Since the birth of the new South Africa in 1994, the country is often affectionately referred to as the Rainbow Nation
. This is a celebration of the rich diversity of cultures, languages and races that make up this 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 under the name Vineyard Fellowship, with many of the initial membership coming from Wynberg Baptist Church. For much of the first year the group met in a Scout hall under the bridge in 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. There was an awareness that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were for today, and that we didn't have to work in our own strength to preach the gospel when God has given us the power of His Holy Spirit to enable us to do this. Much attention was given to building relationships as opposed to just doing church. Meetings were characterized by vibrant worship and sound Biblical exposition. The group grew quickly, necessitating a move to the Aliwal Road Primary School hall in Wynberg towards the end of 1983.
Soon the church was structured on the basis of cell-congregation-celebration. Every member was encouraged to participate in a cell or home group that would meet mid-week in homes; 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 everyone gathered for a celebration at Timour Hall Primary School (during the later 1980s this was relocated to the Waverley complex in Mowbray). A stately old house, called Fairlawn, was acquired in Wynberg for the church offices, and this served also as a home for Graham Ingram, the lead elder of the church during the first eight years.
The 1980s were a stormy time in South Africa, with the struggle against apartheid intensifying. In this context, building a non-racial fellowship was an important value, and the young church congregation was intentional about being part of the solution and not part of the problem. It was not always an easy road to tread in a deeply polarised society. Among other things, members of the church participated in various projects (such as housing, carpet-weaving, and health clinics) in some of the squatter settlements, as well as preaching the gospel and building relationships. Strong relationships were built with some of the residents of 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.
The Pettits arrive
In 1990 Simon Pettit was invited to become lead elder, and Simon and Lindsey and their three children immigrated from the United Kingdom. This marked a significant milestone in the growing relationship with the Newfrontiers family of churches, since the Pettits had been leading a related church in Uckfield, East Sussex. They had a close friendship with Terry Virgo, who provided leadership for the Newfrontiers family of churches, and Terry had already since 1984 been a regular visitor to the Vineyard Fellowship in Cape Town, preaching and giving leadership input on his annual visits. The church increasingly recognized how highly it valued Terry’s input, and there was a growing sense of being on a mission together with Newfrontiers churches on various continents. During the 1990s Simon Pettit began to play a key role in growing the network of Newfrontiers churches in West and East Africa, as well as in Southern Africa.
In 1991 the church sold its Fairlawn property in Wynberg and purchased a church complex in Crawford from the Dutch Reformed Church. This was part of an increasing desire to be more involved with communities on the Cape Flats. Soon after this the church changed its name to Jubilee Community Church – a name which resonates with rich biblical imagery evocative of God’s favour in seeing captives set free and good news preached to the poor. The church complex in Crawford was a venue for meetings and offices, but was too small to host the main Sunday celebrations which continued to be located at the Waverley complex in Mowbray and later at Wynberg Boys High School.
The search continued for facilities that could house all these activities, and at the beginning of 2000 Jubilee acquired the former Italtile warehouse in Observatory. This building was totally refurbished over a period of 18 months as Jubilee Centre, with ample facilities for Sunday meetings, children’s ministries, social projects, offices, and later even a health centre to serve the community. In fact, the property provides ample scope for further expansion.
Observatory has proved to be an ideal setting for a church centre that serves a church community drawn from such a diverse spectrum of the city’s population – young and old, poor and affluent, of different races, cultures and nationalities. For, Observatory is a cosmopolitan community, accessible on public transport from both the Cape Flats and the city’s suburbs, near Groote Schuur Hospital, the University of Cape Town, and some of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology student residences. Hence the rich diversity reflected in microcosm at Jubilee, where Sunday morning meetings are frequently translated into both Xhosa and French (the latter for the benefit of a growing number of refugees in our midst from francophone Africa) with headphones provided for the purpose.
As Simon Pettit devoted increasing attention to the wider extension work of Newfrontiers both nationally and internationally, he was engaged in travelling fairly extensively. Consequently, in 2004 Stephen van Rhyn was invited to take over leadership of the Jubilee eldership team. Less than a year later, in January 2005, Simon died suddenly while on a ministry trip in New Zealand – a devastating loss for both Jubilee and the Newfrontiers family of churches.
A heart for the city of Cape Town
The church has continued to grow and has sought to make a contribution in a wider context. As a local church we have sought to build good relationships with other churches in Cape Town and willingly acknowledge that we are but part of God’s church in this city. We are grateful to be part of the Newfrontiers family of churches worldwide, with particularly close links with other Newfrontiers churches in various parts of Southern Africa, and we have been integrally involved in establishing the following churches in the Cape Town area:
- The Bay Community Church in Muizenberg
- Uzukho Lwakhe Church in Khayelitsha
- Khanyisa Church in Gugulethu
- Grace Church Table Bay in the area north along Table Bay
Throughout this time the Lord has been very gracious to us as a local church community, and He has kept encouraging us to trust Him for even more as we seek both to serve Him and to bless our city and nation. We have seen Him do wonderful things and know that we have only just begun to tap into all that He has for us in the future.