One Fifty at One Seventy | 7. The Late 20th Century

In 1979, Strathbungo, the second earliest congregation in our family tree, united with Queen’s Park West to form Strathbungo Queen’s Park Parish Church. The Vacancy Committee of this new congregation got to work almost immediately. On 20 February 1979, it brought to the Kirk Session as sole nominee the Rev Norma D. Stewart, who was serving as assistant minister in Greenbank Parish Church. Miss (now, Dr) Stewart was a graduate of Glasgow University, where she obtained her first postgraduate degree in 1957. For a brief period, she had been a teacher in Glasgow before spending a number of years in Malaysia with the Overseas Mission Fellowship (OMF) as a missionary to the Tamil people.

When women were at last permitted to enter the ministry in the Church of Scotland, Miss Stewart was able to recognise her call and returned home. On 11 March 1979, Miss Stewart preached as sole nominee and was duly elected to the new charge of Strathbungo Queen’s Park by 325 votes to four. This demonstrated quite a remarkable change in the attitude of church members to the role of women in the church. In the new united Kirk Session, only one man was unable to accept this new situation and he resigned. The Kirk Session of Queen’s Park West met for the last time on 29 March. It was minuted that ‘although Mr Robert Fenton (the locum) had never been inducted into Queen’s Park West, his name would appear with honour as one of its ministers when the history of the congregation was completed.’ And so it remains.

Following Miss Stewart’s induction on 3 May, the first meeting of the Kirk Session of Strathbungo Queen’s Park was held on 5 May 1979. At this meeting, Mr William Weir, who had been the Session Clerk of the Queen’s Park West, was confirmed in the same role in the newly united congregation. It was also around this time that the death of the Rev Sydney C. Still (minister of Queen’s Park West from 1927 until 1937) was noted.

With the closure of Strathbungo, the church was left with a now redundant organ. It was gratifying to learn that it had been installed and rededicated in Mauchline Old Parish Church, where Robert Burns and his family had worshipped for a period of time.

After serving as organist at 170 Queen’s Drive for twenty-five years, Mary Jenkins retired on 19 June. Tributes were paid to her dedicated service and to the high standards she demanded from the choir. Her successor, Mr Richard Avery, was with Strathbungo Queen’s Park for only two years, being replaced in December 1981 by Mr Chris Wallace, who, within a short time, also departed in order that he might train for the ministry.

By her second year at Strathbungo Queen’s Park, it was clear that Miss Stewart was already leaving her mark on the life of the congregation, establishing a committee structure with a view to identifying gifts and skills of church members, which would lead to the involvement of more people in the life of the church. By the time she retired many years later, no fewer than twelve committees or ‘teams’ had been well established. But Kirk Session minutes of May 1980 contain two items which perhaps harked back to earlier attitudes. The question of what was appropriate dress for elders at communion had been raised. There were supporters of the traditional morning dress, but time and fashion had moved on and the decision was that communion dress should be ‘at the discretion of the person.’ The second item concerned a request from the Young Peoples’ Fellowship (YPF) for the use of the church hall on Sunday evenings. It was rejected because ‘the session did not agree in principle to games on a Sunday evening.’ The YPF appear to have accepted this ruling without demur.

At the beginning of the new session, in September 1980, a Kirk Session Day Conference decided, among other things, that the new congregation should adopt the Revised Standard Version (RSV) as the pew bible, replacing the Authorised or King James Version, the language of which, though beautiful, was in many cases obsolete, inaccurate and difficult to understand.

Following the Remembrance Sunday service in November, questions were raised as to why the youth organisations had not been on parade. The minister responded by stating that she did not approve of such parades as ‘it tended to confuse the church organisations with the military.’ Thus, a principle was established at 170 Queen’s Drive which has continued ever since. It is interesting to note that in the years before the Great War, some BB companies used the rifle in their drill. (Sometimes a wooden dummy replaced the real thing.) This practice was frowned on by the leaders of the BB. In fact, the Kirk Session had been warned back in 1906 that if the company based in Queen’s Park West UF Church did not cease using the rifle immediately, it would be removed from the Battalion – and it was!

