St George’s Presbyterian Church celebrates their 135th anniversary with a special celebratory service on Sunday. Representatives from the Presbytery of Amathole and the Central Office of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa are invited.
The church’s history can be traced all the way back to the 1800s when East London’s first Presbyterian church was established on the West Bank in 1874.
As businesses began moving their premises over to the East Bank, Presbyterian congregations soon followed. West Bank Presbyterian Church’s Reverend Russell began conducting services on the East Bank in 1881, starting in the railway waiting room before moving to the Mutual Hall.
Finally, a letter signed by 102 East Bank residents was sent to the Presbytery of Kaffraria requesting a separation from the West Bank Church.
The next significant milestone came in April 1884 when Rev John Ferguson landed in East London while en route to Australia. An arrangement with the Free Church of Scotland resulted in Ferguson agreeing to remain in East London for three years and he was inducted as minister to the East Bank Presbyterian congregation on July 1, 1884.
Ferguson ended up remaining in East London for 22 years, only retiring in 1906 due to ill health.
The first Presbyterian church on the East Bank was built on the corner of Oxford and Albany Streets and officially opened in December 1884. In response to growing membership, extensions were made in 1894 to accommodate 100 more people.
This proved insufficient and it was decided that an entirely new church would need to be built that could seat 700 people. Plans were approved in August 1899 and the official Foundation Stone Ceremony was conducted on January 6, 1900. A meeting of the Deacons’ Court beforehand decided on the name of “St George’s”.
In addition to a large pipe organ, the new church also included a pulpit and baptismal font donated by James Blaine.
St George’s Presbyterian Church was officially opened for public worship on June 1, 1902 with the original building being used as a hall until the construction of St George’s Memorial Hall in Park Avenue in 1953.