Grahamston United Church mark 50th anniversary
A special celebratory service marked the 50th anniversary of a Falkirk church’s first meeting.
When the congregation of Grahamston United Church met for its inaugural service on January 9, 1972 it was deemed to be an “ecumenical experiment” which would be reviewed after a couple of years.
However, five decades later it is still going strong and it was marked on Sunday with a time of anniversary worship.
Seen as a bold, radical and pioneering initiative, Grahamston United brought together four churches: Grahamston Parish, Grahams Road, Falkirk Methodist and Trinity EU Congregational, of three different denominations – Church of Scotland, Methodist and Congregational (now United Reformed Church) – to worship initially in two buildings and ultimately one.
Grahamston United was further expanded in 2018 when St James Parish joined.
Sunday’s service was led by Reverend Anne White, Grahamston United locum minister; The Rt. Hon the Lord Wallace of Tankerness, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; Reverend Paul Whittle, Moderator United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland; and Rev. Mark Slaney, District Chair of the Methodist Church in Scotland.
Amongst the invited guests were Reverend Robert Philip, former minister of Grahamston United; Janet Craig, wife of the late Rev. Maxwell Craig who was one of the original ministers; Reverend Edward Sykes, Superintendent of Forth Valley Methodist Circuit; Reverend James Todd, Moderator of Falkirk Presbytery; Reverend John Bremner, Ecumenical Officer of the United Reformed Church; and the Very Reverend Dr James Simpson, former Moderator of the Church of Scotland and minister of Grahamston Parish Church.
The service began with the four officiating ministers being piped into the church and then after a welcome by Rev. White, the 50th birthday cake was cut by Cath Craig, one of the longest serving members of the church and who was present at that first service.
The church’s choir, under the leadership of choir mistress, Evelyn Hak, sang Bind us Together, followed by the sermon by Lord Wallace and the Methodist Covenant led by Rev. Slaney.
Rev. Whittle presented Ian Crozier with a long service certificate marking his 50 years as an ordained Elder.
Lord Wallace then presented the church with a gift, marking his visit to Grahamston United Church.
A church spokesperson said: “The 50th Anniversary committee were delighted that the service was able to go ahead given the current Covid situation and it was a privilege and honour to welcome Lord Wallace, Rev. Whittle and Rev. Slaney along with the other distinguished guests to this special service.
"For the members attending the service, many found it a moving and emotional service evoking memories of the good and sad times in the life of the United Church and of those, some who are no longer with us, who have faithfully served the church over the last 50 years.
“What started as an experiment 50 years ago now perhaps points the way for other churches in Scotland given the shortage of ordained ministers – different denominations coming together, sharing traditions and practices, united in purpose and continuing to grow together.”
They added that in spite of the difficulties of the last two years caused by the pandemic, Grahamston United Church has grown back stronger and worship continues to thrive. The doors of the church are open to everyone and anyone who enters will be made welcome.
The church continues to serve the community in whatever way it can whether it be through the Sunday School, Youth Organisations, The Guild, The Friendship Group, providing halls for Slimming World and Camelon Pipe Band, supporting the Trussel Trust, Crossreach, Christian Aid and others just as it has done throughout the last 50 years.
Since the untimely death of Reverend Ian Wilkie two years ago, ministry at Grahamston United has been provided by locum minister Rev. White, an ordained local minister in Falkirk Presbytery supported by Rev. Bremner of the URC and ministers and lay preachers from Forth Valley Methodist Circuit.
Over the decades those who have ministered at Grahamston United are: Rev. Maxwell Craig 1972-73; Rev. William Downie 1972-75; Rev. Thomas Foinette 1972-75; Rev. William McDonald 1973-75; Rev. David Twiddy 1975-87; Rev. Duncan McClements 1976-2000; Rev. Robert Philip 1978-2005; Rev. Heather Cooper 1987-93; Rev. Louise Foster 1993-96; Rev. William Seymour 1996-2000; Rev. John Butterfield 2000-2010; Rev. Neil Barclay 2001-2006; Rev Ian Wilkie 2007-2019; Rev. Mark Jason 2011-2018; and Rev. Mary Patterson 2018-.