Knightswood Congregational Church

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A history of Knightswood Congregational Church...

Adapted from a history written in 1983 by Norman Bertram. Last updated January 2018.

In the autumn of 1933, thanks to the generous giving of Congregational Churches throughout Scotland, and considerable foresight on the part of the Church Extension Committee of the day, our Church in Knightswood was erected and consecrated to the worship and glory of God.

Two years earlier, in 1931, it had been intimated at the Annual Assembly that an excellent site had been secured in Knightswood, an important suburb in the west of Glasgow. By October 1933 the building had been completed and an interim Deacons' Court was formed of representatives from ten Glasgow churches. On Wednesday 11th October 1933 the Rev. J.G. Drummond, D.D. conducted the Dedication Service at which Rev. H. Moffat Scott, D.D. was the preacher, taking as his text the completion of Solomon's Temple and drawing the parallel with the great cause of thankfulness felt in the erection of the building in which they were met. Others taking part were Revs. Dr. A.C. Hill, Dr. C. Richardson, Dr. A.T. Cadoux and G. Forbes Morgan. On Sunday 15th October 1933, the Rev. Walter Gerrard, formerly of Morison Memorial Church, Clydebank, was inducted to the charge by Rev. Dr. Charles Richardson, Secretary of the Congregational Union. It is hard to believe today that the total cost of the Church had been just under £4,000.

Potential members were not lacking and at the Communion Service on Sunday 5th November, the first 318 members were received and the Church official formed. Numbers continued to increase, a Sunday school taxed the accommodation to the limit, a Boys' Brigade Company and a Girl Guide Company were formed and several other agencies were soon flourishing. By as early as May 1934 the Church became self-supporting.

The war years severely tested the Church. In 1940 the Church Hall was requisitioned for the temporary accommodation for refugees from the Channel Islands, and in March 1941, during the blitz on Clydebank, a land mine was dropped on the A.R.P. Centre in the nearby Bankhead School, three of our members on duty there losing their lives and the Church building considerably damaged. 111 households involving over 200 members moved away from the district, and with many absent on war service and others working long hours, these proved difficult days in the life of the Church. The Church finances were often strained to such an extent that at one time the Minister volunteered a reduction of salary, an offer which naturally was not accepted. As a result of the stress of these war years, Mr. Gerard’s health broke down, and in 1945 he tendered his resignation, so bringing to a close a ministry of twelve years of outstanding pastoral work.

A plaque commemorating his devoted service was erected in the vestibule of the Church at the instigation of his successor. This plaque has since been relocated, after a series of pictures of former ministers were placed within the sanctuary.

Rev. Thomas Mearns, M.A. of Dumbarton was then invited to become Minister and took up his appointment early in 1946. During his ministry the congregation went from strength to strength and there was an upsurge of youth work in the Church following upon the return of young men and women from H.N. Forces. It soon became apparent that the premises were totally inadequate and Mr. Mearns master-minded the erection of additional hall accommodation at a time when there was a shortage of materials, a permit was need for this, a licence needed for that. Thanks to the generous help of the Congregational Union, the Ballahouston Trust and the Ferguson Bequest Fund, the Memorial Hall in memory of those who lost their lives during the war, was ready for use and dedicated by Rev. T. Carlyle Murphy on 10th September 1950. The total cost of the Hall, complete with furnishings, was £9,363-5-8! On Sunday 17th September 1950, Rev. Thomas. Mearns intimated that he had accepted a call to Belmont Street Church in Aberdeen, and the first large gathering in the new hall was in fact his Farewell Presentation Evening in late October 1950.

In December the Church extended an invitation to the Rev. John T. George of Ebenezer Church, Airdrie, and he was inducted to the charge on 4th February 1951. During Mr. George's ministry the 21st and 25th Anniversaries of the Church were celebrated, the former culminating in a broadcast service on 10th October 1954. There were also performances by an augmented choir in two successive years, of Handel's Messiah under the baton of the Church Organist, Mr. W. Webster. Mission was one of Mr. George's special concerns, one of which was a Mission to the Congregation and another Mission of Friendship to the Community, in the course of which 1468 homes were visited. Mr. George's artistic flair found expression in the renovation of the Chancel when the wooden cross and curtains were mounted on the previously bare wall and the ceiling re-plastered and painted. It was also at this time that the present magnificent pulpit, which is of Dutch origin, was gifted by a friend who found it in use as a linen cupboard in a City Nursing Home which was closing.

