A Brief History of Gardenstown Church
The present building was completed and opened in May 1899 as the United Presbyterian Church. There was a Church of Scotland in the village, known as “The Mohr Church”, which was built in 1876.
In 1874 Jacob Primmer had come to Gardenstown to assist the Parish Minister the Rev James Cruden. At this time there was no Church of Scotland in the village – the congregation of Gardenstown and Crovie met for worship in a granary. Mr. Primmer encouraged the people to build a church, and with the help of the fishermen, a building to seat 400 was completed within a year. On a Sunday evening this would be filled to capacity. D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey were in Scotland holding evangelistic meetings and seeing much blessing and Mr. Primmer felt that meetings of this kind would be good in the village. He contacted the Rev John Gilmour, Minister of the U.P. Church who was also keen on such an effort. It was agreed to hold them one night in the U.P. Church and the next in “The Mohr Church”. The result being that many people both young and old came to faith in Christ. This was a great time of blessing.
In 1897, the old U.P. Church was in need of major repairs, but also was quite inadequate for the needs of the congregation, and so it was decided to build a new church. The work started in 1898 and was completed on May 1899 at a total cost of £1,342 12s.
The bell of the old church was unsuitable, and after some investigation a firm in Derby was found to have a suitable one weighing 125 lbs. Price £5.10 + 8/6 carriage. It was agreed to purchase it, but to make an initial offer of £4.00. The firm did not accept the offer and asked for the full price!
Gardenstown United Free Church
In the year 1900 the Kirk Session of the U.P. Church considered a remit from Synod proposing union with the Free Church of Scotland. This proposal was adopted and so the congreation became part the United Free Church. Regarding membership, at a communion service October 1900, 132 members participated, and this was considered a good attendance.
Rev A T Ogilvie, who was Minister at this time, resigned in 1903 leaving the Church vacant. After a short vacancy the Rev John Munro received and accepted a call to Gardenstown. He was Minister until 1913 when he moved to another charge. There were six applicants for the vacant charge and after hearing all six preach the Rev John Goudie was selected to be their Minister. He stayed for only three years.
In 1916 the Church was again vacant. The Interim Moderator at the time was the Rev William Ross and the vacancy committee wished to call him to be the Minster of Gardenstown U.F. Church. Having made their wish known to him, he prayerfully considered the invitation, the result being in due course he was inducted to the charge.
Little has been said about the spiritual life of the congregation at this time, but in 1921 during the East Anglia Herring Fishing, revival broke out there and many of the fishermen came to faith in Christ. When they returned home the Holy Spirit began to move in the village, and for the next year there was a time of spiritual awakening. This was evidenced in the fact that on December 1921, 30 new members were added to the Church by profession of faith.
From 1916 the U.F. Church in the village was linked with the Free Church in the parish under one Minister. Some of the old people in the village can still remember walking the three to four miles return journey to worship in the Parish Church.
Mr. Ross ministered faithfully until 1926. After a short vacancy the Rev Thomas Shanks was inducted as Minister. He stayed for only four years and in 1930 resigned from the charge.
Gardenstown Church of Scotland
With the Union between the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland in 1929, there was discussion about linking the two congregations in the village. Eventually in 1932 the two congregations joined and became Gardenstown Church of Scotland. It was also agreed to worship in the former U.F. Church, this being the best building of the two. From then on “The Mohr Church” was little used and eventually was sold to the Christian Brethren for the sum of £300.
In 1932 a call was addressed to the Rev I D Wallace, who became Minister of the joint congregation. Mr. Wallace was Minister until 1949. The membership had now risen to 220, but during the late ’30s and early ’40s fell back to 180 mainly because a number of people had left to worship with the Brethren, whose numbers were growing steadily at this time.
In 1949 the Rev James Philip of Bucksburn was inducted to the vacant charge. Over the next number of years there was steady growth in the Church, especially among the younger people. This was due to the faithful and dedicated ministry of the new pastor, but also to the fact that in years prior to this, when there was a dearth in the congregation, a number of the older people, mainly ladies, met regularly to pray that God would do a work among the young people of the community, and God was faithful in answering their prayer. With the influx of new members the church grew, not only numerically, but spiritually, as Mr. Philip ministry spoke of total commitment to Jesus Christ and encouraged many, especially young Christians, to be involved in the work of evangelism. Mr. Philip stayed until 1958 when he received a call from Holyrood Abbey Church, Edinburgh.
The next year or so was a very unsettled time in the Church’s history. In 1959 the Rev Roderick Stewart was inducted as Minister. Although an able preacher he did not seem to settle in Gardenstown and after a short ministry resigned at the end of 1960.
