The Cathedral Parish of St Dunstan's

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HISTORY

The first records of services of the Anglican Church in this district date from 1894 and were conducted by the Rev'd. J. R. Godfrey, then Rector of Boksburg.
Shortly after the end of the Anglo-Boer War the mining industry expanded its activities in this area very considerably. Modder Bee followed the mines called New Modderfontein, Van Ryn, and the Kleinfontein. Cloverfield (afterwards named Modder East) Brakpan, State Mines and what was then called "Rand Collieries" but which was, in fact, a gold mine. Benoni as a town was not then in existence, nor had it been planned, and the earliest services of the Church were conducted in private homes or buildings owned and used for other purposes by the mines. An ex-Chaplain of the South African War, Fr. Eustace Hill was then sent by the Community of the Resurrection to further the work of the Church on the East Rand and it was in the year 1905 that the first Church building was erected on the Van Ryn Mine property and was dedicated to St. Matthew the Evangelist. This little pre-fabricated church was enlarged in 1911 and removed to New Modderfontein.



Benoni was emerging as a village in 1906 and much of its development and planning was inspired by Sir George Farrar after whose home town of Bedford, England, several streets were named and from whom the suburb of Farrarmere takes its name. It was in this year that Bishop Carter of Pretoria (as there was no Diocese of Johannesburg) made the choice of the Rev'd. Alfred T. Harre, to serve as resident priest in the district and very soon plans were being made for the erection of a stone Church and a Rectory. Lady Ella Farrar laid the foundation stone of this First Church of St. Dunstan in April 1909 and Bishop Michael Furse dedicated the Church on August 1 of that year. It was situated in Cranbourne Avenue between the junction of Rothsay and Tom Jones Streets. At first thought to be too ambitious in size, seating just over a hundred persons, the attendances at Evensong soon made this opinion very questionable. In 1910 the Rector was joined by the Rev'd. Robert A. H. Urquhart, as his commitments extended throughout the Modders and Brakpan. It was during this period that the Church of All Saints, Modder Bee, was opened, the building having been converted from a hospital, the east end of which provided an attractive Church whilst the western end served as a Church Hall. The building was removed after Modder Bee became a prison. In 1914 Mr Harre retired in order to accept a position in Kenley, in Sussex, England, where he died in 1947. His son, Dunstan, was born on St. Dunstan's day, 1913, in Benoni Rectory. In the 1939-45 war he was a tank officer winning the Military Cross and was killed fighting at El Alamein. In the Chapel of the existing Church there is a stained glass window to the memory of both father and son.



At this time a famous trio of Clergy arrived from Oxford; Edward Paget, as Rector, with Robert Moberley and Arthur Hill as his assistants, to be joined in 1915 by the Rev'd. C. L. Outram. Shortly after the outbreak of World War 1 this distinguished team all left to become Service Chaplains until the end of the war. The greatly loved Rev'd. John Coombs kept the work going until the return of the Rector. The development of the East Rand had continued. In 1910 and 1921 Springs and Brakpan were to become separate parishes. Under the leadership of Edward Paget the Parish of Benoni developed apace. St. Dunstan's Memorial School was opened as a living memorial to those who died in the war. In 1919, by raising a loan of £1,000 the parish built St. Dunstan's Hall in Cranbourne Avenue, a building which has since been invaluable for the service it has rendered to the Scouting and School activities as well as a social center for Church work. During the dangerous days of the terrible Influenza epidemic and the Strike, of 1922, St. Dunstan's and its clergy won an honored name. The Rev'd. E. Paget tells of occasions when he has had to take shelter from rifle fire and bombardment in the porch of the Church. In 1925 he was elected Bishop of Southern Rhodesia and was later joined by the Rev'd. A. P. Hill who became Dean of Salisbury.
R. H. Moberley also left to become Principal of Cheshunt Theological College and later Bishop of Stepney.



