Church History

History of the Church up to 1986

 

Based on the account by the Rev. R E O White written in 1954.

 

1860 

BAPTIST beginnings in Rutherglen are shrouded in some uncertainty. The official “History of Baptists in Scotland” names the year 1860 as the time when “a hand of Christians first met and carried on good work in the gospel,” After some ten years, during which growth was slow and the new cause met with some suspicion and discouragement, the Church migrated to Bridgeton where it prospered, later becoming known as the Sisters Street Church. It was in 1891, according to the same authority, that a small band from the Bridgeton Church , led by Mr Edward Connelly, made another attempt to establish Baptist witness in Rutherglen.

 

1886 - 1890

Memories still linger. however, of a Baptist group meeting in Rutherglen in 1886, in a house kitchen somewhere in King Street ; while the. “Rutherglen Reformer’ of June 28th 1889, carried the advertisement: ‘Baptist Mission, 4 Greenbank Street . Lord’s Day. at 2pm. Speaker P.McAus!in: Subject, Believers Baptism.

This may well have been the inaugural gathering. for about fifteen months later, on October 17th, 1890. the same newspaper reported social services held in the Lesser Town Hall to celebrate the first anniversary of the Church.

 

1894 - 1904 - Site bought at Greenhill Road

1894 - the church’s fifth year proved to be the greatest yet . On April 29th, Joseph Young was called to be its first Pastor. At this time the Church had some 43 members. The Induction Services, in the Lesser Town Hall, on June 24th, were conducted by the Rev. Edward Last, of Bridgeton , and the “Reformer” advertisement included the challenge: “Baptist to the Front - Rally round the truth.”. By the fall of the same year, September 3rd, the first recorded Baptismal Service is mentioned in the Minute Book, and as the year ended the Church began seriously to define its faith and ideals in a Church Constitution. On Christmas Day, 1894, the Annual Gathering for the children numbered 200 guests.

As might be expected, the Church was becoming increasingly exercised about the need for larger and permanent premises. Greenbank Street had been left for the Lesser Town Hall, with special meetings in the Old Council Chambers, and consideration was given to taking the Masonic Hall, which seems to have proved too expensive. Proposals for a temporary iron or wooden building were finally dropped in 1895 in favour of a permanent “school hail.” Membership was still only 57, and so far as may be gathered from the record, few of these possessed any considerable education or wealth - making up in faith and courage what they lacked in resources. The Ministry was being assisted by the Baptist Union in a grant of £35 per year. Nevertheless the larger scheme was adopted, the Building Fund reopened, and a Sewing Class formed to supplement cash gifts. By 1899 the Church was ready to buy the site on which the Sanctuary now stands, situated in what was then a rapidly growing area, for £404.

Meanwhile, in less concrete but even more important ways, the cause was being consolidated. The Trust Deed, which governs the life of the Church in matters of doctrine and procedure was drawn up and accepted, ensuring for all time (so far as legal instruments can) that the Church shall remain evangelical in faith, Baptist in teaching and “congregational” in government - or forfeit its inheritance. A fine clarity and firmness marks the early statements, yet not intolerance; for as early as 1895 the Church decided that, despite its own conviction in the matter of Baptism, those known to be medically unfit for Baptism might still be admitted to member ship.

The new developments did not however meet with unanimous approval. By what steps the situation was brought about, under the play of what motives and personal feelings, cannot now be said, and it is profitless to guess: what is certain, where much else is obscure, is that on September 19th, 1901, a second Baptist Church came into being in Rutherglen, known as the West Baptist Church, meeting first at 65 King Street (corner of Greenbank Street), and later at the Lesser Town Hall (while the older cause used the Masonic Hall in Queen Street) and later still in Harriet Street, where earlier a small group of Congregationalists had been worshipping. West Baptist Church continued for fourteen years: in 1903 Rev. W. J. Millar, of Uddingston, became its Minister, and its advertisements suggest that the new cause possessed, at any rate for some years, considerable influence and vigour. It would appear that when in 1903 the older Church decided to borrow £1,100 from the Order of Rechabites and proceed to building, some members dissented and left to join the West Church . Building plans continued, however, and the Church was opened in April, 1904, by the Rev. Walter Mursell, M.A., D.D., of Paisley . Two years later, when Rev. Joseph Young resigned, the membership stood at 84, the Sunday School at 83 with 8 teachers.

 

1907 to 1914

The new Minister, Rev. Charles S. Donald, of Antrim Road Church , Belfast , settled in 1907, being inducted in May by Rev. John McLean, President of the Baptist Union, and Dr Jervis Coats, of Govan. Others present among most of the Baptist Ministers of Glasgow were Rev. T. W. Lister, Mr Charles H. Bowser, Treasurer of the Baptist Union and “Convener of the Rutherglen Committee,” and Rev. John MacBeath, M.A., then in his first charge at St. Andrews . The reference to a “Rutherglen Committee” is explained by the fact that the Church had appealed to the Union for help especially, but not only, in respect of its financial burden. The original debt of £1700 had been reduced to £1400, and this the Union now assumed, taking possession of the property as security. The debt was finally cleared in 19 13,when the Glasgow Baptist Association organised a joint bazaar at the Maclellan Galleries in aid of several burdened Churches. For some reason unknown, the premises were not at that time formally returned to the Church: they were reconveyed in 1952. The Church itself raised over £500 in six years towards regaining possession of its home, and before Mr Donald left in 1914 he had the satisfaction of seeing the Church in debt-free possession of its own sanctuary for the first time. The membership then stood at 175.

