Gabola Church of International Ministries takes its name from the Tswana word for “drinking”, astonishingly, the church encourages its members to drink during the service.
We’ve heard of bizarre cases in Africa where unconventional churches and colorful preachers employ all kinds of outlandish rituals to attract flocks. Recently we heard about ministers who were urging their members to talk to God on the phone while others were spraying congregates with “holy” bug spray, and making them drink motor oil.
Gabola Church, which is located near Johannesburg, South Africa, has decided to step-up a niche higher by choosing alcohol as its main theme. To make matters worse, congregants are baptized using their preferred alcoholic drink. They also consume alcohol during sermons, with bottles of beer, whisky and wine anointed by the church’s founder and resident bishop, Tsietsi Makiti.
The bizarre combination of alcohol and God worship defeats itself. However, Makiti has a very good reason for relying on it to attract congregates. He’s point of view is that the church’s mission is to welcome drinkers who had been rejected by traditional churches, and hence provide a place for them to worship God and drink.
“This is where those labeled ‘drunkards’ by other churches are welcome,” Makiti told the Daily Sun. “This is a space for people to come together in God’s name without being ashamed of being drinkers. We are only saying this is an environment where one can drink without being judged at all”
The church, which was founded two months ago by Bishop Tsietsi Makiti, encourages alcohol consumption, but it already has over 500 members and has baptized over 2000 people, using the booze of their choice.
The founder of the church claims that he has been overwhelmed with invitations to expand Gabola Church all over South Africa.
“If you drink beer, you get baptized in beer. The same goes for those who drink cider and other alcoholic beverages,” Makiti said. “This church also prays for their drinks before they are served. With God in our taverns, we would see crime being reduced and love and respect promoted.”
The church constitutes of male worshippers but the bishop plans to make it more inclusive in the near future.
“Women are also not allowed because we have men who are drinking, and we cannot have instances where some of them start troubling these women. We will allow women at a later stage, once our congregants have been well prepared,” Tsietsi Makiti said.
The same applies to minors, they also don’t have a place at Gabola Church. “Wherever we hold our services, we disallow children from buying alcohol, even if they are sent by their parents; we send them back.” the bishop said.
The congregation meets in Freddy’s Tavern, Orange Farm, in the south part of Johannesburg, from 11 am to 3 pm. The owner of the tavern, Freddy Mathebula, says that ever since Makiti started his alcohol-themed church, there’s a great deal of improvement.
“Since the church started, crime has been reduced and we have received a great response from the community,” Mathebula told reporters.
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