In December 1980, the Young Couples’ Group was set up under the leadership of Carol Doughty. However, it was quickly re-named the ‘In Betweens Group’, which widened its appeal and proved a useful bridge between Senior Sunday School and regular Sunday worship. Many of those who were members of the ‘In Betweens’ remember it with great affection.

Early in her ministry in Strathbungo Queen’s Park, Miss Stewart led two holiday groups to lands associated with the Gospel narratives. The first, in the summer of 1982, was to the Holy Land, followed two years later by a guided tour of places associated with St Paul. These are still remembered by the participants with pleasure. It is known that at least one elder had a grandchild baptised with water from the River Jordan!

In 1980, Govanhill Parish Church was celebrating a century at Daisy Street. Part of the celebration was a complete redecoration of the church and vestibule at a cost of £5,086.79. And while the membership was experiencing decline, givings were on the rise. Many organisations were still operating out of Daisy Street in 1980, including a Sunday school, the 267th BB Company, the Sparklers (a pre-Lifeboys-age group for boys), Girl Guides, the Brownies, the Junior and Senior Choirs, the Young Woman’s Group, the Woman’s Guild, a Drama Group, the Men’s Bowling Club and the aforementioned Jumble Sale Ladies. In his centenary history of Govanhill Parish Church, the Rev Richard Porter, minister at Govanhill since 1961 writes,

Towards the Church, its Cause and its Master there is still being shown love, faithfulness, a constancy of purpose, loyal support expressed in giving, in friendship and in service. In St Paul’s words we are still ‘reaching out to the things which lie before.’ The old Govanhill spirit of 1879 still lives on![1]

By the 1980s, Glasgow Presbytery was facing up to the challenges presented by shrinking congregations and underused buildings. During these years, the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive felt slightly vulnerable due to the classification of the neighbouring church at Camphill Queen’s Park as an A listed building, while the building at Strathbungo Queen’s Park was not. As a result of this classification, in 1983, the Presbytery Building and Mission Committee reported to Presbytery that Camphill Queen’s Park Church should be retained ‘for structural and financial reasons’. Presbytery accepted this and wrote to both Kirk Sessions, ‘confirming Camphill Queen’s Park as the building chosen for the long term future.’

It was proposed that a Basis of Association be agreed between Strathbungo Queen’s Park and Camphill Queen’s Park. Effectively, this meant that upon the retiral or resignation of either minister, the Strathbungo Queen’s Park building would close and the congregation would move to the Camphill building. The weight of the proposal was lightened by statements such as ‘there is no anticipation of union for a good number of years.’ Regardless, the Kirk Session at 170 Queen’s Drive saw greater potential for their site and did not take the recommendation lying down. In early 1984, the Kirk Session of Strathbungo Queen’s Park challenged a Presbytery study on the sharing of buildings on the grounds of it ‘not being in the best interest of our congregation regarding worship and organisation.’ It was therefore resolved to attempt to dissolve the Basis of Association with Camphill Queen’s Park.

After much discussion, it was announced early in 1988 that the Presbytery Readjustment Committee intended to make a recommendation concerning the Basis of Association with Camphill Queen’s Park. Representatives from the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive were invited to attend the March meeting of Presbytery, which would address a potential dissolution of the Basis of Association. Those in attendance that evening remember the powerful defence of the congregation from the floor by Mr Leitch, then chairman of the Congregational Board. The item ended with ‘a unanimous agreement that the Basis of Association between Camphill Queen’s Park and Strathbungo Queen’s Park be dissolved.’ In October 1990, Presbytery finally approved a report from its Advisory Committee which stated, ‘Circumstances having changed in the Queen’s Park area… it is recommended that the Presbytery should now declare in favour of retaining the Strathbungo Queen’s Park Church Building suite as the centre for mission in this area and accordingly recall its decision of 1983 in favour of retaining the Camphill Queen’s Park suite of buildings.’ The struggle to retain the building had been long and difficult. Shortly thereafter, the Camphill Queen’s Park congregation was dissolved. The building was sold to Queen’s Park Baptist Church for a nominal sum and is now one of the denomination’s flagship congregations in Scotland.

