ROSEBANK UNION CHURCH, JOHANNESBURG, now in its 4th building and situated in Hurlington, Sandton, is an active, thriving, multi-faceted church housed in an impressive modern complex. ( www.ruc.org.za ) But like most things that succeed, it had an inauspicious beginning when a few like-minded Christians of different denominations decided to form a union church with a Baptist minister 107 years ago. The first church was a simple cheap structure nick-named The Tin Tabernacle. In 1919, Rev JE Ennals was inducted as minister and in 1926 the so-called Spanish Church was built (the architect was Frederick Williamson). Rev JL Green was minister from 1942-1960. This is the period of the church in which I and my two sisters, one fifteen months younger than me, the other eight years younger, grew up. It was also a time of church growth and consolidation under “JL’s”, as he was affectionately known, ministry. I do not believe the present church would exist without his ministry. There is very little mention on the church’s website of this important period. These are some of my memories. I have mentioned no names in case I leave someone out!
I had been christened at St Martin’s-in–the-Veld but during World War 2 while our father was serving in North Africa. JL visited my mother and at about 3 years old I started Sunday School at RUC in Cradock Avenue, just a short distance from where we lived. It became “our” family church and when my father returned he became a deacon and leader of one of the Sunday School departments for many years. I remember crying on my first Sunday and being carried around by a young teacher with a mass of curly white hair. She looked just like a big fairy to me! When I was 12 I became the pianist for the primary department and after 3 weeks had my own class of 6 little boys. Most of my pocket money went on buying flannel-graphs and cut out Bible characters to illustrate the stories. I met John, a theological student, at church when he came to preach and instead of going to the minister’s vestry, he was sitting in the choir vestry when I arrived to put the choir books out as I did every Sunday. After church, walking home with my mother, I said, “I am going to marry him!” And we were married by JL in the Spanish Church a couple of years later! My sister was also married by JL in the church. Our daughter was her flower girl.
The Diaconate. (My father is in the back row, second from the left. Rev Stephen Green - front row, second from the left, was assistant minister, he was best-man at our wedding and became a well-known evangelist with a fine singing voice.)
Mrs Green did not have a hall named after her like her predecessor Mary Ennals (The small Mary Ennals’ Hall where we met for our young people’s meetings). As I remember her she was short, dumpy, unfashionable and with a knowing look in her eyes, but radiating kindness and hospitality. When the Baptist Theological College was established, she opened her home to students. John stayed with the Greens for a couple of years. Strange to say, I never bumped into him during that time although I had seen him once in Oxford Road when I was fourteen.
Rev JL Green
There were Sunday School picnics too at Gillooly’s Farm in Bedfordview. JL was always there. There were camps for the Young People on the Vaal River where we slept in tents, played rounders, swam in the muddy river, had delicious food cooked by an experienced Scoutmaster, sang and had a Christian message round a welcome fire at night and returned home, sunburnt and streaked with mud to gratefully get into a hot bath!
Like a true church, RUC obeyed Christ’s last command, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. Daughter churches were established during this period, in Parkhurst, Northcliff, Ferndale and Sandown. RUC helped the Chinese church in Johannesburg and missionaries who had gone out from the church as well as other missions, eg The Mission to Lepers. It was a comfort to my aunt when her husband was imprisoned in China. He was a China Inland Mission surgeon. (See: They Left All - under “Other Writings”). Several young people from my generation went into Christian work as missionaries, pastors, nurses.
I have written about this much loved and respected minister in a previous blog: Great Modern Preachers Rev JL Green.
Grateful thanks to a friend of my sister who sent the photos of the stained glass windows, installed in the present chapel of the Rosebank Union Church.
May God bless Rosebank Union Church,
A GOOD CAUSE: South Africa for Nepal see www.safornepal.org A South African woman and her husband reached the final stretch to Everest base camp in 2014. They had to forgo the final 2km due to infections. She felt the need to establish this informative and interesting website with the help of others who shared her concern.
A GOOD READ: Sisters of Sinai. How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels. Very well researched and interestingly written by Janet Soskice, who was born in Canada but has lived in England for some years. She is Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge. But don’t let that deter you! I couldn't put it down! It tells the story of two remarkable Victorian women who rose to great eminence in their field.