Above: Famous painting of the 450 men who started the Free Church in 1843
The Free Church has a great history in the Stirling area, with the first stirrings of the 1843 disruption taking place a few miles up the road in in Auchterarder. Fast forward to 2014
and the re-emerging Free Church moved to the Smith Art Gallery in Dumbarton Road which has served us very well for more than 3 years.
In March 2016, at the start of Iain MacAskill’s ministry, it would have been fair to say, that using Elijah as an analogy, a cloud the size of a man’s hand was forming. There is now a healthy rain cloud with 70 attending. How we long to experience and pray for a cloud burst of spiritual renewal in the city.
With plain, no nonsense buildings,we are not big on icons in the Free Church but in our meeting place, the Smith, are housed the following historic items :-
A metal heel from Thomas Chalmers boot worn as he led the way out of the Church Of Scotland to form the radical new Free Church. A pew and Lectern from Chalmers Church Bridge of Allan and a copy of the famous D.O. Hill painting depicting the 450 men who formed the new denomination.
Many notable Free Church men were a huge influence for the spiritual good of the town as an evangelistic explosion took place throughout Scotland. There is an information board on a great Stirling Free Church member: Peter Drummond, a prosperous businessman who formed a tract society with worldwide reach to the extent that a new post office which was in use till recently had to be built. By 1948, for various reasons, there was no longer a Free Church in Stirling. Very few people even knew that there had been a 20th century Free Church… If you thought God had abandoned the Free Church in the city you would have been wrong! In 2013 a group got together and within a short time a vibrant, viable and influential church was developing. We meet in the Smith on Sunday but have taken over… WAIT FOR IT…of all places, a former Betting shop in Upper Craigs, a centre for many and varied extra activities.
Great news then in Stirling, but what about the rest of Scotland? There is still strong representation in many places but with new churches being planted in our great cities, the green shoots of recovery are there for all to see. How important history is and in particular the history of the church; as the hymn says:
I know who holds the future,
and He’ll guide me with His hand;
with God things don’t just happen,
everything by Him is planned.
The future is important as well. God has a plan for not just each individual believer but for His church, the church worldwide, which has advanced enormously down the centuries. He can change communities, cities and nations very quickly. We must pray that as he has done in the past, he revives his work in Scotland. God is the God of the future as he brings world history to a climax.
My own prayer is that God would work in revival throughout the denominations. The National Church may have diminished greatly but there is still, within it, a remnant of faithful people who hold to the authority of scripture. As never before, now is the time to work with people who hold to the authority of scripture and the great news of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.