This developed into a Bible Study attended by staff at Kearsney College and others. In July 1970 Jonathan and Jane Leach arrived from England, Jane being the Balcombs’ daughter. In February 1971 Jonathan and Jane were inducted as the pastoral leaders of The Church At Assagay; the vision being to rediscover the “New Testament Church”.
Sunday services were held in their “A” Frame house in Botha’s Hill. When numbers grew too large the venue was moved to Dilys Hind’s large house in Winston Park. The format was unstructured and spontaneous. There was no such thing as a worship team but one or two individuals with guitars might start a song. Otherwise anyone would bring a song or a tongue or a revelation or a prophetic word or a testimony as 1 Corinthians 14 verse 26. Ken Balcomb and Jonathan Leach would provide most but certainly not all the Biblical input. Fe Balcomb was ever a powerful spiritual presence.
In 1974 Jonathan and Jane were transferred to Queenstown and Mike Attlee immediately acted to bring this unorthodox assembly into the mould of the rest of the Coastal Assemblies. Whereupon there was what Jonathan describes as “The Gun Fight At The OK Coral” with Ken Balcomb and Mike Attlee toe to toe exchanging differences of values visions and ecclesiologies, all in full view and full voice after morning worship.
So the Hillcrest Coastal Assemblies branched off from the Church at Assagay, which regarded itself as the Biblical “Cave Of Adullam” where the indebted, distressed and discontented gathered under David’s leadership. 1 Samuel 22vs 1 & 2. In this case Ken Balcomb was the reluctant but anointed leader, supported as ever by his stalwart wife whose penetrating pastoral and prophetic ministry transcended all denominational and social barriers. After two years Jonathan and Jane returned from Queenstown as a result of a direct word from the Lord in Ezekiel 34 vs 1 – 4. For the next four years the Church at Assagay proclaimed a “Kingdom Vision” and developing relationships across the entire Body of Christ. The venue moved from the Balcomb home back to the Leach “A” Frame house and then to Ward’s Copper Shop on the Old Main Road in Botha’s Hill.
Jonathan still retained relationships and friendships on a personal basis with ministers across the broader national Assemblies of God, while the Church At Assagay remained independent of any apostolic oversight. In about 1980 the elders invited Derek Crumpton, leader of the nation wide Foundation Ministries, to exercise an apostolic care for this “loose canon”. It was made clear that we sought his ministry and guidance but that the final authority remained with the elders. We also stipulated that while he was our primary apostolic “cover” we retained the Biblical liberty to draw from any other apostolic ministry that might be available. In this context we developed and enjoyed an on going connection with Sunrise Ministries in England and Frank Matthews and Stuart Reid made regular visits and taught us at church camps, of which the Cheese Factory with its flapping roof carries the most colourful anecdotes.
From the Copper Shop the venue moved to the Clarksons’ house in Winston Park where numbers grew to over 100. This meant another move to the Hillcrest Library Hall. As numbers grew we sensed a lack of intimacy and the dynamic buzz of smaller groups. So we dismantled the “battleship” and launched a flotilla of gunboats:- The Church at Hillcrest, The Church at Assagay, The Church at Waterfall and the Church at Kloof. There was even a satellite group in Gillitts led by Hannes and Jess Van Niekerk. Each “gunboat” had a commander, ie a full time paid leader. The vision was for these fast moving agile fighting units to be dynamic agents of the Kingdom of God in each location. Once a month they would gather for united celebration in the Hillcrest High School. So home group, congregation and celebration became the ecclesiastical profile. The trouble was that leadership maturity lagged behind Kingdom vision and the gunboats started competing and arguing over issues. So back to the drawing board and take the battleship out of mothballs. We were altogether again in the Kloof High School. We then moved to Winston Park Primary School before finally settling in our new home. (See here)
Russell and Gerrie Chadwick joined the Ministry Team from Zimbabwe and in due course were planted out in New Germany as the King’s Church. Jonathan Silcock brought a fresh spark of lightness and laughter. He was a gifted musician but a reluctant leader. His death from cancer was a tragedy of immense proportions. Alan and Mary Ellen Blackman then joined the leadership and Mary Ellen built up a formidable music team of worshippers. Jonathan and Jane stood down from leadership and Rob and Trish Bird provided a stabilising strong wise pastoral care for three years, preceded by a brief dynamic period with Nurden and Giselle Cross at the helm, before the latter were transferred to Cape Town. In due time Henry Duncan, an old AOG war horse, took over the leadership. For a season the leadership was divided between pastoral and administrative functions, when Steve Whiley and later Greg Reid became the lead elders while Henry served as the Senior Pastor. Derek Crumpton withdrew from apostolic oversight and was replaced by Frank Matthews in UK. When he in turn retired Sarepta Church formalised its links with the Vineyard Christian Churches and asked Costa Mitchell to accept apostolic responsibility for us. The years flash by and Henry has handed over to Alan Blackman. No history of Sarepta, ( the name coined by Ken and Fe Balcomb) would be complete without honouring the memory and ministries of pillars like Cliff and Jen de Gersigny, Rex Hemson, Ian and Vera Meikle, Hannes and Jess Van Niekerk. But this is a hopeless enterprise as there are countless others who have made vital contributions to the life of this community
From the start one of the original values from “The Cave of Adullam” was that funds should be put into mission and ministry rather than masonry. For some thirty years this was maintained. Then as the political situation developed the decision was made after much soul searching and prayer to build our own place of worship……no not a church…nor a sanctuary, but a place to gather for prayer, praise and fellowship. A legacy from Ken and Fe Balcomb provided funds for a large plot in the Living Stones complex. Then without any frenzied fund raising but with due prayer and faith, the Lord provided finances which enabled Gareth Bowden and James Bowden to design and build Sarepta Corner which is a delightful venue just right for our needs. During the construction a gallery and an upper room somehow “grew” onto the original plan. Gareth is truly a charismatic builder.