The new Rector was Charles Eric Goodall who was assisted by G. W. Silk and J. Osborne. Until this time two congregations of coloured people in the district had been cared for by what was known as the East Rand Coloured mission, and were placed under the care of the Rector of Benoni. One of these congregations was at Modder Bee where good work continued until the closure of the mine in 1958. The people then joined the Benoni South Coloured community. Fr. Goodall left the parish in 1928 and later became Provincial of the Community of the Resurrection in South Africa. Fr. George Silk left at the same time, to serve in the newly consecrated Cathedral Church in Johannesburg.



The Rev'd. Godfrey Evans followed Fr. Goodall, assisted by the Rev'd. Buckingham Baker and the Rev'd. Alfred Hipkin The new Rector was a man with a tremendous capacity for work and under his direction many new areas were opened up for the Church's ministry, including the district of Putfontein and Petit. During his term as Rector the Rev'd. A. W. Eaton joined the staff as a Deacon, having been ordained to the Priesthood in St. Dunstan's Church. The first Ordination to take place in the parish, was on 20th December 1930. Mr. Eaton later became a Canon of Leicester Cathedral after which he returned to the African continent to become Dean of Kitwe, N. Rhodseia. Mr. Evans left Benoni in 1934 to become Dean of Pietermaritzburg and he died soon after taking up that appointment.



The Rev'd. Harold Cranswick was Rector from 1934 to 1945, assisted Revíd. E. S. Miller and the Rev'd. N. Jarivs Palmer, the former working especially in the mine Churches whilst Fr. Jarvis Palmer did splendid work amongst the youth of the town, particularly amongst the Scouts. He later became Chaplain to the 2nd Transvaal Scottish Regiment, leaving the parish in 1941 and was succeeded by the Rev'd. A. J. Sexby. During his Rectorship the difficult decision was made to sell the site of the first St. Dunstan's Church and to build a new Church from the proceeds of the sale. Great care was taken to preserve the stones of the older construction and they now comprise the lovely Chapel, a smaller replica of the Mother Church. the noble arch over the high altar in the new building.
Revd Cranswick was deeply interested in the formation of the Guild of St. Luke, who engaged in regular intercession for the sick and a fine stained glass window of St. Luke was erected in his memory.



Revd John Gilbert Hall became Rector in 1945. He was a devoted priest and scholar who had served in Malaya. He made a splendid contribution to the Serverís Guild and St. Dunstanís School. The parishioners erected the beautiful St. John's window of the Chapel to his memory.




The Rev'd. C. E. Beardmore, an ex-naval Chaplain, came from the Deanery of Trinidad to be the next Rector but due to health reasons was unable to continue and after six months left the parish. From 1945-53 the Rev'd. H. C.
Guilie-Marret, the Rev'd. C. E. Britton, Rev'd. H. R. Willson, and the Rev'd. D. H. Crawford Nutt were responsible for the parish.



Rev Frank Gordon Clarke assumed charge of the parish in 1949. During his rectorship the members of Northmead Church Building Team were very active in requiring land for a suburban Church and an additional stand for a priestís house. Rev Clarke left Benoni in 1953. His successor, the Revd L. Lovely, assisted by Rev W. Deeble, were to see plans formulated for the erection of All Souls Church in Northmead, the foundations of which were laid just before he left the parish in 1955.



During the first two years of Rev Ben Habbertonís service to the parish he was assisted by Rev A Sharland and Rev A Butter. At the end of 1958 Rev Tee and Rev Carter succeeded Revs Butter and Sharland. At this time the main project was for the development of property and the completion of the parish church of St. Dunstan. The architect, Mr Hugh St. Ledger responsible for the structure built in 1940 under the direction of Rev Harold Cranswick moved from Benoni and the remainder of the work was overseen by Mr Wilfred Mallowa, an architect and planning consultant of WITS University.



Fr Habberton always felt that something special was needed behind the altar to draw attention to Christís suffering upon the cross. One day he was looking through a book of churches in Europe and came across a picture of a cross in a church in Germany. He was deeply moved by it and was guided, through prayer to find someone to copy it. Ben Dijkman (who was the organist) introduced Fr Habberton to a fellow Hollander who worked in wrought iron. He showed him the picture and asked him if he could copy it in iron. He made one 16Ĺ inches by 8Ĺ inches and it was perfect. It was then decided to make a cross for behind the altar. At that time it was quite an undertaking, but he was willing to have a go, and he succeeded. In order to make the cross stand out, the wall behind the cross was painted red and a light installed.



