Who we are
With its mother church being All Saints Plumstead, St. Cyprian’s Retreat had its humble beginnings as a place of worship for the small farming community living in the area at the time. The first church service was held in 1909 at the chapel near Retreat station.
The church serviced a diverse congregation and because of this, became the spiritual home to people of all races for fifty years.
The cornerstone of the old thatched roof states: “To the glory of God. This stone was laid by his grace the Archbishop of Cape Town on July 17th 1909.”
The church under Apartheid
Even though it catered to all races, the church was not exempt from the social and political segregation prevalent in the middle of the last century. Racial discrimination filtered its way into the church.
Distinctions in seating arrangements, office-bearing and even ministry opportunities were made based on race. Stories of this time still remain fresh in the minds of many parishioners. Examples of racial segregation included separate confirmation dates for coloured and white children, and separate worship services for the black members of the congregation. In 1956, white members of the congregation moved to their own worship centre, St. Martins Bergvliet.
At the same time, St. Cyprian’s became the spiritual home of many families who were forcibly removed from what had been declared “whites only” areas.
In 1973, after the dynamic baptism in the Holy Spirit of Archbishop Bill Burnett, then
rector, John Peacock, wanted to know more. He attended a clergy retreat and knew from the start that he wanted “that something” which the bishop had. Part of the retreat was to meet with the retreat conductor. It was during this interview, after confession, that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He felt compelled to share the third person of the Godhead with his congregation.
The congregation dramatically increased in number as people flocked to share in the mysteries and the power of the Holy Spirit.
A feature of this time was 4am prayer services. House church fellowships were also started
throughout the parish to do Bible study and faith sharing in the homes of parishioners, some of which still remain active today. This in turn led to the formation of a church band and the singing of choruses, alongside the organ and the singing of hymns. This style of worship remains characteristic of the worshipping community today.
New church plant
The combination of the church growth during this charismatic era and the unjust laws of Apartheid, which declared the area in which the church building was located a “whites only” area, meant that a new church building was needed. A property was acquired on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Consort Road in Retreat, which brought the church closer to the people.
Unlike the old building, the new one was not designed in the typical A-frame or basilica style, but with seating around the sanctuary and the altar, with the pulpit much closer to the people. This was a feature of churches built during the time of Archbishop Burnett. The congregation took occupancy in 1974.
Ministry beyond the parish boundary
Throughout the history of St. Cyprian’s, ministry has been offered in communities in close proximity to the parish, where no formal Anglican services were held. This included ministry in Steenberg, which led to the establishment of St. Andrew’s Steenberg, and later St. Mark’s Lavender Hill.
Throughout all the changes of the life of St. Cyprian’s, it has remained a liturgical church combining the freedom in Christ with liturgical offerings of spiritual dancing, chorus singing, testimonies and ministry opportunities. Our collective identity is in Christ and even though we have Anglo-Catholic Eucharistic services, we also embrace evangelical forms of worship.
We are gender-sensitive and are accepting of all persons irrespective of sexual orientation. We still invite people to receive Christ as Saviour, and have not lost the tradition of being a High Mass church.
The parish is divided into twelve areas. This is to assist with communication between the church and its congregants. Each area has between 50 and 100 families, and ministry in each area is coordinated by an area leader.
On record, St. Cyprian’s has approximately 1800 families which include regular worshippers, the sick and the housebound. Membership consists of people of all ages.