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Four Churches Tour: Historic Dutch Reformed Church

Walk over to the Dutch Reformed Church.It is the oldest church in Somerset West.

The church was built in 1819 and was inaugurated on the 13th of February 1820 by Dominee Meent Borcherd of Stellenbosch. The first resident pastor of the Church was Dominee J.Spyker. He is succeeded by Dominee James Edgar. The third pastor to stand behind the altar was Dominee dutch reformed church somerset westReitz. There is a street named in honour to all three the gentleman in Somerset West.

In 1862 a terrible storm struch the area and the building suffered damage and repairs had to be done. A year later in 1962 further renovations had to be done to the church and in 1963 it was declared a national monument.

The gravel road that leads to the church must be the only piece of untarred road in Somerset West.

A graveyard surrounds the church building. The gravesite of Boy Morkel, former Springbok rugby captain is immediately to your right as you enter the gate. A littel bit further is an equally famous gravesite, that of Jan Hoffmeyer or 'Onze Jan' as he is more famemously known.

Onze Jan Hofmeyer

‘Onse Jan’ played a big role in the developement of Afrikaans as a language. He qualified as a journalist and eventually became the editor of the 'Zuid Afrikaan', but his heart was in politics and in 1879 he became onse janpart of the Cape Parlement. His position as minister without portfolio is however short lived (6months). He was a member of the Broederbond or Afrikanerbond. This organisation was established in 1882 for the sole political reasons.

He also fought for greater harmony between 'Boer' and 'Brit'. The Second Boer war between England and the Boer Colonies ended in 1899 and the relationship between the two countries was sour to say the least. John X Merriman was the governor of the Cape and it is to him that Onse Jan wrote a very worried letter:

As you know I am heart and soul for this Closer Union. My sole reason is that I see in it the only way of uniting the two races and so forming them into one strong nation. To do this however the new Constitution must put the two races on absolute equality. For as long as the one race considers itself in ever so slight a way placed in an inferior position to the other, there will never be that harmonious co-operation which is so necessary and so desired by us all. I could therefore only be a consenting party to a constitution in which that equality is not only laid down but in which it is safeguarded against any future racial feeling that may arise. I of course know that the Constitution will not be a law of the Medes and Persians, but I feel that a view strongly expressed in the first Constitution will not be easily altered in the future.

Letter of  ONZE JAN HOFMEYER  to John X. Merriman 8 June 1908

A listener asked if 'Onze Jan' could be regarded as the white Nelson Mandela of South Africa. What is your opinion?

He is part of a delegation that took the concept constitution for a Union in South Africa to England. On this trip 'Onze Jan' passed away. His remains were brought back and his funeral took place on the 17th of November 1909 in this very church. The pall-bearers were the members of the Cape Town Cricket Club.

Alan Aubrey Boesak

The church also gave birth to another politician of international repute. Alan Boesak was probably one of the greatest orators ever from this country.

He was the:

  1. Leader of the World Council of Churches.
  2. Founding member of the United Democratic Front.
  3. Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church.

He was born in Kakamas and was one of 8 children. His father pssed away when Alan was only 6 years old. The Boesaks moved to Victoria Street, Somerset West and stayed in house on the left hand side before you enter the subway as you approach the CBD.

He completed his Primary school years at Danie Ackerman Primary and did some of his senior school years at Gordon High.

It is in this church however that Alan found his joy. The atmosphere must have been inspiring to him as he later qualified as a pastor at the Beville Theological School. He furthered his studies in Kapmen, in the Netherlands and alson in New York, USA. It is here that he completed his Phd.

It is however as a polititian that Alan stirred the world. He is a great orator and did not keep the punches back. He called the Whites the 'spiritual children of Hitler'. He is the first to put his name on the 'Million Signatures' campaign that fought against the 1983 constitution of South Africa. This constitution introduced the Tri-cameral system whereby Indians and Colourds were invited to partake in Parlement. It excluded the 24 million Blacks in South Africa. Boesak called the participants the 'junior partners of Apartheid'.

He became world famous when he declared Apartheid as blasphemy. As a result of this the White reformed churches were expelled from the World Council of Churches.

As moderator of the DR Mission Churches, Boesak pleaded in October 1986 for unity amongst the Reformed churches but added that `there could never be reunification on the basis of separateness'.

Allan is still staying today in Somerset-West with his family.


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