The remaining emblem, an open Bible, testifies to the fact that God singularly blessed the people of this town, often in times of great privation. These great revivals saw many thousands of people coming to faith in Christ. On 27th June 1627, John Livingstone preached to a vast outdoor congregation at Shotts. His sermon, based on Ezekiel 36:25-26 lasted for two and a half hours and the effect was devastating, with over 500 people turning to God for Salvation. He later served as Chaplain to the Covenanting armies and Oliver Cromwell commended him as a "man highly esteemed for his piety and learning".
A century later, the town was in the throes of hardship and tragedy. In a three week period in 1733, over 60 people died of pleuritic fever and violent rainstorms swept away houses, destroyed cornfields and drowned livestock. The Rev. James Robe ministered to the sick and dying from dawn to dusk. He also established a network of prayer groups and began a systematic course of sermons stressing the necessity of the new birth, the Resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit. This culminated in a remarkable series of revival meetings in 1742-43. This period of spiritual awakening was to have a profound influence on the Scottish church life and preaching for generations to come.
In 1839, William Chalmers Burns, then a young man of 24 years of age, preached to a crowd estimated at over 10,000 people in a large open-air service near the Parish Church. A series of tent services followed and hundreds of people sought God for Salvation. An eyewitness, Robert Anderson, later testified how the social life of the town was transformed: "The swearer did not venture an oath, nor the drunkard a debauch, nor the thief a theft, nor the deceiver a lie, nor the striker a blow. The streets were purified in the healing of old quarrels, the reconciling of alienated neighbours and especially the hallowing of domestic love."
Chalmers Burns later worked with the great evangelist, Murray McCheyne in Dundee. He served for over 20 years as a missionary in China, inspiring the young Dr Hudson Taylor to found the China Inland Mission. A fellow missionary, while on leave, was asked if he new Burns. "Know him, Sir?" He exclaimed, "All China knows him! He is the holiest man alive."
Seeds of Revival
The last quarter of the 19th Century witnessed the growth of the Holiness Movement, the evangelism of Moody and Sankey, the institution of the Salvation Army in response to the degrading social conditions of the East End of London and the teaching of church leaders like W.E. Boardman and Dr Torrey in conferences such as the Keswick Convention. This hunger for revival was further fuelled by events of the Great Welsh Revival of 1904 associated with the evangelist, Evan Roberts. Groups of Christians throughout Britain, Europe, America and India, inspired by the happenings in Wales began interceding for a wider outpouring of the Holy Spirit, praying for a world-wide revival. The phrase "the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" denoting the need for some kind of definite "second blessing" following conversion had become familiar among most spiritually-minded believers at this time.
The Kilsyth United Evangelistic
In 1896, three local ministers, Rev. Peter Anton (Old Parish Church), Rev. John Goodhall (The United Presbyterian Church) and the Rev. Dr. William Jeffrey (The Free Church) met with their Elders to discuss ways of integrating the largely unchurched mining community into church life. A successful children's ceilidh was organised and Mr John Barton, an elder of the Free Church, and a cashier at the Twechar workshops of Wm Baird and Company, was appointed to liaise between the miners and the local ministers. This led to the formation of the Kilsyth United Evangelistic Association which met in the Wingate Hall at Westport Street, a former theatre then being used by the local Workmen's Club. In 1898 this was purchased for £300 raised by public subscription. In the third annual business meeting held on 9th June, 1900, John Barton was able to report average attendances of
He described how, "They had started three years ago without a penny, but had trusted the Lord, who has supplied all our needs." In 1903, a committee of four elders and four deacons was appointed and a code of doctrine and a constitution was drawn up. At this time, the name "Church of God" at Westport Street, Kilsyth, was adopted following the New Testament pattern of naming churches after the town where they were situated, e.g. Church of God at Corinth, Antioch, Thessalonika, etc.
1908 - "As in the Day of
In 1906, a remarkable series of revival meetings took place in the Old Asuza Street Mission in Los Angeles, California. Many of those gathered received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This "Pentecostal Experience" spread to cities across the USA. T.B. Barrett, a minister form Norway, received the experience when visiting New York in 1906. Early in 1907, the Rev. Alexander Boddy of All Saints Church, Sunderland, visited Norway to see at first hand the Pentecostal revival sweeping that country, and in September 1907 invited Barrett to preach in Sunderland. It was recorded that "Many received marked blessings and came through to a scriptural baptism in the Holy Ghost, for we heard them speak with tongues and magnify God." In the weeks that followed, a constant stream of seekers flocked to Sunderland to see and hear for themselves the reported Pentecostal blessing. One such visitor in 1907 was Bill Hutchison, President of the recently formed Westport Hall, Kilsyth. In January 1908, Rev. Boddy spoke at a Faith Mission conference in Edinburgh and Bill Hutchison invited Andrew Bell and Victor Wilson, two church leaders who attended this conference, to come to Kilsyth and explain about their experience of being baptised in the Holy Ghost and speaking with tongues, and in the weeks that followed over 200 people received this experience.
In the Westport Hall, one practical effect of the revival was that people began to make good their outstanding debts, and the church became a hive of activity and expansion. In the New Year Missionary Conference that year, no fewer than 28 young people offered themselves for missionary service and, as a consequence, a Pentecostal Missionary Society was established with training centres in Scotland and London.
