In the Book of Revelation, the author shares the words of Jesus: ‘See, I am making all things new.’ For us, the congregation of Queen’s Park Govanhill, these last few years have been a season of many new challenges and blessings (though I believe that we must be careful to not see the two as opposites).
Newness can be a mixed bag of emotions. For some of us, this has been an especially challenging season. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us are battling and will battle with physical and mental illness and even the loss of our livelihoods. In the midst of this, when we look toward the future, we might be full of fear and anxiety. But there is another side to that token. Newness also brings new joys and opportunities. Some of us will share in the joys of new friendships, relationships, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and the like. As the Teacher writes in the Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven’.
Sometimes newness does not take the form of a wholly ‘new thing’. California, where I was born, is home to the tallest trees in the world. The age of trees provides us with a great sense of perspective on longevity. I remember, when I was very young, I visited Yosemite National Park with some school friends. At one of the visitor centres you can find a massive a cross section of a giant tree. As a tree grows a new ring every year, it was amazing to look at how long that tree had grown before it was felled. At different rings, there were wee brass markers that indicated major world events. I remember seeing ‘1776 DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE [OF THE UNITED STATES]’ and yet further back, ‘1215 MAGNA CARTA’.
A coastal redwood takes between 1200 and 1800 years to grow to its full height. The tallest known redwood was discovered in 2006. Called ‘Hyperion’, it stands at 115.55 metres (379.1 feet) and is estimated to be between 700 and 800 years old. What a long journey to reach such great heights!
The universal Church, made up of all of the followers of Jesus around the world and throughout history, has taken a long time to grow to its current stature. And while there is much talk of ‘church decline’, I am convinced that the growth of the Kingdom of God is not letting up. We are just a wee branch on that tree, with our oldest constituent part dating back a mere 194 years. And while the history of Queen’s Park Govanhill is very much one reflective of the divisions within Church in Scotland over the last few centuries, I see our history as one of coming together. Our most recent ‘coming together’ came only three years ago. At the time, it was met with some anxiety and hesitation, as is natural when a church closes. But I have great faith in what God is doing and will do through our parish church in the years to come. It is a long journey to reach the heights that God has for us, but as we have come together as this new ring, each one of us plays an important part of that growth. Each one of us is called to be a minister of some sort, using our individual skills and passions, things that God has grown in each one of us, for the building up of the Kingdom in love.
Even as we commemorate 150 years since the founding of the congregation that would come to call our building at 170 Queen’s Drive their home, we are in our infancy. And I believe that we must always remember that a church is far more than a building – a church is people. The story of the faithful people of Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church, who have served and continue to serve the yet-more-faithful Creator, stretches back to the early nineteenth century.
When I first came to serve at Queen’s Park Govanhill in early 2015, I became part of a recently-united church that was still grappling with the implications of said union. One method I used to wrap my head around some of the challenges facing my new church family was to learn about our history. For more than two years I researched our complex family tree, always pleasantly surprised when I discovered another direct ancestor. In the February 2017 issue of our church magazine, Malcolm MacSween reminded us that this year marked 150 years since the congregation that would come to call 170 Queen’s Drive their home, Queen’s Park Free Church, began to worship together. This inspired the Kirk Session and Team Leaders to explore how we might acknowledge the occasion. Among the proposals discussed was one for an updated church history, building upon the excellent work of the Rev Keith M. Steven in his 1967 booklet, Queen’s Park West Church of Scotland: A Centenary History, and incorporating the histories of the various churches that went on to form our present parish church.
This volume of our church history would not have been possible without the conscientious efforts of many members of our congregation who committed themselves to scavenging through a great number of Kirk Session minutes and the compiling of significant portions of this current volume by Mr MacSween. Our gratitude must also be extended to the aforementioned Mr Steven, for his generous permission to make use of portions of his Centenary History.
When we look back at God’s work through our historical church family, we see continued renewal – we see communities of faithful people addressing the new challenges of their specific contexts. As Jesus continues to make all things new, may we be given the eyes to see ourselves as part of that ever-growing tree of God’s Kingdom. May we be refreshed and equipped for the task before us, bearing one another’s burdens and sharing in one another’s joys. May we be united as we face the challenges of the present. May we endeavour toward the cause of God’s love, grace, justice and mercy in our parish and beyond. Our Lord says, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ As your minister, I count myself very blessed to be able to explore, discover and share in the new things that God is doing at Queen’s Park Govanhill. Let us see together.
1. Our Early History
2. The Late 19th Century: a Period of Rapid Growth
3. Into the 20th Century
4. The Great War & its Aftermath
5. A Second World War
6. The Post-War Era
7. The Late 20th Century
8. The Millennium
9. Queen’s Park Govanhill
Conclusion: Beyond 150 at 170