Due to a decline in membership, the Salt River News Apostolic Church has closed.
Brian Christopher Atherton, a priest, organist, and choir director, said the congregation convened last Thursday for the final time and had merged with the church in nearby Observatory by Sunday.
“Because of the number of people on a Wednesday evening, sometimes eight people or 10 people, financially it was actually a problem for them to have so few members in a big church, because they must pay electricity and water and all these things, and there’s hardly any people because most of them have moved out.”
Atherton said he grew up in Salt River and many people were living in the area then due to low rental, mostly poorer larger families, which resulted in a fuller congregation.
As property owners started to sell and because of the associated exorbitant rental, people could no longer afford to live in the area and moved away, particularly to the Cape Flats, he said.
“Of course, they couldn’t buy the places, and that is how the congregation eventually diminished to what it is today.”
Congregants will move to neighbouring New Apostolic Churches in Woodstock and Observatory. The Salt River congregation totals about 70 people, but attendance could see half the numbers present “on a good day”, Atherton said.
“The church still goes on. It’s just that there are no members to support the congregation in the building. Because you need money to support the building, you can’t have seven, eight people every Wednesday.”
The building is not large, but could comfortably accommodate about 130 people. There would be about 20 congregants on Sundays, he said.
Atherton said he was unsure of the future of the building, but surmised it would be sold.
The congregation occupied the space for 42 years in Coleridge Road, after it was inaugurated on May 6, 1981.
Former minister in the congregation, Colin Jooste, said: “Hundreds of newborn babies were baptised and sealed in the congregation. It was indeed a dynamic congregation. An equal number of teenagers were confirmed, and, over the years, tens of dozens were joined in holy matrimony.
“My wife and I got married there and three of our five children were confirmed in Salt River. Both my parents were buried out of the church.”