One Fifty at One Seventy | 9. Queen’s Park Govanhill

In January 2014, in accordance with the Presbytery Plan presented in November 2013 and approved by Glasgow Presbytery the following month, Govanhill Trinity and Queen’s Park entered into a two-year guardianship relationship. It was planned that at the end of the guardianship arrangement, in December 2015, the two congregations would be united and worship would continue at 170 Queens Drive and cease at Daisy Street, with the building there to be disposed of.

After a year of adjustments, Mr Malcolm accepted a call to St Peter and St Paul’s Parish Church in Thurso, leaving Queen’s Park in December 2013. The following January, the associated congregations found themselves in a vacancy once again. The Rev John Whiteford, at the time, minister of Newlands South, was appointed as Interim Moderator. After much heart searching and a great deal of discussion, agreement was finally reached that the union would be brought forward and a Nominating Committee formed to seek a new minister for the united charge.

It was agreed that the new united congregation would be called Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church and that the service of union would take place on 8 July 2014. Prior to this, a joint meeting was held with the two Kirk Sessions on 27 March. This helped to allay some fears and to prepare the ground for later changes. As Govanhill was classified as a Church of Scotland Priority Area (with associated funding) and Queen’s Park was not, much discussion ensued as to what the status of the united parish would be and whether or not specific funds should or could be reserved for the Govanhill portion of the Parish. Under Mr Whiteford’s leadership, it was decided that the parish should not be divided financially and that funds should be used wherever the new Queen’s Park Govanhill Kirk Session agreed there was most need. It was also confirmed that a physical presence and worship at Daisy Street would continue until December 2015, as had been set out previously in the Presbytery Plan. Upon the union in July 2014, the new parish of Queen’s Park Govanhill became one of, if not the most populous parish in Scotland.

­­­It was decided that Mr Bruce, who had served so faithfully at Govanhill Trinity for so many years, would continue as parish assistant of the united congregation, utilising half of a Ministry Development Staff (MDS) post afforded to Queen’s Park Govanhill by virtue of being part of the Priority Areas scheme of the Church of Scotland. As such, Mr Bruce continued to lead services and provide pastoral care to the members of the former Govanhill Trinity Parish Church at Daisy Street. This part-time contract was set to end upon the cessation of Sunday morning Church of Scotland worship at Daisy Street come the end of December 2015, opening the door for a full-time post to assist in the new parish.

Still without a minister, Queen’s Park Govanhill formed an 11-member Nominating Committee. By November 2014, the committee had identified Elijah Smith, a probationer completing his training at Renfield St Stephen’s in the City Centre, as their preferred candidate. Elijah was invited to preach as sole nominee on 18 November 2014. When he did so the congregation were almost unanimous in their wish he should become the minister of the newly-united Queen’s Park Govanhill congregation, and he was duly inducted and ordained on 21 January 2015, the first non-Scots-born individual to serve as minister at 170 Queen’s Drive and, at 28, almost certainly the youngest.

Prior to Elijah’s arrival, the decision was taken that the existing manse in Castlemilk was too far from the parish. It was agreed that it should be sold and an appropriate property found within the parish, as Elijah believed that the minister of such a parish ought to live within its bounds.

With Mr Bruce only contracted as a part-time staff member, the other half of the MDS post allotted to Queen’s Park Govanhill was available for a second part-time position. In June 2015, Penny Macleod, a part-time employee of the Well and member of Govanhill Free Church, was appointed as a community researcher, with a remit to conduct research and build relationships in the community of Govanhill in order to address the question, ‘What room is there for the physical presence of Queen’s Park Govanhill Parish Church in the Govanhill area?’

During 2015, it became apparent that the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland had received a proposal to sell the building at Daisy Street. Under Elijah’s leadership, the Kirk Session received a grant from the General Trustees in order to commission a feasibility study and architectural plan to see whether or not a trust could be set up to manage the building as a community development hub and centre for Kingdom-centred work. The study, which included an architectural proposal and a business plan, was encouraging, but there were major financial considerations. To date, no final decision concerning the future of Daisy Street has been reached. However, the building at Daisy Street remains open for a great deal of community work, including the continued operation of the Grace & Flavour Cafe, which is still run by a faithful group of volunteers.

From mid-September to mid-November 2015, Glasgow Presbytery and the Ministries Council of the Church of Scotland granted Elijah study leave in order to complete his PhD at St Mary’s College, the University of St Andrews. During this time, the Rev Dr Johnston McKay, long-time editor of BBC Scotland’s religious broadcasting, served as Locum Minister at Queen’s Park Govanhill. On St Andrews Day, Elijah submitted his thesis, entitled, ‘Let Anyone with Ears to Hear, Listen! Pop Music as Parables of the Kingdom of God’. In March of the following year, Elijah defended his thesis successfully and graduated in June. Upon his graduation, Elijah’s official title became the Rev Dr Elijah Smith, though he still insists on being called, simply, ‘Elijah’.

