Born out of the simple need to pray together, the founding of the Bryanston Methodist Community was spearheaded in 1956 by community members Ted and Erith Day, Harry and Maver Harris, Harold and Fran Thompson, Emrys and Rene Hughes and Doctor and Doris Barker. But with no place yet to call home, the group first held meetings in the St. Stithians College Chapel. It was the late Rev. Vivian Harris from the Berea Society who first led the Bryanston Community, followed by the Rev. Newton Fink, who ministered for two years. Three years later and just bordering the leap into the 60’s, the Bryanston Methodist Community looked to the future and the needs of the youth. With more determination than funds, a basement of one of the shops in the Bryanston Shopping Centre became the base camp of the first Bryanston Methodist Sunday School. Every Sunday the premises that served as a dance studio during the week transformed into a hub of prayer and fellowship. Starting with just 4 teachers and 20 children, the school had no less than 80 parents and children by the end of the year. It was a humble start with the centre’s yard and even available cars being used as classrooms when the skies threatened with rain.
“There is only one way to build a house that will be secure against the storms,” says Jesus. “Dig deep down and lay a foundation on solid rock.” To be sure Jesus talked about building the foundation of our life on Him and the rock of His word. But by 1960 we faced internal and external pressures to move to something more suitable. That year, in answer to prayer we were offered accommodation at Bryanston Primary School. The next year, a miracle happened and our church began to lay a foundation. Dr JB Webb had purchased land in Grosvenor Road some years earlier and this he donated to us. So on the 10th of December 1961 the church hall was opened with a dedication service led by the late Dr JB Webb himself, then the President of Conference. It was a modest building of 5 modules a small kitchen and two toilets, totalling 1650 square feet, costing just R10 000.
The Bryanston Methodist Community really flowered during those early years in the 60’s. With crucial planning by Ted Day and his wife Erith, by 1961, Sunday School was in full swing and by 1964 we were bursting at the seams, and needed extensions. So R7500 later, a fortune back then mind you, another 2 modules, basement and resident staff quarters were added. It was Charles Lucas and Johnny Koekemoer who oversaw the institution of a properly structured planned giving scheme to meet the requirements of the Circuit Financial Management. Together with Matt Eddy, who headed it up, these committed men kept the church afloat. At this time Rev. Milton Martin presided, followed by Rev Ronald Atwell who had served at St Stithians College.
In 1963 the new circuit of Johannesburg was started and the Bryanston Society became part of this new circuit. That year the Rev Dr JB Webb retired and a new Chairman was appointed to the Southern Transvaal District. So we had a building and a growing congregation, but by 1963 we still needed one important element for the ministry to flourish: A full time minister and the means to afford him. It was the Rev Allister Rundle who joined our cause and two years later the Rev Brian Brown arrived, a truly inspired man, who encouraged us to take a massive leap of faith. Not only did we now need to house our resident minister, but we were also finally going to erect a proper church building. And so we gritted our teeth and went forward in faith. Thanks to funding by the Johannesburg North Methodist circuit, by 1968 we had the manse built next door to the church hall. The beautiful new A frame church, very fashionable at that time was built. And it was a momentous occasion on the 19th of April 1969 when the first Bryanston Methodist Church was opened by the chairman of the district Rev Stanley Pitts. The stained glass window in the church was funded by the Women’s Auxiliary.
That year the Rev. Brian Brown left for the United Kingdom, leaving us with a renewed vision for Bryanston Methodist. The Lord was good and we grew from strength to strength. By the 70’s the district was changing. And the Johannesburg North Circuit, including Bryanston Methodist, was involved in these changes. As a result we now found ourselves in the South Western Transvaal district, still under the District leadership of Rev Stanley Pitts. The Rev Lee van Rensburg led the congregation for four years. And in 1971, what a blessing we received, one that changed the entire tone and feel of the services. A second hand pipe organ was installed at a steal of just R5000. Then in 1974 the Rev John Gouws took hold of the reigns as minister and the next year Rev Russell E. Harrison was appointed as the new Superintendent Minister.
