Most typical churches in Africa do not openly endorse the consumption of alcohol and a few have even banned their members from consuming or selling alcoholic drinks. But one newly formed church in South Africa not only welcomes alcohol, it also celebrates it.
The South African church (Gabola Church) was started eight months ago and has found an enthusiastic following.
Gabola is a Sotho word for taking a gulp or simply drinking.
The Gabola Church pastor and self-declared pope Tsietsi Makiti, wears a cleric’s hat with a bold cross stitched in gold on the front.
A 4.5-litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label whisky and a 5-litre Castle Lager container is always with him at the altar during his Sunday services.
He’s also known to habitually quench his thirst by taking a sip from his whisky glass as the service goes on.
“This is where those labelled ‘drunkards’ by other churches are welcome,” Makiti said.
He said the idea behind his church was to create an environment where consumers of alcohol – who are condemned by mainstream churches – could find a home. Makiti conducts his Sunday service at a different tavern each week.
“Here, we drink in public and praise the Lord at the same time. This is not a joke … this is a space for people to come together in God’s name without being ashamed of being drinkers.”
“I grew up in a yard where a church service is held to this day. At a later stage, I was barred because I drink. I am happy today to have found a home in Gabola Church,” was one member’s testimony, to jubilant applause from congregants.
Also when it comes to baptism, Members of the church are baptized with their favourite booze.. According to Makiti, more than 2,000 people have already been baptised at his new fellowship – with their drink of choice.
“If you drink beer, you get baptised in beer. The same goes for those who drink cider and other alcoholic beverages,” he said.
When asked about his church’s values Pope Tsietsi Makiti had this to say,
“All we do is drink, praise and appreciate God at the same time. We don’t promise anyone magic.
“We are only saying this is an environment where one can drink without being judged at all,” he said.