Dutch Reformed Church, Bosman Street, Pretoria

NG Kerk, Bosman street Image source

Church Square used to house the Dutch Reformed Church building in Pretoria, with the open space around it used as ‘outspan’ during the quarterly communions. After the Anglo-Boer War the Dutch Reformed Church sold the square to the town authorities and used the proceeds to build two new churches, the one in Du Toit Street (Herformde Kerk) and the Bosman Street Church. Both were designed by architects J.G. Kraan and J.B. Weijers, but Klaas van Rijsse acted as consultant to the architects as well. The Bosman Street Church is the largest and grandest. Designed in the Neo-Dutch Renaissance with strong Neo-Classical influence, this church has its aesthetic origin in the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600’s. The interior for the church is spectacular, its roof freely spanning the whole of the church. Make sure to climb the tower for stomach churning views of the city. This church and the Printing Works across the street together form one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles in the city.
The Dutch Reformed Church, Pretoria was established in 1854, when it separated from the Rustenburg congregation.  The site where the first church was built would become the centre of the newly established town, Pretoria (1855).
The congregation was moved to Bosman Street where a new church building was inaugurated in 1904.  Today it is known as the Grootkerk.  This church has played an enormous part in the shaping of the Reformed Church tradition in and around Pretoria.  It also had a very interesting part to play in the socio-political story of our country especially with regards to the Apartheid era. 
As “Moederkerk” of the Dutch Reformed tradition in this area, the Grootkerk was virtually responsible for almost every single “dogterkerk” in and around the area of Tshwane.  At one time it was also the most influential church of the Pretoria presbytery, consisting of no less than 7 congregations.  During the 1980’s there were ±27 000 members and 29 ministers in the presbytery.  In this time all the congregations of the presbytery flourished.  Arcadia and Harmonie campuses became hubs for student ministry and both churches were hives of activity for young people.  Bronberg was home to young couples who settled in Sunnyside and the church was literally packed by young newly weds and small babies.  
After 1991 the Dutch Reformed Church rapidly started to loose members.  Demographic changes within the inner city forced the churches in the presbytery to reunite.  This process was finalized in 2000 when only one church, the Dutch Reformed Church Pretoria, with four operational campuses remained - Bosmanstraat, Harmonie, Arcadia and Bronberg.    
 In 2006 the church took a very tentative step towards transformation.  No longer would the church be orientated only towards its members, but also towards the community.  With very little resources and people power, the church opened negotiations with PEN Ministries, who was very much involved in community work in the inner city and who was the sole survivor of the the Dutch Reformed Church’s work at Bosmanstraat, after the Afrikaans services were scrapped in 2007.  In 2011 PEN was asked to take over the management of the congregation.  In return the church restructured its operations to include the outreach and youth ministries of PEN.  These ministries found a home at the Bronberg campus of the church.  The first new integrated church council met for the first time in May 2011!
The old church building in Bosman Street is now a national heritage site and co-owned by the Uniting Reformed Church Melodi ya Tshwane.  Other church buildings that are also still actively used is the Harmonie campus and the church buildings in Arcadia.
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Last updated : 05-Jul-2017

This article was produced for South African History Online on 05-Jul-2017