South African clergyman is welcomed to Killyleagh

South African clergyman is welcomed to Killyleagh

7 February 2024

A NEW chapter has opened in the history of St John’s Parish Church, Killyleagh, with the introduction of the Rev Eben Grobbelaar as priest–in–charge. 

The Johannesburg clergyman was formally welcomed to the church and Down and Dromore diocese during a service of welcome last Wednesday evening.

The Rev Henry Blair, Mission Coordinator for SOMA UK and Ireland and the National Director for Ireland, gave the address at the service.

Rev Grobbelaar is the former leader of SOMA South Africa and following a wonderful evening his message was “let’s do this together”.

Ahead of last week’s service, he said his first love in ministry has always been missions. 

And he revealed when he visiting the diocese in June last year as part of the SOMA mission, he revealed that what he saw and experienced were “life–giving”.

He continued: “The ethos of the diocese, faith and optimism of the people so impressed upon me that I wanted to be part of what God is doing in Down and Dromore.

“I believe that God’s calling on our lives is accumulative. All our past experiences bear witness of God’s sovereignty to lead us into areas of greater fruitfulness and meaning. 

“What I can offer to the church in Northern Ireland is my South African story and service that is testament of God’s redemption, bring the global church together for its healing and growth.”

The new minister said what he brings to Northern Ireland are the testimonies of communities and individuals where God has, and continues, to work. 

“Most recently I served as rector of St George’s in Parktown, Johannesburg. It has a history of working for Biblical justice in South Africa during Apartheid, bringing down barriers of division in the church when it was considered unthinkable. 

“During my tenure I sought to continue this reconciliatory work in a country that still struggles with racial, class, and political tensions. I bring these experiences with me.”

Rev Grobbelaar’s ministry formation happened in rural Mpumalanga, northeast South Africa. He explained that his theological training and curacy were infused with ministry in areas that were economically, socially, and spiritually in great need. 

“Walking dusty paths between small houses to help people with their basic needs like fetching water from the well, or simply sitting with them when yet another family member dies, is formational to see how Jesus would like us to,” the new minister continued.

“It is with these experiences and mindset that I come to Killyleagh, to immerse myself in the community, with its joys and challenges, trusting God’s grace to continue His work in this area, and in me.”

The minister added: “I see the parish church of St John’s with outstretched arms, embracing the community, and bringing it to a greater knowledge of the love of God.”