On the 15th of May 2022 Hope City Presbyterian Church merged with the Cape Town Union Congregational Church to become the new Union Chapel. Our mission remains the same, to be an ordinary church for ordinary people seeking to make the extraordinary news of Jesus known in the Cape Town City Bowl.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE UNION CHAPEL
1808 – 1813
At least as early as 1808 – though possibly earlier – a Calvinist Society came together largely made up of soldiers from the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. They met weekly for worship, prayer, and the study of Scripture. With the arrival, in 1812, of the Rev. George Thom – a Presbyterian minister from the London Missionary Society – the group were encouraged to form into a church. On the 2nd of May 1813, Thom presided over the congregation’s first worship service in the South African Missionary Society Chapel in Long Street. Taking in 40 members the church constituted itself as a Presbyterian church with its doctrine anchored in the Westminster Standards thereby becoming the oldest Presbyterian and nonconformist church in Southern Africa.
1814 – 1897
Over the coming years membership drastically declined when the Highlanders were relocated to North America. In 1818 the Rev. Thom took a call to the Dutch Reformed Church in Caledon leaving the struggling church without a minister. A new era for the church began with the arrival of the Rev. Dr John Philip in 1820. Philip reconstituted the church as a congregational church thus making it the mother church of congregationalism in Southern Africa. In 1821 the congregation moved to premises in Church Square (on the eastern corner of the square). The church, which
up until this point had been known as the Scottish Church was renamed the Union Chapel in recognition of the membership being made up of both Presbyterians and Congregationalists. During Philips pastorate the famous missionary, Dr David Livingstone was a regular visitor and preacher. His desk remains in the current building and serves as the communion table on Sundays. In 1859 the church moved to Caledon Square, the site of the present day Fugard Theatre. In the coming years it became known as the Caledon Square Congregational Church.
1898 – 2021
In 1898, independently from the Caledon Square Congregational Church another congregational church was established by the Rev. Alexander Pitt in Queen Victoria Street (site of the present-day St Martini Gardens). This church became known as the Trinity Congregational Church and soon after moved into the small chapel in Kloof Street that currently stands opposite the Lifestyle Centre. With the Caledon Square congregation experiencing declining attendance Rev. Pitt initiated a merger between the two churches. In January 1907 the two congregations become one creating the Cape Town Union Congregational Church (CTUCC). Larger premises were sought and in 1925 the current sanctuary was built on the corner of Kloof Street and Eaton Road (opposite the Kloof Street entrance to the Mount Nelson Hotel complex). In 1979 the church left the national association of congregational churches to become completely independent.
2022 – present
Entirely apart from, and unbeknown to the CTUCC a new Presbyterian church was planted just less than 400 metres away, adjacent to the eastern corner of the Mount Nelson Hotel complex. In May 2013, 200 years after the first Presbyterian worship service in South Africa, Hope City Presbyterian Church conducted its first service renting premises from the Gereformeerde Kerk Kaapstad. Over the coming years this new Presbyterian Church worshipped in several different locations before coming to an agreement in late 2019 to rent the Stephenson Hall from the CTUCC.
Over the next two years a strong friendship developed between the two congregations and in September 2021 combined worship services began. After much discussion and a meeting of hearts and minds, the two congregations voted unanimously to merge. On Sunday the 15th of May the merger was formalised. The church was renamed The Union Chapel – the historical name given to it by Dr Philip – and reconstituted itself as a Presbyterian Church returning to its original roots.