My precious relationship with St John’s started in 1995 when I had the incredible privilege of being appointed Rector of this amazing community.

Things were so different back then! The Cottage Community was a small group of 10 cottages and the estate consisted of the Hall and the Church and a small Sunday School wood and iron structure. Maureen Udemans (followed by Anne Allen) were the secretaries, and we shared a little office section of the Sunday School block. Also in that block was a Chapel, which was the hub of the praying community during the Charismatic Renewal of those days.

Canon Denison Smith and his wife Jill (who still lives with us in the Cottage Community!) preceded me as the Rector and laid a foundation of solid Bible-based faith. It was upon that solid foundation that I was privileged to minister – along with an amazing team of Lay Leaders and other faithful servants of the Lord. We knew that God would be doing a great work in this place after Bishop Bruce Evans prophesied that God would do great things amongst us and he gave us a picture of Streams of Living Water flowing from the altar of St John’s into the Diocese and the Province and to the ends of the earth.

As I reflect on that prophecy today, I marvel at the way the parish has been equipped and anointed and enabled to fulfil God’s plans over the decades.
St John’s has been honoured to exercise an important ministry in the Diocese in many, many ways – not least of all through the generosity of selfless giving of its members. In a very real sense, the congregation of this parish has always been willing to support the ministry and outreach out there into the world.

Today we support effective missionary work in Egypt, Northern Sudan, Lesotho and to the ends of the earth (Pakistan – where one of our own, a brave and focused former parishioner, serves in a small Christian Community and in a school). We also take very seriously the needs of our own local community and the Centre of Concern ministers to hundreds of needy folks living right in our suburb and on our very doorstep.

And so today, and every year on the Sunday closest to June 24th, the congregation of St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, gathers to celebrate our Patronal Festival. This joyous occasion honours the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist, a pivotal figure in Christian tradition known for his role in preparing the way for Jesus Christ. The festival not only commemorates St. John’s profound legacy but also serves as a time for spiritual renewal, renewed communal bonding, and a deeper commitment to outreach.

Under our current leadership team serving under Archdeacon Claire Phelps and her team, we continue to be a pivotal parish and ministry centre out to the world. We take seriously our calling to prepare a way for the Lord in today’s traumatised, confused and partially lost generation.

In the Gospels, John is depicted as a voice crying out in the wilderness, urging people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. His message of repentance and baptism resonated deeply with the people of his time and continues to inspire Christians today.

So, too, our team of ministering saints, are placed in a spiritual wilderness of our modern age. Their clarion cry is that there is only one way to real, eternal life, and – like John the Baptist – work together to bring the Gospel to all ages and to all God gives us to care for.

What about you and me? What role do we play in this sacred calling? Are we simply lookers-on or sometime “tasters of the nectar” that flows from the teachings and services offered here?

The Patronal Festival also offers a time for personal reflection and spiritual renewal. St. John’s call to repentance invites believers to be introspective, to seek forgiveness, and to deepen their relationship with God. The festival encourages the congregation to reflect on their spiritual journey, drawing strength from St. John’s example of steadfast faith and devotion. Furthermore, this day calls on us to take responsibility and accountability for the work that goes out from here. Not all of us can evangelize, or teach, or even go out into the community to care for the needy, but all of us can be prayer warriors and financial contributors towards the thrust and outreach to the children, the youth, the young adults, the congregation and the needs of those the Lord sends to us to care for.

By honouring St. John the Baptist, the congregation is reminded of the importance of preparing the way for Christ through acts of love, service, and evangelism. It is a time to recommit to living out the Gospel in tangible, impactful ways.


The Patronal Festival of St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, is a cherished tradition that enriches the spiritual life of the congregation. It celebrates the enduring legacy of St. John the Baptist, whose life and ministry continue to inspire believers to live out their faith with courage and conviction. As the church gathers to honor its patron saint, it also reaffirms its mission to be a beacon of hope and a witness to the transformative power of the Gospel in the world. This annual celebration is a testament to the vibrant faith community in Walmer and its dedication to upholding the teachings of St. John the Baptist. Pray for Claire, her team, the Churchwardens and Parish Council, the Lay ministers and Lay workers, the missionaries and the worship teams etc, etc. Together we are the modern-day John the Baptists in our corner of the Kingdom!!

Revd Canon Rob Penrith