In June 1961 Rev Silvester Skinner was inducted and once again the Church enjoyed a settled period, he stayed in Gardenstown until 1971, when he accepted a call to Lumphanan C. of S. Although there was nothing spectacular happening his ministry was a Bible-centred one, delivered by someone who was a very godly and gracious man.
After a relatively long vacancy the Rev Andrew Shaw was inducted on December 1972. Mr. Shaw settled in well with his wife Margaret, who was a school teacher and who immediately received a post in the local school. They also had two young daughters. Mrs. Shaw became involved in Sunday School work and became Superintendent, a post she held with great dedication and efficiency.
About this time there was a good work going on among the teenagers who met on a Friday evening in the Church Hall and many of them made a commitment to Christ. Mr. Shaw continued in Gardenstown for thirteen years but had to resign because of failing health. He was a gifted man with a sharp intellect but the thing that stood out was his pastoral ministry, especially among the older people in the fellowship.
Once again the Gardenstown Church was vacant. One of the problems facing the congregation was the fact that with only 110 members and 40 adherents there was the possibility of being linked with one of the neighbouring churches. The Union and Readjustment Committee from Presbytery visited Gardenstown, suggesting the possibility of a link. The people of the congregation made it clear that this was something they did not want and gave reasons to substantiate that. The committee accepted the case raised by the congregation but said it would have to be cleared by Presbytery. This was duly done, the result being Gardenstown was free to call a Minister without restriction.
In 1986 Rev Robert M Walker became Minister of Gardenstown Church. Mr. Walker was a very gifted and able young man, totally committed to the work and in due course this bore its fruit with many young people being converted and added to the Church.
For a number of years the toilet facilities at the Church were found to be inadequate, especially when there was special services like conferences or socials at which tea was served. The Congregational Board had discussed the matter and after much deliberation, decided that a complete extension be built on to the west end of the church. This would provide not only toilets but extra Sunday School rooms, a new kitchen, and an extension to the hall on ground floor level. This was built and completed spring 1990 at a cost of approximately £120,000. £80,000 of the cost was donated by the congregation, the remainder was met by grant and loan and in a very short period of time the total cost had been cleared.
Mr. Walker laboured for nine years in Gardenstown, but it became obvious during the last years of his Ministry that decisions that were being passed at Presbytery and General Assembly level were not acceptable. His desire was for the Gardenstown congregation to withdraw from the Church of Scotland but this was not to happen. Mr Walker demitted his charge. Two of the elders and a number of the members resigned from the fellowship. Within a week they had formed an independent fellowship in the village.
Rev Donald Martin
Following Rev Walker’s departure there was a period of uncertainty when Presbytery discussed the future shape of ministry in Gardenstown church. During this time the congregation was served by a variety of people including the Rev Donald N Martin. Rev Martin was just finished his training and agreed to be our locum minister while Presbytery decided our future. By the time Presbytery gave the go ahead to call a minister on a 5-year terminable tenure arrangement, the duly appointed vacancy committee were convinced that they did not need to look any further and called the Rev Martin to be their minister full time. He agreed to take up the call and was ordained and inducted on 31st May 1996 and became the longest-serving minister the Church has ever had.
During the first two years of his ministry the numbers coming to church remained steady, but then the congregation began to grow again. There was a consciousness of God’s presence and also a closer relationship among those of the fellowship and as we moved into the new millennium the attendance had increased to around 100 people attending the services on the Lord’s Day.
In 2011 the church building was substantially refurbished following flood damage caused by a period of hard frosts. The new interior layout and decoration was accompanied by new double glazed windows and despite some reservations by the older members at the time all now agree that the outcome is very pleasing and much better than before.
Following a series of controversial decisions by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the difficult decision was taken to make an amicable departure from the Church of Scotland and on 31st December 2014. Gardenstown Church of Scotland was dissolved and the following day Gardenstown New Church began its life in the community in the same building. By God’s gracious provision we have since been able to purchase the church building from the Church of Scotland and acquire a new manse as well.
Following an interim period of independence the congregation was welcomed into the Free Church of Scotland on the 5th Oct. 2016.
Rev Donald Martin retired in August 2018, and after a year’s vacancy the congregation called Rev Robin Gray to be their new minister. He accepted and was ordained and inducted to Gardenstown New Church in August 2019.
Over the years the fellowship has faced many challenges and at times seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yet we can testify to God’s faithfulness and goodness and it is our great privilege to be able to continue to witness to our community of the good news of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.