In 1989, Govanhill and Candlish Polmadie united to form Govanhill Trinity Parish Church, with the building in Daisy Street designated as the principal site of worship. That summer, some members from the recently-closed New Bridgegate Parish Church joined the church family at Daisy Street. In November, the Rev Tomas Bisek, a Czech, became the first minister of Govanhill Trinity.

Mr Bisek was ordained in the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren and began his ministry in Czechoslovakia. Along with his wife Daniela, Mr Bisek was a signatory of Charter 77 (Charta 77 in Czech and Slovak), which criticised the government’s violations of human and civil rights. Mr Bisek’s dissidence resulted in many years of surveillance, interrogation and intimidation at the hands of the state. Eventually, his state licence to serve as a minister was revoked, and despite several attempts by the Synodal Council to have him reinstated, in 1985 Mr Bisek and his family had to leave Czechoslovakia in order to continue to serve. Due to an historical association with the Church of Scotland, Mr Bisek came to Glasgow and held the position of associate minister at Condorrat Parish Church, Cumbernauld prior to coming to Govanhill Trinity.

The union between Govanhill and Candlish Polmadie reduced the number of congregations in our family tree to three, the fewest since 1843, when Hutchesontown Free Church was established. 1989 also marked the tenth anniversary of the union between Queen’s Park West and Strathbungo. To celebrate the occasion, a concert was held in the church hall on 2 June. On Sunday, 7 June, an anniversary service took place during which the preacher was the Rev Gordon Manson, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery that year. In 1990, the Rev James Millar retired from the charge of Shawlands Old Church. He and his wife, Kathleen, joined the Strathbungo Queen’s Park congregation at that time, and Mr Millar assumed duties as pastoral assistant to Miss Stewart, a role in which he continued until his death some years later.

REMEMBERING THE MARTYRDOM OF JANE HAINING

The fortieth anniversary of Jane Haining’s martyrdom at Auschwitz was marked by a special service in the spring of 1985. It was attended by the Rev Tom Kiltie of the Overseas Council of the Church of Scotland and people from local churches. Also in attendance were representatives from the local Jewish community, whose participation was especially valued. Following the service, a full report was sent to the pastor of the Scottish Mission in Budapest.

In 1990, a link was established between the church at 170 Queen’s Drive and the Vorosmarty School in Budapest, where Jane had served in the 1930s. The first of what became an annual essay competition took place in 1991, in which pupils were asked to write an account (in English) of Jane’s life and death. The prize for winner and runner-up was a visit to Scotland, especially to her birthplace of Dunscore and then to Glasgow. The first year saw two pupils and the director of the Vorosmarty School visit. This competition continues to run and has since been opened to other schools within Budapest. Each year, two pupils and a teacher have been welcomed to 170 Queen’s Drive and entertained for several days before they fly back home.

In 1987, an article about Jane appeared in The Herald, to which Miss Stewart took exception, responding with an article of her own. Not long before, Miss Stewart and Morag Reid had travelled to Jerusalem where they visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre. There, they both became convinced that Jane deserved to appear as one of those who placed themselves in great danger in an effort to help Jewish people during the Holocaust. They brought back with them all the documentation required and the Kirk Session at Strathbungo Queen’s Park agreed to have this forwarded to the Scottish Mission in Budapest, who were best placed to contact the small group of elderly Jewish people who could testify to Jane’s heroism. It took ten years for anything concrete to come out of all this, but the campaign was eventually a success. Part of the requirements for Jane’s admission involved the finding of eight people who, as children, had been in Jane’s care and were willing to testify that Miss Haining had at no point tried to convert them from the Jewish faith. These testimonies were obtained and, since 27 January 1997, Jane has been remembered at Yad Vashem by a memorial plaque bearing her name as one ‘Righteous Among the Nations’. She is the only Scot to have received such an honour.