Towards the end of 1978 the Wesley Pre-Primary School was opened along the eastern boundary of our site. Costing a whopping R95 000 the venture was still well worth the expense as we now had proper classrooms for the weekend use of our Sunday school. And the facility furthered our youth work activities.
With the 80’s came more changes in the leadership of the church and the Rev Harry Nel who had been the Chaplain at St Stithians, where we first began, was appointed as minister. We were growing. Membership numbers soared to over 1200, but that meant we needed better offices and more extensions. We added a north and south transept to the church and with an additional 90 seats brought the seating capacity up to almost 275. By 1983 the renovations were complete, the manse was refurbished, the driveways properly tarred and the staff living quarters extended totalling R35 000. The church was a hive of activities and even midweek youth work had started. But where to house everyone? And so in October 1985 a second manse was bought adjoining both the existing manse and the Pre-Primary School, at the staggering cost of R150 000. This added significantly to the useable space for meetings, classes and offices and allowed us to expand the variety of youth work we could do, especially for those in their middle to late teens and university students.
Sadly at the end of 1986 Rev Harry Nel and his wife Cynthia decided to emigrate and left for the United Kingdom. Rev Roy Baker assisted us until 1987 when Rev David Newton became resident minister. The next year we acquired a second minister, and a lady at that, the Rev Dawn Slabber. We were growing fast and in every possible way. But the late 80’s in South Africa were turbulent and affected the work we were doing. We called it a period of facing the crisis of change and had to re-examine the role the Christian Church would have to play in shaping the future of the country. As the Youth work and numbers increased, so too did our permanent staff. We even made extensions and upgrades to our accommodation, completed in March 1990 at a cost of R160 000. By now we had a congregation of just under 1600. Rev Jenny Samdaan took over from Rev Dawn Slabber as the second minister in February 1990 and served at Bryanston Methodist Church until the end of 1993, when a change of guard took place and Rev Costa Stathakis and his wife Marge, together with Rev Colin Pilkington, joined the church.
Bryanston Methodist continued to soar. Costa posed an enormous challenge to the congregation, calling for expansion and the building of a new sanctuary, costing no less than R3 000 000. Bear in mind this was 100X the cost of the original church. The plan was to retain the original church as a chapel, while the new church would seat about 650 people, with overflow capacity into the foyer for another 100. The Counselling department was launched in 1992 and in 1994 Marge Stathakis became our resident full-time counsellor. By the end of 1995 we had a detailed site development plan and a membership of 1345. The Rev Thembo Mntambo joined the ministerial team promoting the transformation of our society into one which would be more racially tolerant and more broadly representative of the country. We also reinstated the traditional African Sunday afternoon service. Various ministers served with Costa and Marge over the years. They were Revs Thabo Tshabala, Gary and Jacqui Rivas, Dennis Gee, Brenda Timmer, John Gilmer, Smanga Bosman and Sva Waqu.
Then on the 7th of January 1996, the first sod for the new sanctuary was turned by Rev Costa Stathakis. The momentous stone-laying ceremony followed in June that year. The church celebrated its 40th anniversary on Sunday the 13th of October 1996 and the new complex was officially opened on that day by the then presiding bishop Stanley Magoba, with other dignitaries in attendance. The final cost including the magnificent organ reached R4 000 000. But through major fundraising activities and God’s grace, by 2000 we had paid every cent back. We were even able to purchase land at Diepsloot and Lonehill and make a substantial tithing contribution to the Methodist Church Millennium Fund, which cares for the poor.
In 1997 Costa and Marge visited America and returned with the overwhelming conviction that when God guides, God provides. Costa had a dream in January 1998 which was to set the course for future growth and development at Bryanston Methodist and by the end of 2000 membership was over 3000 people and we had a worshipping congregation of 1250 every Sunday. The fruition of Costa’s vision was exceeding all our expectations.
