Sunday, 21 July 2013

Wilson Memorial Church

Sunday Service, 21 July 2013, 11am
Visiting minister: Rev Melville Schofield

After last week’s ridiculous marathon of a service, I was hoping for something short and sweet today. The sign above the door said the service would be from 11.00 to 12.15, and they didn’t even use up all the time allotted. Punctuality is next to godliness … or something like that.

The United Free Church was formed in 1900 by a merger of the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and what remains of it today is descended from the congregations that didn’t join back up with the Church of Scotland in 1929. You really need a diagram to understand all the mergers and schisms, and luckily there’s one online, for those who like spaghetti.

There was nothing about today’s service to distinguish the United Free Church from the Church of Scotland – the same demographic profile (elderly), the same hymnbook (CH4), the same format (five hymns, two readings, prayers, sermon), and the same prospect of terminal denominational dwindling within a generation. Sorry, that was naughty of me! Nice flowers, though – a gravity-defying arrangement of yellow blooms. It’s the first time this year I’ve actually noticed there being any flowers in a church, though I may have overlooked them elsewhere.

Also novel was the sign that read: “Weekly Giving – last week we gave £589 – each week we need £800”. By my calculations, that means they needed £16 from each of the fifty people who attended this morning, and that if they pulled a similar crowd last week the average donation was £11.78. And if my other calculations are correct, that makes United Free worshippers more than four times more generous than Church of Scotland members. Yes, yes, I know that’s a wild extrapolation, but I couldn’t resist the comparison.

The singing was feeble, which was a pity because it really didn’t do justice to a raise-the-roof hymn like Fanny Crosby’s “To God be the Glory”. I sang about as lustily as I usually do, and a lady in the row in front was kind enough to compliment me afterwards, but that only made me wonder if I shouldn’t have toned it down a bit and whispered along with the rest of them. But if you ever need a soloist, I’m available for weddings and bar mitzvahs too.

The readings, from the Good News Bible, were Isaiah 61:1-9 and Luke 4:16-30 (in which Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth), and the Rev Schofield’s sermon discussed the Nazarenes’ “kent his faither” attitude to their home-grown prophet before dwelling at greater length on Jesus’s mission to bind up broken hearts, however they came to be broken, and on the hope of resurrection that cheers the darkness of the grave.

And it was all over by 11.52am. Hurrah for concision! I left the church in a good mood, unlike last week, and I was further cheered by the slightly strange but nevertheless delightful sight of a cat on a leash being taken for a walk down Kekewich Road. The sun was shining, God was (possibly) in his heaven, and just for a little while all was well with the world.


  1. The old UF church in Blackhall was sold a few years ago and is now a Mosque. The UF church has no purpose outside the C of S. It would be as well merging. They say they won't because the C of S General Assembly requires a representative of the queen in attendance whereas there's doesn't. I have it on good authority that this is bunkum (the Church of Scotland General Assembly can convene without a Lord High Commissioner).

  2. Interesting. A glance at the church timeline shows that barely a decade has gone by without either a split or a merger. And since it's 13 years since the FC and FCC parted company, and 57 since the last of the Seceders rejoined the Kirk, maybe it's time for another shake down. Or if all the fuss is about the queen, maybe they're waiting for the outcome of the referendum.

    And talking of Seceders, the cat on the leash just happened to be unco grey. I googled to find the Seceder cat and discovered this which involves a harsher punishment than I remembered it getting. My recollection of verse 2 is that "They took it tae the minister/ wha it rebukit sair/ and made it promise faithfully/ tae dae the same nae mair."

  3. The clue to the thrust of the report is that the preacher was a visitor (I assume the minister was on holiday) and surprise surprise as a retired C of S minister the service took that form. As regards the use of CH4 it is not the Church of Scotland hymn book but like it's predecessors the product of the Church Hymnary Trust which until CH4 included Welsh and Irish Presbyterians. CH4 was produced by a committee drawn from the C of S and UF Church. It has only been taken up by a handful of UF Churches and the UF like the Welsh and Irish have now withdrawn from the Trust. Gordon's comments regarding the UF and the Lord High Commissioner totally misunderstands the position of the UF Church in relation to the (priveleged)position the C of S enjoys in relation to the state. While relations are good between the two denominations there is no desire for union. Of course there a great similarities (some in the C of S lament that the union of the C of S and the majority of the UF was actually the UF taking over the c of S!)they are after all both presebyterian in worship and government.

  4. Thanks for commenting. There were other hymnbooks in the pews (Mission Praise and Junior Praise, if I recall aright), but these were not used. The minister said he'd left the choice of music to the organist, because the organist knew better than he what had been sung recently and if the minister himself had chosen he might have repeated last week's hymns.
    As for the church politics, I'm just sitting back and observing, and am happy to have any misconceptions corrected.

  5. Looking for greagrandfarher John Urquart minister of Wilson Memororial U T Scotland back in1888...from Glasgow went on to preach in USA in the 1920..can anyone supply some information.Thanks