed Mossel Bay's total population as 4200 The present site, including the Old Manse, then called Queens Villa, was acquired in 1905 at an auction sale for £860, of which £200 was recouped by selling the narrow strip adjoining the present public parking area.
John Delbridge, then living in Wynberg, Cape Town, lent the church £500 to finance the purchase.
During the ministry of our third minister, the Rev Walter E Cordingley, the four foundation stones of the present building were laid with ceremony on 19 February 1906. The architect was William John Delbridge, who had been born in Mossel Bay in 1879. The contractor was JB Weymouth, a member of the church. The pews, pulpit and communion rail, made from Canadian Oak and still in use, were ordered from a catalogue.
The first service in the building was held before the furniture arrived, on Sunday, July the 1st 1906. Daily, during the forthnight 7 to 22 July, the Rev William M Douglas conducted an evangelistic campaign in the church. The Rev AF Hornabrook, President of the Wesleyan Conference, who preached the dedicatory sermon, formally dedicated the building on Saturday, August the 18th 1906.
Since 1903 the Sunday School (Now named Teen & Junior church) has had a continuous ministry. In 1919 the Woman's Auxiliary (now the MMG) was founded. The chior also dates back to 1903, but does not have the same continuous history, having disappeared from time to time, but never for long. 32 Ministers, including two Presidents of Conference, the Revs William H Irving and William Illsley, Have served the congregation.
The first minister was the Rev Francis Weir, an Australian, who was born in Wales. Our present minister is the Rev Lynne Walter who commenced her ministry here in December 2014.
Three ministers have served for more than ten years, the Revs Brian Gibson (1987-2000), Martinette L Barnard (2001-2011) and J Flesher Rumfitt, the only minister who served two terms here (1917-1922, 1926-1932).
Two ministers died in harness, and are buried in the Old Graveyard, the Rev Richard P Underwood (1909), whose ministry lasted less than 10 weeks, and the Rev Desmond R Nixon (1947-1952). The Rev Thomas Stephenson (1937-1942), and his wife, are also buried there.
Changes to the church property have been relatively few. In 1936, the Annie James Hall was added at the East end of the church. The eight stained glass windows were donated during the Second World War. Four commemorate foundation members, the James, Jeffery and Weymouth families.
The Old Manse, built before 1877, was used as a manse only from 1933 to 1973. Before that, it had been rented out as unsuitable for the ministers, and other houses had been rented as manses. After the Vincent Street manse was bought in 1973, the old manse served the Sunday School, until demolished to make room for the present parking area in 1993. The Vincent Street manse was sold in 2000, when the present manse in Heiderand was acquired.
The houses to the South of the property were acquired earlier and the Wesley Centre was also developed in 1993. The Centre contains a hall and Sunday School classrooms.