“Praise the Lord and pass the libation” is the motto of an unorthodox church located near Johannesburg, South Africa. Gabola Church of International Ministries takes its name from the Tswana word for “drinking”, and it both allows and encourages members of the congregation to drink during service.
The African continent is home to lots of unconventional churches and colorful preachers who employ all kinds of outlandish rituals to attract parishioners. In the past we’ve written about ministers spraying congregates with “holy” bug spray, making them drink motor oil or talking to God on the phone. However, Johannesburg’s Gabola Church is apparently the first to choose alcohol as its main theme.
At Gabola, baptisms are performed using the preferred alcoholic drink of parishioners. Alcohol is also consumed during sermons, with bottles of beer, whisky and wine anointed by the church’s founder and resident bishop, Tsietsi Makiti. As crazy a combination as alcohol and God worship may seem, Makiti has a very good reason for relying on it to attract congregates. He claims that the church’s mission is to welcome drinkers who had been rejected by traditional churches, providing a safe space to drink and also worship God.
“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”
A church that not only condones, but actually encourages alcohol consumption, what’s not to like, right? Bishop Tsietsi Makiti founded his church just two months ago, but it already has over 500 members and has baptized over 2000 people, using the booze of their choice. The holy man 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 congregation at Gabola Church is currently all-male, but its 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.
Minors, on the other hand, have no 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 church currently 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, things have taken a turn for the better.
“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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