TF Carter in his book, “ A Narrative of the Boer War” said that the Klipkerk leaves a “…a presence on your mind- a splendid example of the church militant here on earth, or rather I should say here on stone, because the capital of the South African Republic has its foundation laid on that endurance substance.”
The Bible also warns that this could be a milestone on which you could hit your foot. History reveals the struggle. In 1885, after the First Anglo Boer War, the church council of both the Afrikaner churches voted for a merging as a United Church. A struggle followed to find a suitable name and the majority decided on a combination name of Dutch Reformed or Reformed Church. In later years, during the synod of 27 April 1957, the name was decided on as the Dutch Reformed Church of the Transvaal.
Apart from not disputing the name, disrupters had a meeting on 8 January 1888. This reluctant congregation branched away after which the Dutch Reformed, had again risen from the ashes. The family of Reverend Van Warmelo has also torn apart as a result of the branching away. His wife, the organist, and her children attended the Dutch Reformed Church. Her husband, the minister to the United Church had callings to this church but, he refused. He played a leading role in the Dutch Reformed Church until his death in 1892. On 16 December 1891, he conducted the church service at Paardekraal where he was elected the people’s minister, 10 years earlier. Even after his death, his wife refused to hand over the keys of the parsonage to the United Church.
Building the church started another struggle. When the congregation grew to 13 wards with 1195 members and 2906 people in numbers, the building commission suggested the amount of 800 pounds for building the Klipkerk.
In October 1890 the rebels from the Reformed Church got an interdict to stop the building of the church. 11 Years after the reformation of the church, the dispute about the properties would be settled in court. In August 1891, Pres Paul Kruger tried to reconcile the warring parties, but it was in vain. His known statement was: “ Kon men niet eensgesind in een huis wonen, laat men dan in vrede naast elkaar wonen.”
One of the more popular ministers of the Klipkerk, Rev AJ Louw was the neighborhood friend of Dr. A G Visser. He mentored well-known young men such as Jan Smuts and DF Malan in Riebeeck West congregation (1888). Dr. DF Malan was later appointed assistant preacher in Heidelberg in May 1905. He later becomes the premier of South Africa. Reverend Louw received 19 other callings to other congregations and was the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church from 1916-1925.
The people’s leaders also made use of the Klipkerk. In July 1903, the Commander-in-Chief, Genl. Louis Botha and all the Boer generals held the first public meeting after the war. The guest of honor of this meeting was Emily Hobhouse, who delivered her speech on the stairs of the church.
The reburial of the fallen during the Anglo Boer War was held from the Klipkerk on 17 October 1903. The church service was conducted by Rev Bosman and many of the Boer generals attended. The Commandant Generals, Louis Botha, CR de Wet, Assistant General JC Smuts, and five other Boer generals were present. The struggle for mother tongue education started in the basement of the Kllipkerk. It became known as the “Cave of Abdulam” and would later become the foundation for Laer Volkskool in 1906.
On 29 May 1961, just before officially becoming a Republic, during the church service, a Bible was handed over to Dr. and Mrs. Verwoerd. The church should act as a moral compass to fulfill its calling and task, to the end. From history, we learn that the church and politics would always intermingle, whilst they should have stayed vigilant and spiritually alert. The church becomes the proverbial opium which could be influential on members of the congregation. Koot Vorster brother of our neighboring town premier, Adv John Vorster was the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church. The Klipkerk was not only the cornerstone of Heidelberg but also that of the South African Republic.