When the architects were drawing the plans for the tower, they were asked to include a Baptistery below the tower. Fr Habberton wanted the font to be really special and different so he went to see a local artist and sculptor named Stella Thorpe. She originally wanted the font to be made out of genuine river pebbles, but it was decided to use terrazzo instead. An Italian cast the font in his casting works in Elandsfontein. Professor Mallows from Wits University was the architect.



Rev John Spyker succeeded Father Ben Habberton in 1967. One of the highlights of his stay in Benoni was the inter-denominational mission held in a large tent in Airfield. Fr Spyker together with Ron Brauteseth, Pastor Billy Smook and a number of other ministers initiated this mission which drew some 700-800 people in the tent each night. From this mission a powerful message was sent out which had a lasting effect on church life in Benoni. The organising committee was headed by Ian Jagoe who subsequently became a deeply respected priest.



In each parish in which he served, Rev Spyker set himself particular goals which he pursued, and when he considered that he had achieved the goals set for himself in a parish, he moved on to the next parish. In St. Dunstanís he set up a strong bond with Rev Theo Schmidt who subsequently became a leading member of the healing ministry in the Anglican Church.Fr Spyker was a much sought after leader of healing and other missions, and never spared himself in the service of others. He died in December 2001.  All those who knew Fr Spyker will remember these familiar words. "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord".



Frederick Edward Cecil Vaughan Jones (MA Cambridge) became Rector in 1973. He began his ministry in England in 1942 as Deacon and Assistant Priest. He came to South Africa as a missionary in the former Transkei in 1946. His longest and last parish before retirement was St. Dunstan,s 1973-1986. He became Archdeacon of Germiston and later was appointed Canon to the Cathedral of Johannesburg while serving as Rector of St. Dunstanís. His wife Jean, was an integral part of his ministry over the years and she was very much part of the life of this parish. During his ministry in Benoni he was very proud that there were the highest number of ordinands the parish had ever had, an indication of the deep vibrancy of the parish. His pastoral work of parish visiting and various prayer networks were very special to him. Fr Fred as he was fondly known enjoyed the role of Chaplain to St. Dunstanís School for many years. He died in Natal in 1996 after serving 53 years in the priesthood.



Fr Ian Jagoe was ordained as priest in 1977 and served under Fr Fred for almost two years. His gifts in his ministry wre based on his deep prayer life, his quiet spirit and the wisdom and clarity of thought which made him a sought after counsellor and spiritual director to the many whose lives were touched by his.



Fr. John Goller became the next Rector in 1986. He was born at Broken Hills in Northern Rhodesia and was schooled at St. Aidanís, a Jesuit college in Grahamstown. He was ordained in the Roman Catholic Church in 1960 and started teaching at St. Aidanís. In 1976 he wanted to marry and resigned from the Roman Catholic Church, to work at Boyís Town. Fr John was ordained into the Anglican Church and in 1982 came to Benoni as Assistant priest working at All Souls Parish in Northmead. Fr John became Rector in 1986 and was responsible for All Souls Church in Northmead, St Johnís Church in Putfontein and St. Mary Magdalen Church in Actonville. His assistants during this time was Fr Don Thompson, Fr Cecil Padoa, Fr Graham Alexander,Fr Bryan Lotter and Fr Tony Nanransammy. He started a process in St. Dunstanís and the Diocese called "RENEW" which was the beginning of small home groups in parishes. Fr John was a sought after spiritual director and a very skilled counsellor. He retired in December 1994 and died in December 1996.



Canon David Bannerman succeeded Fr Goller at St. Dunstanís Church in January 1995 and became Archdeacon of the North Rand in 1996. St. Dunstanís Church was proclaimed to be the Cathedral Church of St. Dunstan on 21st November 1999. Fr Bannerman was the 1st Dean of the Cathedral and Archdeacon of the Cathedral. He was assisted by Revs Gershwin David, Graham Alexander, Joe Thompson (College Chaplain) and Angus Paterson (College Headmaster).