Hard Pews and Serving Tea at the Oldest Church in the Southern Hemisphere

On a free Sunday during the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa.  I attended the Evangelical Lutheran Church located in downtown Cape Town.  The building itself was built in the late 1700s and it considered the oldest church in Southern Hemisphere.

There were about 200 attending the Sunday morning service – many from the Lausanne Congress. They had beautiful, majestic music including a pipe organ imported from England in the 1800s and an excellent 15-minute message.

I asked the pastor why there was such a short message.  He said that the old benches were so hard that people could not sit in the church for more than an hour.  That was also the reason that congregation stood and sat often to keep one’s blood circulating.  I told him that he should get cushions for the pews and he could preach longer.  I don’t think he liked that idea.

After the service they held a reception in the church fellowship hall.  They were not prepared for the extra visitors and there was quite the line for tea.  It did not seem that there was anyone in charge of serving.  Since no one knew anyone, I slipped up front and gathered some cups, saucers, and began to serve the tea and cake with the help of several Africans.  Many of the guests took their tea and thanked me for the wonderful service thinking that I was a member of the church staff.  One influential lady of the church came to me quite upset that I was serving tea.  She said, “It is not your place to do this.”

I responded, “Would you help me?”

She replied, “On, no, I would not serve tea,” and move off visibly upset.

“…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, esv).