A Brief History of the Parish of Christ the King , Claremont

The Claremont Anglican Parish of St Saviour’s was formally established in 1854. The original Parish of St Saviour’s covered an enormous area. Besides Claremont, it included Newlands, part of Kenilworth and a large tract to the east. Six Chapels were established and staffed by St Saviour’s to care for the increasing suburban population. In due course the six chapelries became parishes in their own right. The daughter parishes are, All Saints (Lansdowne); St Matthew’s (Claremont); St Aidan’s (Lansdowne); St Andrew’s (Newlands); Christ the King (Claremont); and last to be established, Good Shepherd (Kirstenbosch).

During the Second World War the Assistant Priest at St Saviour’s, Desmond Wolfe, was sent into “The Flats” to search for somewhere to build a church. His bicycle proved of little use due to the deep sand that covered the area at that time so his search was made on foot and he identified the present site on Milner Road. The land on which the church, hall and rectory now stand was purchased and building of the hall commenced in 1940. The hall was a combined church/hall, with a sanctuary which could be partitioned off when the hall was used for secular purposes: films, badminton and bingo evenings being particularly popular.

Archbishop Darbyshire asked Rev. Wolfe, as Priest-in-Charge of “The Milner District”, what he wanted to call the new chapelry. As the parish of St. Saviour’s had two churches dedicated to Our Lord (St Saviour’s and Good Shepherd) Rev. Wolfe thought it appropriate to name the third church Christ the King. The foundation stone of the hall was laid in 1940. In 1944 Rev. Wolfe was transferred to St John’s Hostel, and Rev. Dann was appointed Priest-in-Charge.

In 1947 Rev. Dann was transferred to the Northern Cape, and Rev. Webb was in charge during the interregnum until Rev. Hugal moved in as Priest-in-charge, in 1948.

In 1952 Christ the King was made a parochial district and in 1955 the foundation stone of the new church building was laid by Princess Marie Louise.

In 1956 Christ the King became a fully-fledged parish independent of St Saviour’s and Tom Hugal was made Rector. A very successful Outreach Mission was run in the parish in 1957. Towards the end of this year Rev. Hugal became ill and Rev. Durose and later Rev. Peake were appointed assistants in the parish to help the rector. Rev. Hugal died in 1961, and Rev. Clark was appointed rector.

During Rev. Clarke’s incumbency a new organ, and a timber ceiling were installed in the church. Rev. Clark’s health deteriorated, and he retired in 1965. Rev. Hirst of St. Saviour’s staff filled in the interregnum of some twelve months.

Rev. Collins was installed as Rector in 1966. Rev. Collins had the gift of organisation and evangelism: the parish was highly organised, and membership expanded to some six hundred families on the roll. Sunday School became Junior Church, and Christian Stewardship was introduced, not only to the parish, but to the diocese. Thanks to the introduction of pledged giving and highly successful annual church fetes this was a time when money was given away to deserving Christian organisations. In 1968 the parish’s physical facilities were improved. A new rectory was built in Garfield Road, the hall extended, and an electrically operated bell was installed in the church tower.

With all monies owing on the church building being fully paid, free of debt, the church could be consecrated. This was done by Archbishop Selby-Taylor on the 27th of October 1968.

In 1972 Rev. Collins was appointed Archdeacon of Cape Town, and transferred to St. Barnabas, Kloof Street. After a short interregnum, Rev. Findlay was appointed rector. The new 1975 liturgy was adopted for the Eucharist and for Evensong, but on Thursday mornings the Prayer Book Service was celebrated. Boys and girls were appointed as servers in the sanctuary.

Ill health forced an early retirement of the rector in 1977, and Rev. Basil Berthold took up the appointment as rector of Christ the King in 1978. As a consequence of diabetes Rev. Berthold’s sight deteriorated to the extent that a guide rail was installed from the rectory to the church. Permission was also obtained from the bishop for lay ministers to lead some sections of the liturgy normally reserved for priests: this did not include the Eucharistic prayer.

In 1982, Rev. Lionel Kuiper, a non-stipendiary priest was appointed to assist the rector. Lionel Kuiper was an excellent craftsman and made the movable, beautifully carved altar, which brought the sacraments closer to the people. This is still used in the church. Following Rev. Kuiper’s appointment the established practise of holding two Sunday morning services (8:00 and 9:30) was continued with the early service being said and the later using the English Hymnal.

