St Columba marked 150 years

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St-Columba-Church-wONE hundred and fifty years of worship were celebrated at Helensburgh's St Columba Church on July 3 2011 — just weeks before its union with another congregation. 

The 150th anniversary of the Sinclair Street building was marked at a packed service of thanksgiving on July 3, and the birthday came as the congregation — at its present site since 1861 — prepared to say farewell to the historic building.

On August 17 it united with neighbouring Church of Scotland congregation, the West Kirk, to form St Andrew’s Kirk. The new congregation is based in the West Kirk building in Colquhoun Square.

The immediate past Moderator of the General Assembly, Helensburgh man the Very Rev John Christie — who grew up as a member of the St Columba congregation — was invited to preach at the service.

Quoting a line from a hymn, “from the past will come the future”, he spoke of the church’s rich history, and of the exciting days ahead.

Churchgoers from all three Kirk congregations in the town heard St Columba minister, the Rev George Vidits, pay an emotional tribute to those who had ensured an active and faithful witness to the town over a century and a half.

During the service, Mr Christie, who attended the St Columba Sunday School, youth fellowship and Boys Brigade as a youngster, presented the congregation with a rock from the island of Iona, where St Columba landed on route from Ireland.

He said that it would serve as a reminder of the foundation of faith in which the church had grown and would move into the next stage of its journey.

Banners depicting the story of the church were displayed during the service and members of Helensburgh Photographic Society took pictures as a memento of the occasion.

St-Columba-150th-1wAfterwards, two birthday cakes bearing an image of the building were cut and worshippers enjoyed an exhibition of photographs, words and images of the past 150 years.

The congregation of St Columba first met in the former Queen’s Hotel on East Clyde Street, home of a leading member of the congregation, Mrs Henry Bell, widow of the Comet steamship pioneer who was Helensburgh's first Provost..

As membership increased, worshippers moved to the Victoria Hall, and eventually the ‘Wee Church’ in West King Street was built in 1846 to accommodate growing numbers.

This building — now used as the church hall — was the predecessor of the current church on Sinclair Street, which was opened in 1861.

Mr Vidits, who will be joint minister of the new congregation with the Rev David Clark of West Kirk, said the service gave a sense of  “closure and roundedness” to St Columba’s ministry and service over the decades.

He thanked everyone involved in every aspect of the life of the church over the years, and said that the current congregation owed much to the vision of its forefathers.

He finished by paying tribute to the congregations of the past 150 years, whom he described as “the faithful attenders of worship, the generous givers, the ones who never ceased praying for the congregation and others; everyone who made up the colourful, enjoyable, friendly and loveable congregation of St Columba.”

Looking to the future, Mr Vidits said that he believed that the formation of the new congregation would be a “joyful, powerful and invigorating resurrection experience” and encouraged people to be a part of it.

  • Helensburgh's first church was The Tabernacle, a small building at the corner of West Princes Street and James Street, which was erected in 1802 and demolished in 1851 because of dry rot.