Knysna Methodist Church

Our Story

Methodist witness in the Knysna area started at Millwood, high up in the nearby mountains, where gold fever struck during the 1880’s. In 1888 the official documents of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of South Africa made reference to a Circuit then known as “Knysna and Millwood (English)” and its minister, the Rev C. Stuart Franklin, based at Millwood. He also served the small centres of Mossel Bay, George and Oudtshoorn, which as yet did not have ministers of their own. A small wood-and-iron church building at Millwood served as a place of worship for the Methodists in the mining community.

Millwood was at one stage a sizeable community with six hotels and three newspapers, but it was a short-lived phenomenon. When a greater gold-rush offering more promise attracted fortune-hunters to the Transvaal, the Millwood community rapidly dwindled. The Rev. Franklin moved into Knysna, where a weekday service had been held for some time providing for the needs of woodcutters, traders and others. His early visits to Knysna on Thursdays had entailed travelling 25 kilometres on bad roads, down the Phantom Pass and through dark forests inhabited by elephants.

In 1891 a church site in Montagu Street was acquired by gift. The Knysna leadership appointed a building committee in July 1892. The 1893 Conference Minutes recorded that permission had been given for the erection of a church to cost ₤500.

Work on the new church commenced in May 1893, and the building was opened later that year during the ministry of the Rev. Frederick Holmes. The builder was Mr W. Page, one of the original Knysna committee members. The Gothic style of the building was designed by Mr A. Hepburn. The pews are made of yellowwood, as is the pulpit, what was designed and presented to the church by Mr K. Willis. The church was opened on 29 October 1893, with the dedicatory prayer being offered by a former minister, the Rev. Richard P. Underwood (then at Oudtshoorn), and the inaugural sermon preached by the Rev. Wilson Thompson.

In 1894 the wood-and-iron church used at Millwood was dismantled and re-erected behind the new church in Montagu Street, to serve as a vestry and hall. When the new Wesley Hall was erected alongside the new church in 1939, the old structure was dismantled again and moved up the hill to Concordia, to serve as a place of worship for Xhosa-speaking Methodists. The present Knysna church was subsequently enlarged by the addition of a vestry during the ministry of the Rev. N.P. Abraham.

As Methodist work in and around Knysna grew, two separate Circuits, “Knysna” and “Concordia”, came into being and were served by the one minister based at Knysna. In the course of time a second Circuit minister was stationed at Plettenberg Bay, and later still a third minister was appointed to serve the Xhosa-speaking Societies. In 1985 the two Circuits merged to form the “Garden Route Circuit”, which now includes the Societies of Knysna, Concordia, Khayalethu, Hornlee, Plettenberg Bay and KwaNokuthula, together with a number of other preaching places.

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