The Alberton Methodist Church, Part 1 (1905 to 1918)
By John Williams
Late 1905, and Alberton township is only a year old. On the corner of Piet Retief Street (then 1st Street) and 1st Avenue stands a wood and corrugated-iron house, the Fisher home, one of only a few in the new township. A small group of Methodists, the Fishers, Patricks and Jacksons, gather for their first service. A photograph is taken, and Alberton Methodism is born.
In 1910 services moved to the Dutch Reformed church, (late morning), and in 1911 to the new “Mission Hall”, sharing services with the Presbyterians in the afternoon. Germiston regarded Alberton as a mission field and called the church the “Wesleyan Mission”, sending a minister once a month to preach and to baptise and visit members. They would cycle the long gravel road by “pushbike” to and from Germiston, while on other Sundays it was the congregation’s turn to trek to Germiston by horse and cart over dusty or muddy roads – very hardy preachers and very hardy parishioners!
In 1916 Stand 382 in Van Riebeeck Ave (then 3rd Ave) was obtained “as a gift”. This was in response to a letter from Rev John Howard, in which he stated that “our people have very limited incomes……..” but “we are certain that what we should put up would be a very welcome addition to the TOWNSHIP”. A “red brick church”, described as a “traditional Wesleyan, long, narrow building with three gothic windows on each side”, was built at a cost of £400 sterling. It was opened in 1918 by “everybody’s grandfather”, Rev. Amos Burnet.
The Pioneers of the Alberton Methodist Church had come a long way. The difficult years had not deterred them. They enjoyed their church meetings, family gatherings and celebrations, dressing up in their suits and lovely long dresses – just as that day in 1905 on the stoep of the Fisher’s home! But much work and many hardships still lay ahead.