Tracing the Roots

Take the journey with us to where Summerstrand United Church began…

A journey back through the records of time is necessary in order to arrive at Summerstrand United Church. In 1904 conversations were commenced between Presbyterians and Congregationalists in South Africa regarding some form of union between the two systems. These continued with varying degrees of support and interest, until they began to increase in pace after the union of the strands of Congregationalism. In the early 1970’s an agreement was reached, and recorded in the Procedures of each denomination, whereby church planting in new areas would be undertaken as a joint project, with a view to establishing a United congregation in that place. There was also an agreement recorded whereby ministers trained by either of the two denominations would be eligible for calls to a congregation in the other denomination without forfeiting their accreditation. 1983 was set aside as the great year for uniting these two denominations. The Assemblies were planned to be held in the same town, at the same time. All that was required was the approval of the church throughout the country. Each body set up criteria for the approval if the uniting of the two denominations. Each failed to gain the required consensus for unity. While this was a tremendous blow to many who had worked long and hard to make this happen, the previous agreements still stood.

Summerstrand United Church was started as a result of the agreement regarding work in new areas. In 1977, the Pearson Street Congregational Church and St Andrews Presbyterian Church co-operated in the establishment of this new work. For five years the congregation met in the hall of the Pearson High School, under the leadership of Rev Peter K Woolston, a retired Congregational minister, and the Rev Manfred Hartslief, a retired Presbyterian minister. In July 1982, the congregation moved into their new home, when this Church building was opened.

When Peter Woolston died suddenly in February 1984, the congregation faced an important decision regarding their future. Were they to continue being served by retired ministers, or had the time come to call a full-time minister of their own? A sizable donation toward the cost of a new manse enabled them to reach the decision to call a minister. In January 1985, the Rev Ian Booth, a Congregational minister, was ordained to the ministry and inducted to the Pastorate of Summerstrand United Church his first charge, and the church’s first full-time minister. He served the Church until February 1993, when he left after being called to another congregation.

The Summerstrand congregation was then vacant for nine months, during which time no less than 12 new members were added to the congregation despite being vacant (i.e. no minister) for these nine months.

The vacancy committee then put a call to Sean Wells, a Presbyterian minister, who accepted the Call in December 1993. Sean and his family committed themselves to the life and work of the congregation for just over five years. Spiritual development occurred in the lives of many and children’s work began to develop. Their home was known for its warm hospitality. Sean and his family left in June 1999 to pursue a calling in another congregation.

Murray and Shirley together with their family started to serve the congregation in January 2000, able to build on the work of those who had gone before them. Their goal, together with the leadership team at Summerstrand United, is to fulfil the biblical vision for this community.