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Kerke van die Kaap

LUTHERAN established 1780

The Cape of Intolerance:
All churches apart from the Dutch Reformed Church faced a lot of opposition at the Cape. Even though there were many people at the Cape who were Lutherans the authorities did not tolerate any church apart from the Dutch Calvinistic church. It was only in 1780 that the Lutheran church was recognised. Prior to that they use to meet secretly in wine cellars or in peoples homes. One needs to have an understanding of the relationship between the VOC and the Dutch Reformed church and also the attitude towards other churches within the early Cape.

The church in the early Cape was an integral part of the church in Holland. The ministers at the Cape were appointed by the church back in Holland and they were paid by the VOC. They were paid servants of the Company. There was no separation between civil authority and religious authority. At the Cape the saying: he who holds the purse strings holds the power, was the case. The dominee's became a part of the system of the Company. Education came under the powers of the ecclesiastical domain. It was the Council of Policy who placed their final approval on the submitted list of deacons and elders. Thus the ecclesiastical structures received endorsement from the VOC.

The French scholar and Jesuit Tachard when visiting the Cape, had many people visiting him in secret and these people were not allowed to go on the ship since they would then be able to celebrate Mass, neither was he allowed to have Mass on shore. Many slaves were Catholics since they came from Portuguese controlled areas. Talchard mentioned also how these slaves pulled out catholic medals and fell at his feet and cried when he met them. When one reads the account of those ancestors who were Islam, one should read the book co-authored by Margaret Cairns which deals with the Islam's of the Cape, it will give you an insight of the lack of freedom.

The VOC and Company Church would not allow any other other Protestant churches. At the Cape was a total religious monopoly, there was no freedom to practice ones conviction. It should be remembered that there were many Germans and Scandinavians at the Cape of Lutheran persuasion there was no tolerance in the Cape to allow them freedom to worship and have their rites? No room for non-conformity, there was only one way, and that was the Company Church way. When landdrost Starrenburg in 1707 was accused by the church at Stellenbosch that he was a Lutheran and he had to defend himself by trying to say there was no difference between the Reformed and Lutherans, adding that since his father was a Lutheran it did not make him one.

When the missionary Georg Schmidt started to baptise Hottentots, the dominees Le Seur, van Gendt and van Echten wrote complaining to the church in Holland. The Council of Policy then ruled that Schmidt had no right to perform this rite and he could only continue to serve under the supervision of the Reformed church.

"Vintage Cape Town, by C. Pama (1973), pp.5-7: When the Huguenots arrived in 1688 the situation hardly changed. Although they spoke mainly French and insisted on a French clergyman, they too were Calvinists. When the language had forcibly died out with the second generation, the congregation at Drakenstein was no different from that at the Cape. But with the Germans it was a different matter. Because of the prosperity at home the enthusiasm of Hollanders to enlist in the service of their Company and face a life of hardship and danger in the lower ranks, visibly declined. The Lords Seventeen in Amsterdam were, therefore, forced to look for sailors and soldiers among the thousands of Germans who had flocked to the Republic because of the economic ruin and devastation of Germany during and after the Thirty Years' War. As many had come from the neighbouring countries and spoke a language no different from the dialects spoken in the eastern provinces of the Netherlands, they were quickly absorbed. Those who enlisted in the East India Company were mainly bachelors, and at the Cape they had no other choice but to marry the daughters of the already settled Dutch population. This also made for quick integration: it is usually the wife who determines the faith of a family, and the offspring of such marriages usually became as Calvinistic as the Dutch themselves. In the second half of the eighteenth century, however, the immigrants were almost exclusively German, and some of them began to insist on maintaining their Lutheran faith. The Company looked askance at such a movement and tried at first to ignore it. No Lutheran church was officially recognized, and what services there were, had to be held in private homes and then only when a Danish ship was lying in Table Bay and the Lutheran clergyman aboard was willing to conduct a church service ashore. As the congregation grew, an inevitable struggle with the authorities started and finally one of the Lutherans, Martin Melck, had sufficient influence to secure religious freedom for his fellow countrymen. Following the example of the suppressed Roman Catholics in Holland he had, in 1774, first built a 'schuilkerk', a meeting place disguised as a warehouse, with no outward signs of its being a church. Four years later the request for their own minister was granted to the Lutherans by the Dutch governor on condition that he should be a Hollander. The secrecy could now be discarded, the 'warehouse' was ready made to be converted into a church, and regular services could be conducted according to the Lutheran rites. There was now also no need any more to disguise the church outwardly as a store and in 1791-92 a new facade was given to it by Anreith. In 1820 the interior was completely rebuilt in its present style of 'Cape Gothic'.

Lutherans Church 1780
In 1780 the Lutheran Church was recognised at the Cape and the first minister was Andreas Kolver. He arrived on the ship Huijs te Krooswijk on 22 Nov 1780. It was not very long before there was conflict with the Calvinistic Church. When Kolver baptised a child one of whose parents belonged to the Cape Church, he was accused by the Calvinistic clergy of overstepping ecclesiastical boundaries. It was agreed that boys had to be baptised in the fathers church and girls in the mothers church. Dominee JP Serrurier referred a complained to the Counicl of Policy and they decided on 10 December 1782 that Lutherans were to be excluded from all high positions in the VOC at the Cape.

Thus it took many years to allow for an open and free society at the Cape, were there is tolerance and acceptance of ones religious convictions. Any society with such attitudes, has made a man made relgion which inevitable restricts and curtials the freedom and participation of others in society. The Cape had subtle ways of non-tolerance and not so subtle, than the "total non-tolerance" that turns to burning or drowning someone. It helps one to understand the social engineers of the time gives one a better insight into the life and times at the Cape.

Dictionary of South African Biography Vol III p 476 ,477, 597
AF Hattersley, An Illustrated Social History of South Africa
C Pama, Vintage Cape Town

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