First World War and afterwards 

In December, 1914, the Church called Rev. T. A. McQuiston from Kirkintilloch and the following May brought a very memorable and important occasion, when Mr McQuiston (who as a” student of Dunoon Baptist College” had preached in the West Baptist Church in March 1902), preached “ on Sabbath, 23rd May, 1915, in Stonelaw Road Baptist Church, on the occasion of the union of the two Churches.” Thirty-three West Church members were received into fellowship, and a review of their names leaves no doubt of the immense value of what was then achieved. During the First World War of 1914-1918, seventy - seven members and adherents saw active service, of whom fifteen gave their lives. In spite of regular and conscientious revision of the membership roll the Church continued to grow, the highest membership being reached in 1923 - 279. During the period March, 1922 - September, 1923, no fewer than forty-eight people were baptised; a Tent Mission conducted by a Mr W. B. Munro, of the Lanarkshire Christian Union no doubt contributed largely to this great experience.

 

Church Halls Added

Towards the end of Mr McQuiston’s ministry further great advance was made with the planning of the present fine suite of halls, the “Simpson Memorial Hall,” two smaller halls, a kitchen and the Church Officer’s house. The “Old Manse “ - Sherwood - was also purchased and remained in occupation of the Church for over twenty years. The total cost of these undertakings reached £3000; the halls were opened Christmas, 1927.

 

1925 to 1933

Mr McQuiston left in 1925 to become Baptist Union Evangelist, and he was succeeded in March of that year by Rev. William Wood, M.A., of Alloa, whose ministry continued until 1932. The “twenties” as a whole saw impressive development of the organisation of the Church, especially in its Youth work. The “ Free - will Offering Scheme” was adopted in 1924, setting the Church’s finances upon a basis of trained and regular generosity. To the consistently successful” Women’s Own” were added a Woman’s Auxiliary (1926, previously a ‘working party’), a flourishing Christian Endeavour Society, a Girls’ Auxiliary and Ropeholders, and in 1928 the growing Sunday School was graded into four departments for more efficient work. Out of this intensive training no less than eleven young members went forward into Christian work: Rev. R. G. Black, B.D. (Church of Scotland); Rev. John Black, M.A., School Headmaster; Rev. Adam Reid, M.A. (Church of England); Rev. Alex Reid, M.A. (Unitarian Ministry); Rev. G. Johnstone, M.A. (Presbyterian Ministry in Australia); Rev. Bruce Young, M.A., B.D. (Church of Scotland); Rev William Brickley, M.A., who died in 1952 after serving our Bowhill, King’s Park and Alexandria Churches; Rev. G. C. Thompson, M.A., who served at Cupar, Burnley, Taunton, and at Dorchester; Rev. P. Higgins and his brother, who both went out of our Sunday School into the Presbyterian Ministry a little later; and Miss Jessie McAslan, later Mrs A. Speed, the wile of our Minister at Elgin, who served in Africa under the Regions Beyond Missionary Union. This is a list of which any Church might be proud. At the end of 1932 the membership total had climbed to 298.

 

1933 and Second World War

In 1933 the Rev. A. E. Penrose, of Polemoor, Huddersfield, became Pastor, and to him fell the task of leading the Church through the difficult years of the industrial depression and the still more exacting years of the Second World War up to 1944. In 1933, and again in 1938 and 1939, the Sunday School won the Prize Shield in the Scripture Examination: in 1939 a Compton Electric Organ was installed at a cost of £650. The Members’ Roll for these years tells the best story, however: repeatedly, large groups were baptised - nine in December, 1933, thirteen in January, 1934, and a further nine in February, nine in January, 1936, are the outstanding figures - and in 1934 the Church membership reached it highest - ever figure, 300. Behind such a record must lie a story of great blessing and encouragement. Despite losses and severe revision the membership in 1943 was still 267. Inevitably, War again disrupted Church life, though the toll in lives was mercifully smaller than in 1914- 1919. A brass Memorial Tablet was unveiled on Remembrance Day, 1952, recording the Church’s tribute to those who in both Wars had made the great sacrifice.

Further revision of the Membership Roll doubtless reflecting war-time circumstances - dislocation, black-out, evacuation - caused the Church to report a considerably smaller membership in 1944 - 181. In that year Rev. W. L. Cassie, M. A., of Manchester , settled as Minister, and continued until 1950, when Rev R. E. 0. White, M.A.,B.D., succeeded him. The “Old Manse” was sold in 1944 and a new one purchased first at Cambuslang and then in 1951 at Abbotsford Avenue, Rutherglen The latter transaction, by leaving a comfortable financial balance at the disposal of the Church, made possible a number of repairs and replacement (including the settlement of certain debts, the renewal of the heating boiler, thorough repair of the roof ventilators and numerous other items) which were long over due.

 

1955

In 1955 Rev R. E. 0. White was succeeded by Rev. John McCruden who came from Westoe Road Church , South Shields . Mr McCruden faithfully served as minister for thirty years until his death, still as the minister, in 1985. These were years of dislocation and upheaval . The centre of Rutherglen was redeveloped and shops replaced homes, and later the economic recession altered the employment patterns of the area. Many of the families of the church were relocated or forced to move away. It is a tribute to the patient and hard work of the minister and the congregation that despite the changes the Church survived. Indeed, there were many baptisms and many came to know God in a personal and powerful way during this time.

In 1986 the church called the Rev Kenneth Coulter to be minister. The membership of the Church in 1986 was 75.

 


 


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