At the end of December 2015, in accordance with the Presbytery Plan, our church family bade farewell to Sunday morning worship at Daisy Street and to Mr Bruce. Prior to this, on 10 December, a special dinner was held, funded by the Grace & Flavour Cafe, during which many associates of Govanhill Trinity (and its former identities) gathered. Several individuals shared their fond memories of the church in Daisy Street. Elijah offered some words of hope and vision for the future. On 27 December, members of both former congregations met at Daisy Street for the final Sunday morning service in the building, led by Mr Bruce and Elijah.

By early 2016, the Session Clerk of Queen’s Park and Queen’s Park Govanhill for nearly 11 years, Lexa Boyle, informed the Kirk Session of her intention to step down from the post by June. It was proposed that Jonathan ‘Jo’ Gibb would serve as Miss Boyle’s successor and in the May meeting of the Kirk Session, this was accepted unanimously. It was also around this time that, after a series of disappointments over a period of nearly two years and a great deal of prayer, a suitable property was finally found for a manse at Queen Mary Avenue in Govanhill. Once a fair amount of internal renovation had been completed, the new manse was ready for occupation by the minister in July 2016. At this time, Mrs Macleod’s position as community researcher came to a close. Her conscientious efforts in helping to inform the vision of Queen’s Park Govanhill were praised by the Kirk Session.

In September 2016, the Kirk Session held an Away Day at Bridge of Allan Parish Church in order to discuss their vision for the Kirk Session and for the future of Queen’s Park Govanhill. Various needs of our parish and the local church were identified, including: cultivating a sense of community, belonging, understanding and empathy, challenging the causes and results of poverty, overcoming addiction, cultivating health and wellbeing, encouraging the healing of relationships, building self-confidence, overcoming language barriers and promoting education. It was determined that we were already attempting to address some of these challenges through our work as elders (through our teams), but that we could also do much more through partnering with local organisations and projects. Additionally, we acknowledged that the meeting of certain needs could be addressed by local and national authorities and that part of our calling as the parish church is to explore ways to draw attention to these needs.

With both Mr Bruce and Mrs Macleod’s positions having come to an end, a full MDS post became available. It was the task of the Kirk Session to determine what that post might look like. Over the coming months, it was determined that an assistant minister or deacon would be sought in order to develop a team ministry to equip the local church for the flourishing of all people in our congregation and parish.

With this potential for a new ordained post, recent legislation by the General Assembly requires that individual Kirk Sessions must make a decision regarding their acceptance or rejection of ministers and deacons in civil partnerships and same-sex marriages (Act I 2015, as amended by Acts I, IX and X 2016). Back in 2010, a special meeting of the Kirk Session of Queen’s Park Parish Church was held during which discussion took place concerning a consultation paper presented by a special commission of the General Assembly regarding same-sex relationships and the ministry. A vote was taken at the end of the discussion, the result of which indicated that 15 of those present were in favour of the Church of Scotland’s established view on the matter (that ministers and deacons not be permitted to be in same-sex marriages), with only one in favour of the departure from this position. But in November 2016, the Kirk Session of Queen’s Park Govanhill took a radical shift from that previous position and over two sessions voted by a large majority to depart from Church of Scotland’s established practice. During Sunday morning worship on 4 December, the following intimation was shared with the congregation:

As announced, at the Kirk Session meeting that took place on Tuesday, 29 November, in accordance with Church of Scotland legislation, the Session held a second vote concerning whether or not to depart from the national Church’s current practice regarding ministers and deacons in civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. For a second time, the Session voted to depart from the current practice, thus confirming our departure. An extract minute of this final decision will be passed on to Glasgow Presbytery for their records. The Minister wishes to express how pleased he is with the conduct of the Session in light of what was a challenging issue. The Minister acknowledges that the outcome will have been a relief to some and a disappointment to others. For those who did not vote in favour of departure and for those in the congregation who may be experiencing anxiety as a result of this vote, the Minister wishes it to be made known that you and your convictions are of the utmost value to our church family. The Minister also stresses the necessity for continued prayer and support, irrespective of opinion on this issue, though perhaps most importantly for those who are feeling apprehensive about the decision. May God continue to guide us by the Holy Spirit in all that we do for the work of the Kingdom.

This decision of the Kirk Session opened recruitment of this new MDS post to ministers and deacons in civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. At the time of this writing, the position has yet to be filled, but we have faith that God will call someone to serve in this way.

Since its formation in July 2014, the life and work of Queen’s Park Govanhill has continued in our inherited tradition of faithful service to God through various organisations from within and outwith our church. Although the exact nature of the future of the Daisy Street property remains open-ended, it has become clear that the site has significant potential for the flourishing of the community, an aim at the heart of our mission as a parish church.