The church has always remembered to focus on the needs of the young ones and in 1998 Arthur Preston was employed as our Children’s Pastor. Following a course in Chicago in the United States, he initiated the Promiseland Children’s Ministry. The greatest joy for the teachers of Promiseland was the growth in the children’s spirituality and the ownership these children displayed in the ministry of prayer and service.
It was an unbelievable start to the 21st century when we had the chance to buy the property on the corner of Eccelston Cresent and Grosvenor Road. The flourishing counselling department made these premises their home and continued to grow. The extra space now enabled us to hold many workshops and seminars throughout the week. The grounds of this property provided a further 95 parking bays, which were much needed. The main offices themselves had become too small and a new triple storey office block with halls and storage was designed. We even planned a brand new block joining the existing hall with a view to provide space to develop the children’s ministry.
On the 4th of February 2001 these buildings were dedicated and opened by Bishop Paul Verryn. On the 29th of February 2004 the Bryanston Methodist Community reached beyond its borders and the Akani/Diepsloot Children’s Feeding and Care scheme was started and was in full force by June that year. In just a year, the new hall and ablution block were already completed. It was a truly heart-warming and very necessary initiative, caring for children who needed physical, mental, emotional and spiritual guidance. Hard to believe that the entire scheme ran successfully with volunteers from Bryanston Methodist Church. The Akani philosophy is that there is nothing wrong with being born a nobody, as long as you die a somebody. According to Akani, nothing is impossible, as every child can. At the end of October 2005 over 400 people witnessed the unveiling of the foundation stone and the opening of the new buildings at Diepsloot by Costa, to the glory of God. It was a joyous and rewarding occasion, especially when the Akani children themselves presented celebration items and refreshments were served in the adjacent hall.
At that stage the staff of the Bryanston Methodist church counselling house had grown to include full-time counsellors and administration staff and a large team of volunteer counsellors. The centre ran no less than 25 courses and assisted other churches to set up similar initiatives.
The Wesley Pre-Primary School had also grown to accommodate about 70 children and a staff of 7. By the end of 2004 we had also purchased 25 Eccelston Cresent and the Methodist bookshop had opened a branch in the counselling house property. In November 2005 sadly the time had come to bid farewell to a number of dedicated members of our church. Costa and Marge Stathakis, Smanga Bosman and Sva Waqu. Under the leadership of Rev Christopher Harrison we headed ino the future to fulfil God’s purpose and calling for our congregation. Standing strong with Chris were the Revs. John Gilmer, Mandla Gamede, Janet Cope, Demetris Palos, Dion Forster and Dr Leon Klein.
During 2013 there was again a change in leadership to the Revs. Dalene Jordaan, Neil Oosthuizen, Festus Marumo and Jacqui Rivas (who came back to join us for a year of transition). Going into our 60th year in 2016, we have the privilege of being under the leadership of the Revs. Dalene Jordaan, Pete Grassow, Lunga Songca and Similo Sanqela.
Bryanston Methodist Church has become a spiritual home, catering for the needs of all age groups and the whole family. With the pressure facing the youth today, Bryanston Methodist Church also provides a place where they can find a solid spiritual foundation. With a strong emphasis on community, members are also encouraged to join small groups and other special groups catering for their specific needs. Members are also encouraged to grow spiritually through the numerous teaching courses available at the church. With the Pastoral Care Ministry, the church extends its help to those in need. With a strong emphasis on Mission work, Bryanston Methodist strives to fulfil the biblical mandate to go and make disciples of all nations. Making disciples also means taking the love of Christ to even the most hardened prisoners through the 2nd Chance Ministry. At the heart of it all Bryanston Methodist Church is a vibrant community, a place to meet and worship and an opportunity for everyone to become involved.
1956 to 2016 – 60 years of history brings us to the present.