The bond was paid off in 1970 and the cemetery was donated to the Sedgefield Municipality.
The first funeral service held in this church was ironically that of the builder, Mr. Kleyn.
The first marriage was of Mrs. Watney’s daughter, Jane, to Peter Broster.
The first baby to be baptised was Karen Hartley the granddaughter of Rev. Wilfred Hartley, one of Sedgefield’s original holiday home owners.
When mentioning the many ‘firsts’ one must pause to again pay tribute to Mrs. Elaine Watney. She passed away on 9 September 1996 at the age of 96. She had accomplished much in her allotted time on earth. She came to South Africa from Maidstone in England and lived for a time in the then rather untamed Northern Transvaal. She and her husband, Blanco, owned several properties in the area including the first cottage at Montmere and then what became known as Cloud Nine.
Following her husband’s death, she devoted herself to much needed care in this area including countless things to help the impoverished coloured community around Sedgefield. She built the first library, planted many of the beautiful avenues of trees which line the Sedgefield streets. She started a Girl Guide company.She was active in the production of plays and musical shows in the town hall. One of her final gestures was to sell her home at a fraction of its real worth to Sedgemeer Park as a Retirement Home. Her funeral was conducted at St. Francis Church by Rev. Neville Pringle and Pastor Alan Blackshaw.
In time the little church became too small and cramped and an attractive gallery was added. A hall became needed and that too was added. All of these projects were undertaken in faith and, thanks to our Lord for the generosity of His people, the costs were quickly paid off.
For several years this little “Community Church” served the spiritual needs of all of Sedgefield’s people with two services each Sunday, one in Afrikaans and one in English. The Afrikaans Dutch Reformed services were led by the minister from Karatara until they moved to their own premises in 1986. The English services were well organised with superb co-operation of the local ministers. For several years the leadership of the four Sunday Services each month was shared by the Anglican, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian ministers from Knysna and George with the occasional assistance of lay preachers.
This progressed very satisfactorily for a number of years but there were factors that suggested we would be wise to formalise our arrangements somewhat. When the Church would be ready to employ its first full-time Minister we would need to have the Minister supported and backed by a denomination. Also the name ‘Sedgefield Community Church’ led to some confusion with other churches in town. Therefore the Church Council began to research alternatives.
Considering the existing multi-denominational character of its members the Church Council decided to join the growing United Church Vision in other parts of South Africa. By this time a formal agreement had been reached between the Church of the Province of South Africa (Anglican Church), the Congregational Union of South Africa, the Methodist Church of South Africa and the Presbyterian Church of South Africa. The agreement specified inter alia that they would:
- work towards ultimate union
- that the smaller towns would not open separate new churches
- that United Church members would be accepted into membership by these denomination upon transfer
- and that a Minister ordained in any one of these denominations would be accepted into any of the others.
Accordingly the Sedgefield Community Church decided to apply for membership of the Church Unity Commission (C.U.C.) and this was granted. At a moving ceremony, held on 13 August 1995, St. Francis United Church was formally inaugurated as a United Church, accepted into the body of other United Churches in South Africa and the name St. Francis United Church officially recognised. (The name having been unanimously chosen in a vote by it’s members).
The ceremony was officiated by Ministers of each of the denominations represented and St. Francis was represented by Mr. Fred Hawkins, Mr. John Harper and Mr. Robert Kelly. The very many well-wishers from the other churches proved what has always been apparent in Sedgefield that “There is one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all’.
Around this time, because of the rise in Sedgefield’s population and the increasing membership of the Church, there was a need to increase the size of the building once again and in 1996 an extension to the building was completed.
Even though the Church had undergone a name-change the character of the Church had not changed in that it still reached out into the surrounding Communities spreading God’s Word and sharing his love. Within the Church a women’s group, known as the JOY GROUP, had been organised, a Choir led by able organists formed, an active Sunday School catering for ages 4 to 18 year olds and morning and evening Bible Study Groups had been established.
A Mission Statement was drawn up and the Church Council, of nine members, each held a portfolio to ensure that Christ’s commission to the church and our own Mission Statement were met. The portfolios being:
- Social Concerns (now called Community Outreach)
- Mission Outreach
- Christian Education
- Pastoral care
At this time St. Francis was served by two retired Ministers who were residents of Sedgefield. They were the Revd. Peter MacGregor and the Revd. Ted Harrod. They took most of the Services, helped train Bible Study Leaders and Counsellors, and worked closely with the Council to ensure the smooth running of the Church.
In 1998 we run our first Alpha Course which attracted a large gathering of folk not only from Sedgefield but from Knysna and surrounding suburbs. This was followed by various other courses which still continue as and when needed.
With the continual growth of the church two new Sunday School rooms were added in 1999 which serve also as Prayer Rooms, Bible Study Rooms, and Fellowship Rooms. However it became obvious that additional space was needed for Administration and Social Events. In 2007 a large new hall and kitchen was built and the existing hall converted into Administration Offices and the two rooms behind the church which had served as offices became the new Prayer Chapel which is also used for small funerals, weddings etc.
There is a small garden of remembrance.
OUR FIRST MINISTER
In 1997 a fairly new member of the church, Angie Pickard was appointed to the Church Council and took over the portfolio of Pastoral Care. Angie is a qualified Pharmacist who also has a Bachelors Degree in Theology and was a Deacon in the Methodist Church.
She had moved to Sedgefield in 1996 to take up a position in the local pharmacy and soon got to know the local residents and made her mark in both the Community and the Church as she organised an Area Shepherding Program and often led our Services.
Therefore when the time came to appoint our first Minister at St. Francis, the Church Council, after much prayer and discussion, appointed Angie into that position. So after a four-year ‘apprenticeship’ Angie Pickard was inducted as our first Minister on 20 August 2000.
She continued to study as a non-itinerant Minister and was ordained as a Minister in the Methodist Church on 20 September 2009.