St John’s Presbyterian Church in Boksburg celebrates 128 years

Reverend Gavin Vaaltyn inside the St John’s Presbyterian Church, which celebrates 128 years this year.

The church is situated at 49 Leeupoort Street.

Reverend George Robey was the first minister of the church.

He came from the Free Church of Scotland and was sent to work among the miners of the East Rand to bring them into fellowship with God.

The first mayor of Boksburg was one of the first members to join the church in 1889. He acted as a presenter for the singing, there being no organ until a few Sundays later, when Boksburg’s only harmonium was impressed into service.

Thirty people attended the first service, and within six months the number had increased to 120.

A church site in Commissioner Street was erected, provided by the government free of charge.

This building, costing about 500 pounds, was opened free of debt on May 12, 1890, and was quickly used to hold Sunday school services, which already had between 40 and 50 children attending.

Many changes have occurred over the last 100-plus years.

The new reverend, Gavin Vaaltyn, is excited to lead the church to greener pastures.

Vaaltyn was appointed in November 2016.

He grew up in the Eastern Cape, where he lived most of his life.

His first church was in the Eastern Cape – Davidson Memorial – in the small town of Adelaide.

From 1999 to 2014 he ministered in Cape Town at Bridgetown Presbyterian Church, in the heart of the Cape Flats.

He then spread his wings to KwaZulu-Natal from 2014 to 2016 before moving to Boksburg.

Vaaltyn said while he was growing up he never dreamed of becoming a reverend but aspired to be a traffic officer or doctor.

Reverend Gavin Vaaltyn from the St John’s Presbyterian Church with his wife, Jocelyn Vaaltyn, née Pringle.

Being a reverend to me while growing up looked too serious and boring. In my family I am the only one who is a minister and I started my first ministry in my grandmother’s lounge

He is married to Jocelyn Vaaltyn and has two children.

The enthusiastic reverend holds a Diploma in Theology and an Honours Degree in Theology from Rhodes University and Unisa respectively.

He has described himself as a compassionate, Christ-centred and open person.

Some of the highlights Vaaltyn shared was when he ministered among the residents of the Cape Flats.

Reverend Gavin Vaaltyn outside the 128-year-old St John’s Presbyterian Church.

“The Cape Flats is not an easy place to live in. It always broke my heart to see how people had to survive.

“When I had the opportunity to minister there, I knew God will use me to at least change a few people’s hearts.

“Some of the challenges I faced in my ministry was teenage pregnancy, the high rate of unemployment and that young people lacked vision.”

Vaaltyn said he is passionate about young people and wants to change their lives. That is why he opened an organisation in Cape Town which helps drug users to abstain from the habit.

Speaking about Boksburg, Vaaltyn said the city has a friendlier atmosphere compared to Cape Town.

Vaaltyn said he is excited about the prospects of the church and preaching the word of God to lost souls.

The new reverend at St John’s Presbyterian Church, Gavin Vaaltyn, points to some of the photographs of previous reverends.

“Our vision for the church is that we seek to be a multicultural and inter-generational congregation that worships the Lord.”

Vaaltyn said one of his wishes for the church is to see more young people attending, as they are the ones who still have the power and ability to continue the ministry’s legacy.

Vaaltyn said the support from his family has helped him in his ministerial journey.

Ntombikayise Sibeko

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