The building that today houses the church of Corpus Christi, Garsfontein, originated as a farmhouse from 1945, and represents the original farm on which the Pretoria East suburb of Garsfontein is today situated.
The photos below reveal the original farmhouse prior to its being modified (mostly inside) to become the church building for the parish of Corpus Christi Garsfontein.
The below photographs of the church reveal it as it is today, with the church hall (added later) shown in the background. The small building to the right in the 2nd photo is the parish office, housing the parish administrator and rector during weekdays. It used to be a garden cottage before this property was purchased by the Diocese of Pretoria. Details of the history of this church follow, below.
What was to become the parish of Corpus Christi came to life in October 1981, when Fr. Richard Hatfield began to minister in this area from his then base: A flat in Waterkloof Glen. It was there that he, his wife Shelley, and their son Jason had come to live upon starting a new parish in fast growing south-eastern Pretoria, in an area where no Anglican parish as yet existed, qualified as such. Father Hatfield had graduated from Nashotah House, Wisconsin, in the USA and was a fervent and outspoken Anglo-Catholic, which has been a characteristic of the parish to this day.
The inaugural mass was on Christmas Day, 1981 when 125 people attended. The service was held in the hall of the Sun Gardens Nursery school, Garsfontein, where Corpus Christi was to be hosted for some four years. We owe a great deal to the generous and ecumenical hospitality of the R C Holy Cross Sisters, who ran that institution in those days. Fr. Hatfield was supported by Deacon Andrew Harrington, and a team of four trainee lay ministers.
During mid-1982 the house at 470 De Bron Road came onto the market, and, as it was eminently suitable as a Rectory, was bought by the Diocese of Pretoria for R95, 000 and the Hatfield family moved in at the beginning of February 1983.
In May 1983 Corpus Christi became an independent parish, having been until then a chapelry of the parish of St Francis of Assisi, Waterkloof. Much is owed to the people and clergy of that parish for the spiritual and financial support during those early days.
Two years later, his term in South Africa at an end, Fr. Hatfield and his family returned to the United States. He was succeeded by Fr. Gerald Christian, who, with his wife Muriel and daughter Wendy, had come from Witbank, and, before that, from Birmingham, England.
The original Garsfontein farm house – built in 1945, conveniently situated at 482 De Bron Road, next door to the Rectory – came onto the property market in 1984, and the Diocese bought it for R245, 000. In due course it was tastefully converted (for some R60, 000) into the present church which we enjoy today. A carport was converted into a room for Sunday School activities, and has become “the barn, or ‘Cat’s Haven’ as the children call it. A useful garden cottage was converted into an office for the rector and the administrator. The completed church was dedicated by Bishop Richard Kraft of Pretoria on 18 January 1987. (Further modifications were carried out in 1998/99).
Immediately after Easter 1990 Canon Bob Harris, with his wife Beverley and children Fiona and George, moved from the parish of Irene to become the third Rector of Corpus Christi until his retirement in September 2004. The Rectory was sold to him in 1995 ensuring that he would have a home after retirement. He in turn, on his retirement, sold it to his daughter and son-in-law, who are still living there. The original sale of the rectory in April 1995 enabled us to eventually pay off the outstanding balance of loan from the Diocese which had been used for the purchase of both the rectory and the farm house. It must be noted that the initial cost of the conversion into a church building was paid entirely out of donations from parishioners.
In December 1995, our then self-supporting Deacon (the Revd. Mrs Sue Armitage) became one of the first lady priests of our Diocese. She returned to the UK in 2003, where she ran her own parish until she retired in 2012. In 2003 Dr. Steve Verryn was ordained deacon and served as such for some eight years, until he was ordained in 2011 and served as assistant, self supporting priest. He spent a couple of years on loan to the parish of St Stephen in Centurion until recently. One of our young parishioners, Vernon Foster also answered the call and was ordained deacon in 2006 and priest in 2007. He is now rector of Trinity Church, Lynnwood.
Easter 2005 saw the arrival of the 4th Rector, Fr. Mark Long and is wife Dawn and children Nathan and Cassandra. Fr. Mark accepted an appointment as rector of St Andrew’s, Newlands in Cape Town in 2014, with much regret on both sides and has been succeeded by our present rector, the venerable Revd. Dr. Meshack Mariri.
Our set of “Stations of the Cross” was painted for us by a parishioner (Hans Bilgeri) who also created the concrete murals on the outer South wall. The “Stations” form the focus of our regular Sunday evening Lenten services. Although Corpus Christi is situated in the suburb of Garsfontein, our mailing list indicates that our parishioners seem to live a number of different suburbs of Pretoria. Our attractive ‘Garden of Remembrance’ is now ‘home’ to several former parishioners.
Corpus Christi day is the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday: we celebrate our Patronal Festival each year on the following Sunday.
Our Hall was built early in 2003 and the loan was paid in full by 2006. Besides being the centre for the children’s church and the venue for tea and fellowship after the Sunday services, it is used regularly for meetings by the church council, and is also supported by a number of the outside community in various weekday afternoon and evening activities.
During 2007 the church building was completely refurbished and the central nave extended by 10 meters, increasing the seating capacity by about 40 pews. At the same time a bell tower was added housing a bell, which was donated by a parishioner, and is in daily use, announcing the presence of the church to the surrounding area. A more recent upgrade has seen the church and the hall completely painted, and the pews re-upholstered.
The parish of Corpus Christi reflects the leafy, green natural surrounds of Garsfontein and is a quaint, comfortable 'home' for the word of God on Sundays and weekdays beneath its thatch roof. It is a peaceful and comfortable home for the 'body of Christ' in these parts, a place of calm reflection and renewal under the guiding light that is the Word of God.