Blade Runner's tweeting pastor
Oscar Pistorius turned to three sources for support following his arrest for killing Reeva Steenkamp: his family, his crack legal team and God.
The last is no surprise. On his back he has a tattooed verse from 1 Corinthians 9:26 in the Bible, which states: “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”
Pistorius, who was being held at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria, was visited regularly by Pastor Bert Pretorius. But when the pastor was asked by reporters at the weekend who he was, he would not comment or identify himself.
In a sermon to his followers on the internet on Wednesday evening, Pastor Pretorius revealed that he was visiting the Blade Runner every day. “I’ve been ministering to him on a daily basis,” he said in a sermon streamed on his church’s website, which was prerecorded on Wednesday morning. “I am going to him this afternoon.”
Pretorius, who is on tweeting terms with Pistorius, is the founder of the 3C (Community, Character, Courage) Church. The main branch is in the wealthy area of Irene, south of Pretoria, and there are three others in Gauteng. Its comprehensive website says Pretorius started the church with his wife, Charné. “3C is a dynamic, multiracial, multisite, vibrant and fast-growing church with over 16 000 members in South Africa,” it says.
To get to 3C’s Irene headquarters you drive down a bumpy dirt road into its compound, where the main gate is open. Past a campsite, you get to a massive double-storey red-brick hall, which is where 3C holds its services. Outside children are playing on swings. Inside there is the sound of drums, probably from the church band. But journalists are not welcome. With a polite smile and a “no comment” from an unidentified church official barring the way, it is time to leave.
The only other way in is through 3C’s “live church” on its website. Before 7pm, a timer counts down, building the excitement for the couch believer. The church also uses radio and the TBN channel on DStv. In this way, it claims to reach an audience of 47-million.
The sermon starts with a gospel singer leading a band, with the words conveniently on-screen so the viewer can sing along. Giant screens behind the stage give the people in the church close-ups of the guitarist.
When Pastor Pretorius arrives on stage, text flashes on the screen, welcoming visitors. Dressed in a dark-blue suit, a blue-and-white striped shirt and green tie, he gets the congregation waving their arms in prayer.
Fourteen minutes into the service, Pretorius asks them to share their tithe – by bringing their money to God, the congregation are giving their labours to Him, he says.
At this stage the online feed abruptly cuts to a video of someone who had his life changed by joining the church. An advert for an upcoming 3C conference also plays. A short while later, the normal service is resumed. The service is then about getting God trending on Twitter. “The hashtag for today is ‘speak life’,” he says. “We trended last week.” Later in the service, the tweets feed on to the screen.
Pretorius talks about the damage careless words can do, and how these words are not accidental but show what a person is really thinking. He reads biblical quotes from his laptop. Fifty minutes into his service, he speaks about Pistorius. “I want you to pray for him,” the pastor says. “He needs your prayers.”
Pretorius says he visits people in prison and that he has been visiting the Blade Runner. During these visits he does not ask about what happened on Valentine’s Day, or what is happening in prison. He just ministers.
Attaching no blame, Pretorius says people should pray for all the affected people. “Heavenly Father, we pray for Oscar, for his family,” he says with vigour, his voice booming. “We pray for the Steenkamp family.”
As the sermon comes to a close, the music swells in the background. The online viewer is treated to another inspirational video, followed by a blue screen, and then: “This event has ended.”
@BertPretorius: “Happy Birthday! @OscarPistorius God’s richest blessing on your life in the next year!”