Kenosis Community


The Kenosis story begins with two men who had a dream of a united and reconciled church reaching out to serve others. In the early 1980s, Professor Gunther Wittenberg and Gert Landmann, both theologians at the Lutheran Theological institute in Pietermaritzburg came together to serve the church and the local community and who would be a testament of reconciliation between the races in a land deeply divided by apartheid.

In 1989, the dream became a reality and the Kenosis Community Trust was created and took root on a portion of land at Bishopstowe donated by the Hayfields/Bishopstowe Lutheran community.

In 1997, the community at Kenosis was made sharply aware of the HIV/AIDS crisis in South Africa, when a young mother died shortly after giving birthto a baby. In response to the crisis, Kenosis reached out to CINDI (Children in Distress Network) and other organizations for advice and input and a decision was taken to build a small foster village where orphaned children could be cared for by trained foster mothers and enjoy the blessing of being part of a family and a village community. Kenosis was the first such foster village to be built in South Africa. 

Some years later in 2007. Kenosis again responded to a community need by building an Early Childhood Development Centre to serve the children of local farm workers, those living in disadvantaged communities nearby and also Kenosis foster children.

The Lutheran religious community at Kenosis finally closed but God’s work here is not done. Kenosis Community continues to provide foster care and early childhood education to vulnerable children in need.

In 2019, Kenosis also launched its Siyandiza Post School development programme to cater for those foster children who have finished school and need some assistance finding their feet as adults. The programme provides a year of post school accommodation to our young adults where they are able to learn independent living and also benefit from work experience, assistance with discovering their vocational direction and relevant training where possible, volunteer work and a job readiness training programme.

The Kenosis Church History

The Topping-out ceremony was held on 26. 9. 1913. The inauguration took place on 10. 6. 1914.

The consecration of the church tower and the gallery took place on 11. 2. 1962. After an interior renovation and enlargement of the gallery, the church was put back into use with a devotion on 24. 7. 1971. A new organ was installed and was first played on Sunday 16. 5. 1976.

A new roof was installed in March 1981.

Bishopstowe History

John William Colenso was consecrated Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Natal in 1853, and two weeks later sailed to South Africa for his tour of inspection of his future home, Natal. He recorded this visit in an informative account ‘Ten Weeks in Natal'(1954). He and his family lived in Natal from 1855, settling his family and members of the mission in buildings hastily erected at Bishopstowe, the mission station being called Ekukanyeni (Place of Light), some 15 km east of Pietermaritzburg. Here Colenso erected first a simple rectangular thatched wattle and daub cottage to which was added a series of out buildings. The house was extended in the picturesque style. The mission church was a decorative wooden structure. Colenso lived at Bishopstowe until his death in 1883. The house was destroyed by a veldt fire the following year, 1884, the family salvaging what they could and moving to a nearby farm building several hundred yards away. In 1899/1900 a simple brick and iron house was built on the same foundations of the old house by Colenso’s two surviving daughters, Harriette and Agnes, thus retaining Bishop Colenso’s favorite view of Table Mountain which he had called his altar. It remained the family home until 1910, and still survives. 

The nature of the new Diocese of Natal had been perceived as mission orientated by Bishop Gray of Cape Town and indeed, the Zulus in Natal immediately became Colenso’s prime concern, earning him the nickname ‘Sobantu’ (‘friend of the people’); two further mission stations were erected during Colenso’s time, at Umlazi near Durban, and at KwaMagwaza near Melmoth. Colenso’s views on several aspects of Anglican doctrine were controversial and caused the Natal Anglicans, and eventually the South African Anglicans, to split into two camps, giving rise to the Church of the Province of South Africa (Bishop Gray), and the Church of England (Bishop Colenso). Colenso remained the Anglican Bishop of Natal until his death, and the cathedral church of St Peter’s in Pietermaritzburg remained his official church (he is buried in front of the altar); Bishop Kenneth Macrorie was ordained Bishop of Maritzburg in 1868, a Bishop Gray appointee, alongside Colenso. The two Bishops both lived in and near Pietermaritzburg for some years.

Colenso was a significant figure in the history of the published word in 19th-century South Africa. He first wrote a short but vivid account of his initial journeying in Natal, Ten Weeks in Natal. Using the printing press he brought to his missionary station at Ekukhanyeni in Natal, and with William Ngidi he published the first Zulu Grammar and English/Zulu dictionary. His 1859 journey across Zululand to visit Mpande (the then Zulu King) and meet with Cetshwayo (Mpande’s son and the Zulu King at the time of the Zulu War) was recorded in his book First Steps of the Zulu Mission. The same journey was also described in the first book written by native South Africans in Zulu – Three Native Accounts by Magema Fuze, Ndiyane and William Ngidi. He also translated the New Testament and other portions of Scripture into Zulu. Colenso’s early theological thinking was heavily influenced by F.D. Maurice to whom he was introduced by his wife and by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In 1846 he became rector of Forncett St Mary, Norfolk, and in 1853 he was recruited by the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, to be the first Bishop of Natal.

Colenso devoted the latter years of his life to further labours as a biblical commentator and as an advocate for native Africans in Natal and Zululand who had been unjustly treated by the colonial regime in Natal. In 1874 he took up the cause of Langalibalele and the Hlubi and Ngwe tribes in representations to the Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon. Langalibalele had been falsely accused of rebellion in 1873 and, following a charade of a trial, was found guilty and imprisoned on Robben Island. In taking the side of Langalibalele against the Colonial regime in Natal and Theophilus Shepstone, the Secretary for Native Affairs, Colenso found himself even further estranged from colonial society in Natal.

Colenso’s concern about the misleading information that was being provided to the Colonial Secretary in London by Shepstone and the Governor of Natal prompted him to devote much of the final part of his life to championing the cause of the Zulus against Boer oppression and official encroachments. He was a prominent critic of Sir Bartle Frere‘s efforts to depict the Zulu kingdom as a threat to Natal. Following the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War he interceded on behalf of Cetshwayo with the British government and succeeded in getting him released from Robben Island and returned to Zululand.

He was known as Sobantu (father of the people) to the native Africans in Natal and had a close relationship with members of the Zulu royal family; one of whom, Mkhungo (a son of Mpande), was taught at his school in Bishopstowe.