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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: February 2020

Postscript - ‘Entertaining God and the ancestors’: The HUMCC from 1996 to the present


At the time of Tsietsi Thandekiso's death, the church was operating in temporary premises in a former nail-manicure parlour in Hillbrow. It was a bleak environment but perhaps appropriate in some ways, reflecting in its mirrors and posters something of the aspirations towards glamour and style evident in the church beauty pageant. In the wake of the Reverend's death, all was forgiven regarding the dispute with the Harrison Reef Hotel and the church moved back to its former premises on the seventh floor.

But then unexpectedly the building was sold for redevelopment as residential accommodation. The oldest gay bar in Johannesburg, the Skyline, was given notice. And the HUMCC congregation had to find a new place of worship. The lesbian and gay legal and advocacy organisation, the Equality Project, provided temporary Sunday facilities for the HUMCC in Yeoville, in a house which the organisation had bought and converted into offices. For a while the church worshipped in what was once a sitting room, replete with a dormant fireplace. Then the HUMCC occupied an empty office space in Braamfontein until the congregation arrived one Sunday to find the building locked. At this point, Paul Mokgethi spoke to his partner JP, the Anglican priest at Christ Church in Mayfair, about using the church hall. This functioned well for a while, until the congregation outgrew the hall. When JP managed to secure permission from the Christ Church Board, the congregation moved into the historic church building. The church continues to operate there until today, with services held every Sunday morning for two hours, starting at eleven o’clock. Recently, however, there has once again been pressure to move on. JP has relocated to a new parish and other responsibilities. The rental has doubled and the church is now struggling to meet its obligations. This wandering from place to place in search of a new home was indicative of a deeper insecurity. Many, including myself, doubted that the church would survive the death of its principal founding member. As Paul Mokgethi expressed it:

After Tsietsi's death we were really anticipating whether or not to continue the church. Who would take care of the church? Who would be responsible? We did not know if people would still be interested in continuing with Tsietsi's legacy … We knew Tsietsi as somebody who was powerful, especially in preaching.