The small Karoo town of Touws River in the Karoo made history today when it became the second congregation in the country to unify the Dutch Reformed Church and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.
While both are in the Dutch Reformed family, the churches were officially separated on
the basis of race since 1881.
While the obstacles of church structures were removed in 2015, the unification of these two churches across the country has been slow.
The process to
unite a family that had been divided, not by faith, but by skin colour, started three years ago.
One of the driving forces behind unification is reverend Andrew Esterhuizen.
He says it was a long road to get to this day but, eventually, people found each other through the same Bible they have been reading separately.
" To dwell in the word and to discuss the word of God and to speak to our situation, the division between the two churches and the longing on both sides to be together and be
one as Jesus prayed in John 17, to help and to be part of a process to become one congregation is absolutely wonderful" The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa was established in 1994 when it brought together the old NG Mission Church and the NG Church in Africa.
The aim was always to be one again with the Dutch Reformed Church.
Unification of the churches in this family was a dream.
But there were great obstacles to overcome.
Now it's hoped that other communities will follow the example of Touws River.
Dr Llewwellyn Macmaster is the Moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.
"It is at the right time when South Africa needs to show that despite what I call re-racialisation in the country, isolation, polairisation, that these two congregations of this rural town can stand up and say there are other possibilities that can give hope to a nation that needs it desperately." Church leaders say it will do no good if there is only structural unification.
Ds Nelis van Rensburg is the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church.
" Unity is not only about having structures in combination and journeying structurally.
Its really about the members of the congregation to find each other.
Find each other's humanity in Christ and understanding that in Christ we are really one.
Although we are diverse in culture and in many ways of doing things, deeply we become one when we engage with Christ together and deconstruct all the assumption that we have." Bredasdorp in the Overberg took the same step of unification in 2018.