Knowing all the names: The Ebenezer Congregational Church and the creation of community among the coloured population of Johannesburg 1894-1939

Dugmore, Harry
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This paper examines the establishment, growth and influence of the Ebenezer Congregational Church in Johannesburg, over a period of almost Fifty years. Although not the largest Coloured congregation in Johannesburg, Ebenezer played a particular and significant role in lives of the Reef's early Coloured population. A later denominational history recalled proudly that Ebenezer became "the largest [single] Church in the Union, and probably the largest single organisation of its kind in South Africa, and, maybe, in the world". From an initial membership of 26 in 1894, the church grew, by the 1930s, to 5O0O confirmed members, and many more "adherents" and Sunday school scholars. Lacking the resources of the large European denominations, Ebenezer nonetheless came to be regarded, in the words of a latter-day devotee: "the church of the Coloured people". "Everybody knows", the member continued, "that what the Ebenezer church did for Coloured people on the Reef no other church has ever done." An analysis of the Ebenezer Congregational Church reveals a good deal about how "community" came to be constituted among Johannesburg's Coloured population before the Second World War. This in turn helps to contextualise the particular political responses of the Coloured community on the Reef in this period, which is a major concern of the broader study of which this paper is a part.
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented August, 1991
Ebenezer Congregation Church (Johannesburg, South Africa). History, Colored people (South Africa). South Africa. Johannesburg. Social life and customs, Colored people (South Africa). South Africa. Johannesburg Church History