Since 1946 the Manse had been located in Beechwood Drive, Broomhill, but in 1957 the (then) present Manse in Woodend Drive, with superior accommodation and much nearer the Church was purchased for £2,600.

For over 3 years the Education Department was granted the use of the Memorial Hall and kitchen as a Dining Centre with the small hall for classroom accommodation while rebuilding after the war damage of 1941 was in progress at Bankhead School where Mr. George was Chaplain.

In 1959 Mr. George was to be nominated as President-Elect of the Congregational Union but the nomination had to be withdrawn in 1960 when he was named as a candidate for the position of Secretary of the Union in succession to Rev. James M. Calder. His subsequent appointment meant he had to relinquish his charge at Knightswood and he preached his Farewell Sermon on 30th June 1960.

In January 1961 an invitation was extended to Rev. Henry M. Cook, M.A., of Hawick to become Minister and he was inducted to the charge on 16th April 1961. In 1962, a layman and deacon of the Church and one time Treasurer of the Congregational Union, Mr. George R. Green, M.A., C.A., was chosen as President-Elect to serve as President of the Congregational Union of Scotland for 1963/64, the first representative from Knightswood to hold this office.

A Commission of Enquiry was set up in 1964 to review all aspects of the Church's life and this was achieved by the formation of four panels dealing with Worship, Witness, the Organisational and Social Life of the Church, and Administration and Finance, the findings being published in a printed report. This led into a Stewardship Campaign known as 'Operation Renewal', the climax of which was reached in a Campaign Meeting and meal in the McLellan Galleries in October, 1965. There followed, in 1971, a further campaign named 'Involvement 71' during which a systematic visitation of the Congregation was made to harness the latent talent that was available. Arising also from the Panel of Worship it was decided in 1966 to replace the organ which had been purchased in 1934 for £97.

Although constantly changing, the Church roll has remained fairly static, not least due to the tireless programme of visitation by Mr. Cook, who not only visited members regularly, but also families not in membership, associated with the Church through organisations as well as making a friendly call on new tenants who settled in the district.

In the summer of 1981, the Church enjoyed the services of Rev. Bill Flynn of the First Congregational Church, East Hartford, Connecticut, USA, with whom Mr. Cook had arranged an exchange and who, along with his good lady, is remembered with affection. Among others who have occupied the pulpit over the years are Rev. George McLeod, Rev. Professor William Barclay and Rev. Professor Murdo Ewen McDonald. At Assembly 1981, Mr. Cook, having been appointed President-Elect in 1980, assumed the office of President of the Congregational Union of Scotland for 1981/82, an appointment which he filed with dignity and distinction.

In addition to the pulpit, the Church has also been the recipient of a number of items for safe-keeping from other Churches which have been closing, among them from Montrose Street Church the Baptismal Font which graces the Chancel and from Dundas Street Church a Memorial Plaque to those of their Fellowship who fell in the Second World War, which has been mounted in the Memorial Hall.

In the early years, the Church was administered by two courts, Elders and Managers, but in 1953 these were replaced by a single Deacons' Court which continued until 1977 when a reconstruction of the system took place. Five committees were formed consisting of a number of Deacons and members of the congregation - a Worship Committee, a Pastoral and Missions Committee, a Publicity and Publications Committee, a Fabric Committee, and a Finance and Administration Committee. Each Committee appoints its own Chairman and Secretary, meeting independently and with full authority to act on any matter within their own sphere, being answerable only to the Church Meeting of which there are four per year and to which they are required to submit a report on past activities and proposals for the ensuing period.

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© 2018 :: Knightswood Congregational Church is a registered Scottish Charity, number SC017155.