Consolidation and the Inter-war
The church continued to flourish in the years before the First World War. By 1913, over 300 children were attending Sunday School; Prayer Meetings averaged 80-100 people; outreach work was started in Condorrat and conference speakers came from as far afield as USA, Stria, Liberia and India. In 1917, a Kitchen Meeting was established in Queenzieburn. During the War, despite the hardships experienced by the member of the congregation, the church provided support for the Red Cross and for Armenians fleeing from Turkish atrocities. They also provided famine relief for the victims of the Russian Civil War. Open air services were held regularly in Market Square and at the foot of the Main Street. Saturday Tea Meetings were restarted and New Year conventions held with leading figures of the Pentecostal movement, like Stephen Jeffreys, Smith Wigglesworth and William Burton taking part.
In 1923, Bill Hutchison, who had led the church in its formative years, emigrated to California, USA and was succeeded as President by Harry Tee. Many of the congregation suffered great hardship during the great miners' strikes of the 1920s and the depression which followed. Despite this, the congregation continued to grow. An outreach mission was established in Mollinsburn, a Tea Meeting was organised under the leadership of Bobby Anderson and in 1929 the Young Christians Evangelistic Band was begun. In 1934 a great time of revival took place among the young people, when over 30 were "filled with the Holy Spirit."
The War Years and
During the war, a Soldiers' Fund was established to send 5 shillings each second month to members of the church serving in the armed forces and their photographs were displayed in the hall. Despite the war, a ten day evangelistic mission was held by Harold Horton of London and the following October a children's mission was held which drew an attendance of 400 each night. Speakers at the New Year conventions included Donald Gee, Garfield Vale, Pastor Saler and Pastor Brewster. After the war, the church continued to progress. In 1949 a church orchestra was established under the leadership of Jim Gibson and Stephen Tee. Several major evangelistic outreaches were supported, like Billy Graham's Glasgow campaign in 1954 and Tom Allen's Tell Scotland campaigns 1956-58. A permanent mission was established at Queenzieburn, under the leadership of Alex Souter. Sadly, the decade ended with the death of Church President, Harry Tee, who collapsed and died whilst walking to church on the evening of 14th November, 1959.
The New Church
On Monday, 30th October, 1961 disaster struck, when the church at Westport Hall was destroyed by fire within a period of two hours. That evening a large number of church members gathered in the ruins of the building; they sang the hymn How Good is the God We Adore and committed themselves to God for his help and guidance. Work on the new site at Parkburn Road was commenced on Saturday, 10th February 1960, with church members undertaking most of the work on a voluntary basis. Despite the severity of the weather, tremendous enthusiasm was displayed and the entire building project was completed within a period of 10 months. The church was officially opened on 15th December 1962.
Missions and Outreach
Throughout its history, the Church of God has seen missions and outreach as an integral part of its ministry. In 1912, Maria Tee died of blackwater fever whilst serving with the Barubo Bush Mission in Liberia (West Africa). This sacrifice inspired other church members like Matthew and Eva Sinclair, Barbara Bamford and Libby Pender (nee Fleming) to found and serve with the United Pentecostal Mission in the neighbouring country of Sierra Leone. In recent years, Ken and Jocelyn Acheson formed OutReach Europe. Bill Aitken and Jim and Miriam McWhinnie served with WEC (World-wide Evangelistic Crusade) and Jim and Beth Ross work with the street children in Bolivia. The Rev. Alexander Tee, son of Harry Tee, a past President of the church, has played an important role in the recent history of the Elim Pentecostal Churches. He pastored several of the largest British Pentecostal churches, including those at Southport and Cardiff, and served as Youth Director and then President of the British Elim movement. As an evangelist, he conducted campaigns which established churches throughout the UK.
Musical evangelism in particular has played an important part in church life. For over 20 years, the church youth choir Channels Only, under the leadership of Jim Mitchell, carried the gospel message to packed audiences throughout the British Isles. In addition, the church has produced a veritable plethora of musical groups which have provided musical support of evangelical outreach meetings, conventions, church socials and prison and borstal Bible Classes for well over half a century. The list of groups and variety of music is extensive and includes such as The Anderson Brothers, The String Band, The Westport Quartet, The Country Gospel Four, The Crusaders, The Covenanters, The Kingsway Singers, The Ross Brothers and, most recently, the Praise Band. Several of these groups have produced recordings of their music.
The church has also co-operated with other local churches, most notably Kilsyth Community Church, to mount major outreach initiative to the town and district of Kilsyth. Evangelists Alex Tee, Sam Workham and Sam Tippet spearheaded these initiatives in the 1970s and 1980s which were based at Kilsyth Academy and in large tents at the site of the current swimming pool.
In February 1986, John Stark became Church President, succeeding James Gibson, who had served the church in that capacity for 26 years.
Spe Expecto - The
The Latin Motto of Kilsyth literally translates as "I look forward with hope." and reflects the lively hope expressed in the New Testament, which is the inheritance of all who have put their trust in the living Christ.
During the 1990s the church became more firmly attached to the Elim Pentecost Movement with the appointment and ministry of Pastors John Glass, Jim Dick and, most recently Sandy McMeekin and continues to seek God's will and guidance to foster evangelism, outreach to the community, and church growth. In recent years, many new converts and families have joined the fellowship and exciting developments are taking place. Valuable work to support members of the community suffering from drug addiction is done in close association with Teen Challenge. There is close association with Comfort Rwanda, which supports the victims of the atrocities in Rwanda. Systematic teaching is provided with the Alpha Course. Further training and discipleship courses are about to be started. Support is provided to all age groups through its many ministries.
The church is true to the vision of its founding fathers to foster the growth of Spirit-filled Christians who will be the Salt and Light of Kilsyth and to many individuals and communities beyond.
[Our thanks to Jim Hutchison for researching and producing this article]