Putting his hand on a can of beer, Bishop Tsietsi Makiti blesses the beverage ahead of his weekly sermon in Evaton, South Africa.
He then settles behind a table where the centerpiece is a 4.5litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label and sips on a generous measure of whisky before he starts preaching before his congregation.
Bishop Makiti is the head of Gabola Church, a 500-strong denomination for ‘drinkers’ which holds its Sunday sermons in taverns across Johannesburg.
Walker on water: Bishop Tsietsi Makiti of Gabola Church begins his weekly sermon after sipping on a dram of whisky at a tavern outside Johannesburg in South Africa
Gabola, which means ‘drinking’ in Sotho-Tswana, is a church for those who feel uncomfortable going to mainstream churches, where drinking alcohol is condemned.
‘This is a space for people to come together in God’s name without being ashamed of being drinkers,’ Bishop Makiti told The Daily Sun.
The congregation gathers in a different tavern in the Johannesburg area each Sunday.
Bishop Makiti begins his sermon at 11am with the church session often lasting until late in the afternoon.
Bongs of praise: Bishop Tsietsi of Gabola Church raises a five-litre keg of beer as he preaches during his weekly sermon while congregants drink ‘blessed’ alcohol
In the name of the lager and the hoppy ghost: Bishop Tsietsi Makiti baptises members of his church in their alcoholic beverage of choice
I’m a beer-liever: Bishop Makiti says the church creates an environment where consumers of alcohol – who he says are condemned by mainstream churches – can find a home
Hops and prayers: So far, the 500-strong congregation is male only, but Bishop Makiti hopes to be able to welcome women in the future
Despite the fact that the church was only founded a few months ago, it already has 500 members and some 2,000 people have been baptised by Bishop Makiti – each in their own favourite alcoholic beverage.
‘If you drink beer, you get baptised in beer,’ Bishop Makiti explains.
‘The same goes for those who drink cider and other alcoholic beverages.’
At the moment, Gabola Church has a male-only congregation. Bishop Makiti says that this is because he does not feel comfortable mixing genders due to the behaviour of drunk men towards women.
However, his goal is to educate the men of his church and will allow women to join when they have been ‘well-prepared’.