At Strathbungo Queen’s Park, Jane was again especially remembered in 1994, on the fiftieth anniversary of her death. A special service was held in the church, attended by several people from Dunscore Church, together with Chris Wrigglesworth, General Secretary of World Mission Council (WMC). Later in the year, pupils from Hutchesons’ Grammar School performed a concert in Jane’s honour.

In 1996, a group of young people from Strathbungo Queen’s Park flew to Budapest during the Easter holiday period. Jean Bain worked hard to identify grants to help to subsidise the visit, and it benefitted greatly from the presence and organising skills of the Rev Susan Cowell, minister of St Columba’s Church of Scotland, Budapest, the former Scottish Mission in which Jane had served.

Back in Glasgow, in December 1998, at a ceremony held in the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, attended by the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, representatives of local Jewish synagogues and members of Jane’s family, Jane was remembered by a beautiful inscribed plaque which forms part of the museum display. Miss Stewart and the young people who visited Budapest in 1996 were also present.

Haining Certificate

Jane Haining’s Yad Vashem certificate.

THE CONTINUED LIFE OF 170 QUEEN’S DRIVE

In February 1985, the Kirk Session of Strathbungo Queen’s Park agreed to hold a Summer Mission in Creetown, on the Solway Firth. The team was led by Lynn Flower and consisted of six other adults and 13 young people. Miss Stewart and three other adults, together with some other young people from the church would also be going, but only for part of the week. Before their departure, some team training was organised. The Kirk Session could not have foreseen the way in which the Mission Team had the vision, commitment and energy to establish Summer Mission as a regular outreach from the church. At the end of this first Summer Mission in Creetown, it was reported that 83 children had participated. As a result, the local Sunday school enrolled six new members and established a Scripture Union group.

At the same 1985 meeting of the Kirk Session, it was reported that Glasgow Presbytery had approved the scheme for the extension and upgrading of the church kitchen at a cost of £31,000. Little by little, the premises at 170 Queen’s Drive were being modernised, and the following years saw this process accelerating at in incredible pace.

In October 1987, Lynn Gibb was appointed as the organist at 170 Queen’s Drive and she has served the congregation faithfully over the three decades since, both as organist and as an elder. She is the latest in a line of highly accomplished musicians to have served the congregation since instrumental music was introduced in 1897.

One key feature of Miss Stewart’s ministry was the regular introduction to the congregation of probationers and students in training for the ministry, a reflection of her strong personal interest in the subject. (Previously, Miss Stewart had served as co-convener of the Glasgow Presbytery committee which dealt with training for the ministry.) Among those remembered well by the congregation are David Cameron, Ian Cathcart, Calum Macdonald (who would serve as an Interim Moderator during a later vacancy), John Martindale, Robert Silver and the late Moyna McGlynn. All of them were, under Miss Stewart’s tutelage, given the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of the life of a congregation, training which must have served them well in their future ministries.

In the summer of 1997, two members of Strathbungo Queen’s Park, Dr Jim Allison and his wife Carol, decided to go to Rajasthan in the north west of India to do voluntary service. On Sunday, 24 August, just prior to their departure, they were welcomed into a meeting of the Kirk Session, where they received a cheque for £200 for the work of the mission in India. They were then commissioned at the morning service. During their time abroad, the Allisons sent regular reports of their work. These appeared in the church magazine each month, much to the enjoyment of the congregation.

In the mid-1990s, the BB at 170 Queen’s Drive was still flourishing. At this time, Mr Robert M. Liddell served as the captain of all BB sections. Each year’s Annual Display opened the eyes of many in the congregation to the remarkable work being done. Unfortunately, the decline in number of recruits was giving cause for concern. The Guides and Brownies still existed during this period and the minutes of the Kirk Session record the frequent search for leaders of the various sections.

