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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499


MADISE, Mokhele. The historical foundation of the mission churches and African Independent Churches in South Africa: matters of the church and the environment. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2013, vol.39, n.2, pp.71-81. ISSN 2412-4265.

The missionaries established the Christian church in South Africa without access to any proper building structures. They discovered that the local people relied on the environment for their survival and sustainability, so the missionaries decided to do the same as a means to get the indigenous people to understand the importance of worship. However, it was not easy for the missionaries to adapt to the harsh African climate and conditions. The Africans had their own ways of withstanding these harsh conditions; taking shelter under trees and in caves was just part of their existence. So, to ensure that their work continued, the missionaries had no alternative but to do the same. Churches were therefore established under the trees. For some ethnic groups, these trees were significant, while for others, they carried no meaning at all. Nevertheless, the environment became part of the church structure, as trees, caves and water were used to establish the church. Although the mainline churches regarded water as an essential source of life, they viewed it differently from the African Initiated Churches. The main focus of this article, therefore, will be on the use of water as an environmental resource by both the African Independent Churches and the mission churches. In this regard, Taung became a particularly significant place. The article will focus on original material, as well as oral research from some areas where the practice of worshipping in caves and under trees is still observed.

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