Church Planting 4

NEWTON MEARNS BAPTIST CHURCH

When Rev Edwin Gunn arrived at Queen’s Park Baptist Church from Ayr in 1979, one of his first suggestions to the deacons was the possibility of establishing house groups, and this idea was enthusiastically received and monthly house groups began. One of the groups was in Newton Mearns and was led by Douglas Inglis, in whom was the vision for a church plant in Newton Mearns. Within six months the group was meeting weekly (but not weakly!) and praying specifically about future church planting in the area. The vision was contagious and growing.

A careful survey of the south side of Glasgow had shown that most of the area was covered with Baptist witness except for a significant ‘wedge’ with its point at Queen’s Park and running south out along Kilmarnock Road and taking in the whole of the Newton Mearns area. Vision was therefore accompanied by careful research.

Early in 1981 Edwin was appointed President of the Baptist Union of Scotland at the same time as a steering committee was appointed to make plans for the establishment of a Baptist Church in Newton Mearns. The first meeting of a steering committee set up by Queen’s Park Baptist Church under Edwin’s chairmanship took place on 27th October 1981, just a couple of weeks after Edwin’s appointment as President. The vision was catching fire: ‘To establish a Baptist Church in Newton Mearns totally self-sufficient, self-financing, affiliated to the Baptist Union of Scotland, and having a full-time pastor; plus a building in due course’

It is important to realise that this was not Queen’s Park Baptist Church seeking to church plant in Newton Mearns, but rather a group of people in the Newton Mearns house group who had the vision and drive for the planting of a Baptist Church in the area. Queen’s Park did not originate the vision, but they did fully support it.

On Sunday 7th March 1982 the first morning service of the Newton Mearns Baptist Fellowship took place in Capelrig House with just over 100 people in attendance. This was close to the maximum attendance the hall allowed, and the vision was already bursting out of its first accommodation. On 22nd May 1983 twenty-four members of Queen’s Park Baptist Church were set apart to form the newly constituted church at Newton Mearns, and the baby was born; to change the analogy – the fire was well alight.

Realising that much could be learned from the experience of others, strong links were forged with the Bridge of Don Church in Aberdeen – itself a recent church plant – and, in May 1983 at Newton Mearn’s second anniversary weekend, Rev Douglas Hutcheon took as his text these words from Deuteronomy One: ‘You have stayed long enough on this mountain. Break camp and advance.’ Prophetic words which fed the fire. Newton Mearns Baptist Church was affiliated to the Baptist Union of Scotland on 6th September 1983.

Rev T Deans Buchanan was inducted as pastor on 16th March 1985. After moving through various rented venues, the church’s own building was started in September 1994 and completed five years later at a cost of £1.4m. It is interesting that acquiring the ownership of the Crookfur Road site took Newton Mearns Baptist Church nine and a half years!

In this new millennium the church has an ongoing accommodation problem, for their building has been struggling to cope with the numbers attending for some time. Another mountain to climb, another valley to cross.

LARGO BAPTIST CHURCH

Largo Baptist Church originally had a number of members who lived in Leven and worshipped in Largo, but it was Largo that experienced serious decline before closing completely. In May 1987, Ian Gunn and Jim McGillivray were concerned over the Largo closure, and a commitment was given to pray and seek God’s Direction; while, around the same time, Jim Todd was writing to Peter Barber about the Largo situation.

In the autumn the Leven deacons inspected buildings as a part of the assessment for a future work in Largo, and, by early 1988, were believing that a new Largo outreach would be right if God raised up someone to lead the work. Plans for initiating a work in Largo were drawn up and discussed by the deacons in Leven, and June 1988 saw the first monthly Sunday evening meeting take place.

In December 1988, Peter Barber met with the Largo Committee and Leven deacons to discuss the development of the work, and it was decided to begin an outreach to retired people as a base for a continuing outreach in Largo/Lundin Links. By the end of 1990, and after a change of location, a questionnaire was submitted to the congregation asking if they would support the work if it moved to a refurbished church building.

The Baptist Union of Scotland agreed in March 1991 to a refurbishment of the church building, and the building was duly opened and an ongoing work developed before David Vogan was called as student Pastor in 1994.

The Joint Largo Committee and Leven Deacon’s Court meeting of March 1995 considered the future of the Largo Outreach Fellowship, and agreed that the time was right for Largo to become an independent Baptist Church; moves were made towards a Largo Church Constitution in May.

Looking back, Jim McGillivray considers that they planted a ‘typical Baptist Church’ with all the systems and structures of that church, instead of the plant being set up for the local people; thus the styles of worship (etc) of the new church were out-of-date and irrelevant to the local population the moment that the church came back into being.

Largo Baptist Church consisted of a number of older people who had a particular mindset of what church should be and what it should do; was it then true that the motive was to plant a Baptist church rather than to see the kingdom of God enlarged? A number of those who transferred out of Leven did not actually go to Largo; these were people unhappy at Leven who used the Largo plant as an opportunity to get out of one church without getting into another. This had a positive effect at Leven but was of no benefit to Largo.