In November 1997, Miss Stewart let it be known that she had been approached by Glasgow Presbytery asking whether she would be prepared to enter into discussions about possible re-adjustment arising from the vacancy at the neighbouring church on Queen’s Drive, Crosshill Queen’s Park. After discussion, she had considered the various means by which re-adjustment might be achieved between the churches, seeking the best way forward for the Church of Scotland in the Queen’s Park area. Taking her age and domestic situation into consideration, Miss Stewart expressed her willingness to retire early. It was reaffirmed that, should a union ever take place between Crosshill Queen’s Park and Strathbungo Queen’s Park, there would be no arbitration concerning buildings, since that matter had been affirmed by the Presbytery, expressly, that Strathbungo Queen’s Park would be the essential building for the future in the area.

By March 1998, the process had begun to move more quickly. Miss Stewart was approached by the Presbytery Clerk, who suggested that she should retire at the end of August. At that point, an Interim Moderator would be appointed who, with the office bearers of both Crosshill Queen’s Park and Strathbungo Queen’s Park, would hold discussions on the future of furnishings and fittings as the result of a union. In early April 1998, both congregations were asked to vote on a Basis of Union. The following week, Miss Stewart read the following statement regarding the proposed union to the Kirk Session:

 I now have a special intimation arising from the congregational meetings last Sunday when the members of Crosshill Queen’s Park and Strathbungo Queen’s Park voted upon the Basis of Union proposed by the Reappraisal Committee of Glasgow Presbytery. While our congregation voted unanimously for the Basis of Union, our neighbours voted against. The Presbytery’s proposal for Union has therefore fallen and the basis on which I agreed to take early retiral has also fallen. Strathbungo Queen’s Park will continue as a congregation in Full Status, and I will remain as your minister.

In June 1998, Mr William Weir, Session Clerk of Strathbungo Queen’s Park for the previous twenty-two years, indicated that he would be retiring to Dalgety Bay, Fife in the near future. He was thanked warmly for his years of dedicated service to the church. The Kirk Session then decided to appoint Mr J. Derek Brown as Session Clerk-elect, working in tandem with Mr Weir until he left Glasgow. That same summer, Mr Robert J. S. Leitch, one of the great stalwarts of the congregation, died unexpectedly. The morning service on 16 August was a service of thanksgiving for his life and work in the Church. During the service, Miss Stewart read the following tribute:

It is impossible to give adequate recognition to the outstanding contribution Bert Leitch made to the life of this church. A good starting place would be when he became a Sunday School teacher after returning from National Service. He was a member of the Youth Committee and for several years Session Clerk. From 1979 he served as chairman of the Congregational Board and a trusted WFO Convener and member of the Kirk Session. We thank God for the example of a true Christian gentleman.

Around this time, at a meeting of the Mission Committee, Kirsty Macqueen, one of the youngest members of the congregation, expressed her grave concern at the news of continuing persecution and torture of Christians around the world, despite the efforts of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Amnesty International and other agencies. She suggested that the congregation could do something about the situation, however small. In March 1999, the Kirk Session agreed to the formation of a small group of interested people prepared to pray for victims of severe persecution in many parts of the world. In addition to prayer, they also proposed to write letters of support regularly, enlisting the support of their local MPs (and after the establishing of a new devolved Scottish Parliament later on that year, MSPs) in campaigns for justice. They also intended to write directly to the leaders of the countries where imprisonment and torture continued seemingly without hindrance.

Eighteen years on, the group still meets quarterly and prays for those suffering persecution. From replies to many of the letters sent, the group knows that the letters and cards are greatly valued, and that campaigns against abuses sometimes produce results, indicating that the attention shames the persecutors. In recent years, much of the group’s attention has gone to supporting online CSW campaigns, where petitions have been sent to the embassies of countries such as Sudan, North Korea, Iran and Pakistan, demanding the release of Christians imprisoned falsely.

The Rev James Millar, a former member of the congregation and pastoral assistant, celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the ministry on 18 May 1999. It was decided to send him a message of congratulations and to invite him to be present at the morning service on Sunday, 16 May, where he was presented with a book from Kirk Session and congregation in recognition of his lifetime of service to the Church in several congregations, including the congregation at 170 Queen’s Drive.

 


[1] Richard Porter, Govanhill Church of Scotland: 1880-1980 (Alloa: Alloa Printing and Publishing Co Ltd., 1980), 35.


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