Church row over ‘missing’ tithes settles

THE Trinity Methodist Church in Graaff-Reinet is open for business.

That is the message from Reverend Nico Els, who has been in the unfortunate position of having to wade through an unholy mess that has divided worshippers in the past few weeks.

The church has been stung by a controversy over alleged missing tithes totalling R75 000. Last month, Reverend Richard Bremner, the church’s former minister, was forced to leave after he blew the whistle on a senior official who allegedly dipped into the church’s tithing pot.

Church bosses gave him the option to relocate to De Aar or leave the church.

He chose the latter and subsequently set up a church at Graaff-Reinet’s Union High School.

But things appear to be turning around at Trinity Methodist, thanks to some divine intervention – and a little help from a familiar face in Eastern Cape clerical circles.

This week Port Elizabeth’s George Irvine was in Graaff-Reinet – at the invitation of Trinity Methodist – on a mission to deepen people’s faith at the 130-year-old church.

The theme of the mission, which was conducted from Sunday until Tuesday, was “How to be a Christ follower in today’s world”.

“It is about preaching relevantly. The gospel has to be relevant to where people are in their lives on a day to day basis. You have to try different things that will interest people and deepen their commitment to Christ,” Irvine said.

Irvine, who runs the Institute for Spirituality, said every church was on a journey and his job was to “drop in on that journey and conduct the mission knowing that the church will continue when I’m gone”.

He said it had been interesting working in Graaff-Reinet, as people there had known him for years and some even reminded him of services he conducted when he worked at St John’s Methodist Church in Port Elizabeth.

Els, who took over when Bremner left, said they were blessed to have a man such as Irvine, with his years of experience, helping them conduct the mission.

“He’s helping us fulfil a mission to deepen spirituality and dedication in Christ. He’s very familiar with this area and people respond to him.”

Els said the mission enabled the church to settle down, and showed them that they were part of a big and caring family.

“Even though we’ve lost a few members, we are one and undivided. We have a congregation of over 1 000, black, white and coloured people.”

The three-day mission ended with a communion service on Tuesday.

Els said Irvine was there to offer basic encouragement as the church worked on restoring lives.

“We are preaching the gospel and encouraging the Christian faith to grow. It has been wonderful having Reverend Irvine with us and there have been people who have been called into the ministry as a result of the mission. I might even be out of a job soon,” he joked.

The mission involved preaching to individuals as well as small groups.

Irvine said he was happy that two men from the congregation had offered themselves for the ministry, but said it would not be a quick process.

“It will take time but they will have a lot of support and help from Reverend Els.”

Els said the final service during the mission “was a great way to show that we are open for business. Even though we’ve had challenges in the past, we’ve met those challenges and are moving forward”.

“The mission was really about teaching people to cope and having someone of George’s calibre, who had been in the struggle, was amazing.

“Now our ship is on course.”

This is a version of an article that appeared in
the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, February 2,

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