Planting a church during a national lockdown


In late March 2020, as the COVID-19 virus swept across the globe, the South African government implemented a strict national lockdown which went on to last through April until early May. The lockdown was one of the most severe implemented globally, shutting all businesses and restricting the movement of citizens to weekly grocery shopping trips. Exercise and outdoor activities were prohibited and all religious gatherings were banned indefinitely.

Downtown Durban transformed into a ghost town on day 1 of the national lockdown

Unaware of the impending lockdown, Gregory and Audele Cassim launched their much anticipated church plant three weeks before the lockdown became a reality.

Greg and Audele Cassim

Plans to plant Hope Church had been in the pipeline for two years. The idea gained momentum when Greg and Audele became a part of One City Church, lead by Stephen and Bronwyn Rothquel.

Greg explains, “Throughout the years I’ve been involved in youth and young adult ministry but there was always a sense of calling. I was part of a Christian rap group and met Steve who pastors One City Church on the music circuit. In late 2018 I joined his church and had a sense that the time to plant was coming soon. After some time in prayer and conversation with Steve we felt the right time to plant would be in 2020.”

As part of his preparation to lead Hope Church, Greg has recently completed a Theology degree and enrolled for his Masters in Apologetics.

Greg Cassim and Steve Rothquel

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Greg for a number of years, and have witnessed his faithfulness to the Gospel. For a short period both Greg and Audele joined us at One City Church with a heart to plant a Church in Durban. It has been such a joy to see Hope Church emerge in the Montclair Durban area, and again to see the Gospel advance. Amazingly in its first year, regardless of Covid-19 restrictions the fruitfulness of this church has been so evident. We count it a privilege to know Greg and Audele and look forward to seeing their journey unfold.
Steve Rothquel

Hope church has a diverse makeup, located in an under resourced area of South Africa’s third largest city.

“There has also been an increase of foreign nationals moving into [Montclair] in the past 3 years. Its an under resourced area and the brokenness includes substance abuse, high levels of crime, single parent homes and poverty. The people in the community are warm and friendly. When doing our outreaches there are always positive responses and new visitors in church that week. The city center and surrounding areas are a stone’s throw away which gives us more opportunities to spread the gospel.” describes Greg.

Facing an unexpected postponement of meetings, the Hope Church team had to pivot quickly.

“It was a bit unsettling as we had planned a full month of outreach initiatives so we had to adjust. ” says Greg.

Hope Church must be commended for their resilience. As soon as the restriction on religious gatherings eased they launched innovative ‘drive-in’ church meetings. The drive-in meetings garnering some unexpected attention from passers-by and encouraging visitors.

“We started outdoor church in the parking lot which went very well. We had visitors coming on a weekly basis” says Greg.

Greg Cassim preaches at a drive-in church meeting during 2020

“One of the major highlights was our baptism service that took place on the 6th December. We baptised 7 people! One of our members comes from a Muslim background and it has not been easy for her at home but despite the challenges she kept her faith and was one of the baptism candidates. She currently plays an active role in the church. We also managed to do some disciple making training with the majority of our church members.” continues Greg.

Baptisms at Hope Church in December 2020

Reflecting on the year passed, Greg says, “Personally I have experienced much growth since we launched and it also helped to be a part of the Church Planting Mentorship Programme run by Gareth Bowley of Reconciliation Road Church.”

We had the joy of having Greg join our CPMP programme leading up to the launch of Hope Church and Greg has continued with us post launch. Greg is passionate, resilient & resourceful and so he has a wonderful testimony of progress in spite of very challenging circumstances for a new church plant. I am eager to see all that God will still do through this church as Greg leads them.
Gareth Bowley

South Africa’s lockdown has fluctuated between various levels of restriction of movement. Coming into the final quarter of the year church services of no more than 250 were permitted provided the facility was large enough and had sufficient hygiene protocols in place. However shortly after Christmas, as the second wave gained momentum, religious gatherings were again prohibited.

We commend Greg and Audele for their resilience in this season and are grateful to God for continuing to advance His Kingdom into the community of Montclair against all odds!

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm 121.3-4