After serving the congregation well both Rev. Berthold and Rev. Kuiper left early in 1986. Rev. Berthold into retirement and Rev. Kuiper to St Aidans Lansdowne.

Rev. Henry Frieslaar, who had been chaplain at the Diocese College, and had previously served the Holy Trinity Parish in Paarl was appointed rector in 1986. He engaged enthusiastically in all aspects of parish life. The An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 was adopted to replace Liturgy 1975. Rev. Frieslaar initiated a parish prayer chain. As a private venture he led a church group to Oberammergau and Turkey. After four years he was transferred to St. Oswald's, Milnerton.

In 1992 Rev. Hilton Marias, who had served as curate at St. Saviour's became rector. More evangelical traditions were introduced and hymns and choruses from 100 Hymns for Today, as well as Cry Hosanna, and Praise the Lord became familiar. The Good News Bible replaced the Revised Standard Bible in the pews. Alpha courses, the Seasons of "Renew”, and Missions to the parish took place. A spiritual dance group was formed. The parish’s first women lay ministers were licenced. Healing services were arranged. Despite this renewal of spirituality parish finances continued to be a problem. Leaks in the church and rectory roofs became serious and a loan was taken to meet the cost of the repairs. Rev. Marais was moved to a new parish in early 1999.

Rev. Michael Parker became priest-in-charge whilst we waited for a new priest. At this stage the question of whether the parish could exist as a financially viable entity arose.

Fortunately, Rev. Julian Titus came from St. Mary's, Woodstock to rescue the situation. He launched a financial recovery programme that asked parishioners to make interest free loans to the parish, with single repayments of R2000 per month being made to participating parishioners, the name of a lucky recipient being drawn each month. This initiative raised the R100, 000 needed to clear the accumulated debt and place the parish on a sound financial footing. During this incumbency the practice of having two Sunday morning services was discontinued and a single service at 09:00 was adopted. Weekday morning Eucharists on Wednesdays and Thursdays were maintained. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the consecration of Christ the King a stained glass window depicting The Ladder of Devine Ascent was installed through the initiative of Margaret Newman. The Golden Jubilee of the church's consecration was marked by a special commemorative service and parish supper on 27th November 2018.

The parish was fortunate in having Rev. Ron Taylor join the congregation and being willing to assist and stand-in for the rector whenever he was away to attend to the duties imposed by his having been appointed Archdeacon of Rondebosch. In addition to helping with services Ron guided lay ministers in the preparation of a commentated Eucharist in order to improve parishioner understanding of the reasoning underpinning the 1989 liturgy. This initiative expanded into the book, He took, blessed, broke, and gave, which he published in 2005.

Rev. Julian retired in October 2011 but was permitted to continue officiating until January 2012.

During a yearlong interregnum the Parish was served until Easter by Rev. Mervyn Moore and thereafter by Rev. Erica Murray.

Cheryl Bird was instituted as Rector of the parish on 20th January 2013. Prior to this appointment she had been Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Ascension, Devils Peak and before that had served a curacy in the Parish of the Reconciliation, Mannenberg. She had been ordained Deacon in 2004 and Priest in 2005. Prior to her ordination Rev. Bird had been employed by First National Bank for 30 years in various managerial capacities. Her experience and skills in management were soon called into play in the parish as she inherited the conundrum of a parishioner tenant who was defaulting on rectory rental payments. This unfortunate incident led to the parish suffering a significant financial loss and led to the rectory lease being placed in the hands of a professional estate agent. Cheryl also applied her skills to updating and improving Parish systems for recording income and expenditure and modernising the church’s audio-visual systems. During her incumbency the 150 year old Bates organ, that had originally served in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, was stripped and reconditioned.

Her managerial aptitude ensured that she was called upon to serve on numerous Diocesan and Provincial committees and boards. While serving the parish she also assumed responsibilities first as Canon of the Cathedral and subsequently also as Archdeacon of Ibongoletu while also serving as a warden to the Fellowship of Vocation and co-ordinator of both the Provincial and Diocesan Gender Desk. She served as role-model to both Notemba Ntuli-Kamana, an ordinand assigned to the parish for training, and Glynis Rhodes who was posted to the parish before being ordained Deacon. Despite these heavy external commitments Cheryl actively engaged with lay ministers to offer monthly faith-sharing sessions open to interested parishioners, and whenever possible attended choir practices. Most unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic prevented services being held for most of the year prior to her retirement.