In South Africa there were since the late 1600′s (when Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape of Good Hope) traditionally three churches ministering to the Afrikaans speaking citizens: the Dutch Reformed Church (Abbreviated DRC; Afrikaans: Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk), the Netherdutsch Reformed Church of Africa (Abbreviated NRCA; Afrikaans: Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk) and the Reformed Churches in South Africa (Abreviated RCSA; Afrikaans: Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika). The Dutch Reformed Church is by far the biggest of the three while the Reformed Churches in South Africa is the smallest. The differences between them are actually minimal and restricted mainly to some practical aspects.
The word “Dutch” or “Netherdutsch” in the names of the DRC and NRCA as well as the DRCZ indicates that the roots of these churches are in the reformed churches in the Netherlands – it has no bearing on the language used in the churches. It also doesn’t imply that these churches are the same as the church in the Netherlands. They are completely South African churches ministering in the first instance to the Afrikaans speaking people. The “Reformed” in the names characterises them as churches in the reformed tradition.
The history of these three churches in South Africa makes for very interesting reading but we are not going to discuss it here. We will concentrate on the history of the DRC in Zambia since the DRCZ Lusaka started as a congregation of the DRC.
Early years in Zambia
The first Afrikaners moved from South Africa to Livingstone in 1902 and into the district of Lusaka about 1903. In 1913 the town of Lusaka was proclaimed. By 1912 more than 250 members of the DRC were living north of the Zambezi. In 1913 more than a quarter of the 2,000 white people living in the district of Lusaka were members of the DRC.
A new congregation born
On 26 June 1919 the DRC congregation of Lusaka was established and on 30 August 1919 the first meeting of the Church Council was held. Reverend P. de W. Eksteen was called as the first pastor for the congregation. The main purpose of the congregation was to care for all members of the DRC living in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and the Congo. The church building of the new congregation (next to the present Great Northern Road in Lusaka and today belonging to the Salvation Army) was inaugurated on 7 May 1921.
Growth and decline
More and more members of the DRC moved to Zambia. As the members became too many for one congregation, more congregations were established. By 1959 there were eleven DRC congregations in Zambia: Lusaka (two), Nkana, Mufulira, Livingstone, Luanshya, Chingola, Fort Jameson (Chipata), Broken Hill (Kabwe), Ndola and Mazabuka. The eleven congregations had 3,300 members in total.
By 1960 the numbers of the members started dwindling. One-by-one the congregations closed again until only Lusaka Congregation remained in 1975 to care for all DRC members in Zambia.
The church building was sold to the Salvation Army in 1966 and in 1967 the congregation moved to the church building of the extinct Lusaka-East DRC congregation in Kabulonga street – the same building that is today still used by the DRCZ Lusaka.
A new era: 1997/8 up to today
In all the years the DRC in Zambia was focused on caring for the Afrikaans members of the DRC. All ministry was done in Afrikaans. Since 1991 matters started changing. Requests were received for English worship services. From 1992 some English services were presented. In 1995 it was decided to start with a full-fledged English ministry. The church was divided into two: an Afrikaans and an English block, each with their own church councils. Matters common to the whole congregation were discussed on combined church meetings.
Since 1995 there also had been continuous discussions between the DRC and the NRCA about the possibility of cooperation between the churches. The NRCA also had members in Zambia and had an active congregation in Lusaka. But their numbers in Zambia decreased to such an extent that it was not anymore viable to have a separate congregation.
At the end of 1997 the DRC and NRCA reached a formal agreement. According to this agreement a new church will be established in which they will work together to minister to all DRC and NRCA members in Zambia. The church will be called the DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH OF ZAMBIA (DRCZ) and the borders of the church will include the whole of Zambia. Zambia was divided into two with a northern and southern block with Kapiri Mposhi as the boundary. The DRC will accept responsibility for providing a pastor for the southern block while the NRCA will provide a pastor for the northern block until the church could function independently. Early in 1998 the northern block was formed into a new congregation of the DRCZ: the DRCZ Nkana. Since then there had been two congregations of the DRCZ: Lusaka and Nkana. Rev Nico Mostert was the first pastor of the DRCZ Lusaka and Rev Riaan Botha the first pastor of the DRCZ Nkana.
During 1996-1998 another event occurred which changed the character of the DRCZ Lusaka to quite an extent. A substantial number of members of the Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) living in the neighbourhood of the Kabulonga road church building became members of the DRCZ Lusaka – attending the English services. The RCZ is a local reformed church which was established in 1899 through the diligent work of NGK missionaries in Zambia – a daughter church of the DRC.
The joining of the members of the RCZ, the changing of the name of the church to DRCZ as well as the English and Afrikaans ministry formed the DRCZ into an indigenous and multi-cultural church. Coupled with the agreement between the DRC and NRCA it makes the DRCZ an unique church and an example to the DRC and NRCA congregations/churches in South Africa of how God can change a church into a unity of different cultures and churches.
Today the DRCZ is a truly indigenous Zambian church and a spiritual home to many people coming from different cultural backgrounds and from different Christian churches. Faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, love for God and each other and a common desire to be a light for all of Zambia are the factors that tie all members of the DRCZ into a unity. The DRCZ is the only indigenous church that ministers to her members in both Afrikaans and English.
Although the DRCZ functions to a large extent as an independent church, it still has very close ties to the DRC and NRCA in South Africa. The relations with these two South African churches are unique in the sense that the DRCZ is actually at the same time denominationally a DRC and a NRCA church. This is reflected in the way that Worship Services are conducted as well as in the government of the DRCZ. Meetings of the Presbyteries and Synods of both DRC and DRCA are attended by representatives of the DRCZ. The DRCZ is also quite close to the local RCZ. English worship services reflect the link with the RCZ. Although the official relation between the DRCZ and RCZ deteriorated through the years, it is in the process of being restored again.