Groote Kerk, Pretoria,_C/o_Bosman_and_Madiba_Streets,_Pretoria_City_Centre,_Tshwane

The Dutch Reformed Kerk, 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 : 08-Nov-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 08-Nov-2017

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