In addition to the continuing work of the Grace & Flavour Cafe, since the autumn of 2015, the Daisy Street property has played host to the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Café, run by the Govanhill Community Development Trust (a subsidiary of Govanhill Housing Association). In January 2016, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion lodged by Glasgow Labour MSP Hanzala Malik, praising the success of the ESOL Cafe. Mr Malik congratulated the leaders of the project for ‘bringing together different nationalities and celebrating different cultures’.

Around the same time as the founding of the ESOL Cafe, another community initiative, the Govanhill Community Canteen, was established at Daisy Street. A partnership between Community Renewal (a local community development charity), the Glad Cafe (a local social enterprise) and Queen’s Park Govanhill, the Govanhill Community Canteen began serving free meals on a weekly, and eventually, biweekly basis. In 2016, after a successful application to the Scottish Government, Community Renewal was awarded a Fair Food Transformation Fund grant in order to expand the scope of the Govanhill Community Canteen. At the time of this writing, free community meals are shared on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Fridays at lunch time.

Other groups make regular use of the space at Daisy Street, including Holy Cross Roman Catholic Parish, who use the main hall on Mondays for an elderly group, and the Big Noise, a community organisation that provides music tuition for nearly a thousand children in Govanhill. Several multicultural churches also make use of the Daisy Street property for their Sunday worship. So while the local Church of Scotland no longer worships at Daisy Street, the site remains a place where Christians gather to worship God, and in many diverse languages!

As Daisy Street has proven to be a valuable community asset, so too has our main site of worship at 170 Queen’s Drive. In addition to remaining the home of our Sunday morning and evening worship, as well as our Club 170 free meal, the Lunch Stop, the Queen’s Park Govanhill Foodbank and the Thursday morning Coffee Club, 170 Queen’s Drive also boasts a wide variety of uses and visitors. Two separate Bible studies and three prayer meetings are hosted throughout the week for most of the year. The Guild and the Men’s Association also meet regularly. On a quarterly basis, we continue the Support Group for Victims of Torture, first established at Strathbungo Queen’s Park Parish Church in 1999. We are also fond of any opportunity to socialise as a church family, including occasional ‘church family meals’ and frequent Saturday morning coffee and afternoon tea fundraisers for various charities and community partners. Other organisations continue to make use of the facilities, including the Brownies, the Glasgow School of Ballet, a Tai Chi class, Theatre at Queens (a youth theatre group) and Colourstrings (which provides music classes for infants and small children). The property also hosts a large number of birthday parties for residents of our local community.

As a parish church, it might be said that we see ourselves existing in order to represent, discover and extend the Kingdom of God in our parish, and through our parish, the world. It is our hope that as we gather together for worship as a church family we might be able to explore and nurture our faith. As we grow together, we want to share out God’s love with our neighbours. And it might also be said that we believe God is working in and has a purpose for the parish of Queen’s Park and Govanhill, and we expect to discover the Kingdom of God outwith the walls of our church buildings. As we discover more and more about God’s work in our parish, we want to partner with our neighbours to encourage the building up of the values of the Kingdom of God, values such as love, peace and justice. But at the heart of our existence as a parish church, we find the very foundation, not only of our faith, but of the vast expanse of the universe, the triune God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At the heart of all we do as a parish church is worship.

In addition to regular Sunday meetings, we also worship for other occasions such as the World Day of Prayer and during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent. In recent years, we have placed a special emphasis on walking with Christ through Holy Week, with services every day (including a three-hour service on Good Friday). Our services of worship to God are highlighted by the addition of our choir, led by organist Lynn Gibb, which helps lead our worship from October to May, and the occasional presence of our worship band of flutes, violin and percussion. Since coming to Queen’s Park Govanhill, Elijah has also used his passion for the arts to aid in our worship through occasional art installations to mark various points in the liturgical calendar.

In the 194 years since the earliest members of our church family met at Portugal Street and then Eglinton Street to worship God, we at Queen’s Park Govanhill have continued to explore life and faith together. And it is our hope and prayer that we may remain steadfast in the task before us, fuelled by the infinite grace of God.

Baptism

Eastertide baptismal installation, 2015.

Welcome

Detail of ‘Wee Bethlehem’, Christmas 2015.

No Vacancies

Detail of ‘Wee Bethlehem’, Christmas 2015.

Stable

Detail of ‘Wee Bethlehem’, Christmas 2015.

Hosanna

‘Entry’, Holy Week Prayer Labyrinth 2016.

Labyrinth

Holy Week Prayer Labyrinth, 2016.

Christ is Risen sm

‘Christ is Risen’, Easter 2017.

 


Introduction
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
Bibliography