The History of Leith

December 20, 2003

St Thomas-Junction Road Church-Leith Record

This article was written for the 150th anniversity of St Thomas-Junction Road Church and shows their commitment to not only only their Parish, but to the Town of Leith, and to the openess and the inclusiveness of the Christian faith. Welcoming everyone of faith and doubt. It is a wonderful inheritance and an example to all.

In 1752 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland enjoined the Presbytery of Dunfermline to Induct Andrew Richardson, the presentee of the patrons, to the parish of Inverkeithing in spite of the opposition of the parishioners.

Thomas Gillespie (1708-74) Minister at Carnock, holding the view that no Church Court has the right “to intrude” a minister on a congregation against its will refused to take part in the induction at Inverkeithing.

The General Assembly found Thomas Gillespie guilty of “Contumacy” (Insubordination) and deposed him from the Ministry. In 1763 having been joined by two liked minded ministers, Thomas Gillespie founded the “Presbytery of Relief” for “the Relief of Christians oppressed in their Christian privileges”.

There was no division in the Relief Church when in 1847 it united with the United Secession Church and these two Churches became the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

One of the legacies bequeathed by the Relief Church to the present day Church of Scotland is the “Open” Communion Table at which members of all Christian Churches are welcome.

At the beginning of the 19th century a group of people who, though they belonged to Leith, worshipped in Edinburgh (mainly in James Place Church) resolved o form their own Relief Congregation. Consequently, the old Parish Church of North Leith, vacated by its congregation in 816, was rented. Thereafter “40 individual’s residenters in Leith “petitioned the Edinburgh Relief Church Presbytery with a view to obtaining permission “to establish a congregation in Leith according to the principles of the Relief Church”

On the 30th April 1822, the crave of the petition having been granted by the Presbytery the “Relief Congregation Leith” was founded.

On the 20th October 1823, the newly formed congregation decided to build their own “permanent and respectable place of worship”. The site chosen was on the “the proposed new Road” which was going to be called either St Anthony’s Road or Junction Road but was then called Great Junction Street after the Church was built.

The sum of £4000 required for building purposes was raised by issuing shares of £10 each which were held by the Trustees for behoof of the Shareholders and later for behoof of the congregation. In 1864 all the remaining debt was paid

The most important dates and events of the “Relief Congregation Leith” which became Junction Road Church are listed below and give some idea of what has happened to this Church and Congregation since 1822-
1822 The Relief Congregation Leith is founded 30th April.
1823 The first Minister, the Rev.Francis Muir, is called and ordained, 11th June
1824 A Bible class and the Dorcas Society are instituted. The foundation Stone of the Church in Great Junction Street is laid, 22nd March.
1825 The Church is opened for public worship. 23rd January.
1835 The Sunday School is started by the Minister.
1836 Foundation of the Missionary Society for evangelistic work at home and abroad.
1846 The Choir is formed and permission is obtained for its members “t occupy several pews in front of the Session Seat, as by sitting together they could sing with greater effect than otherwise”
1847 The Relief Church and the United Secession Church Unite and became the United Presbyterian Church. The Relief Congregation Leith becomes Junction Rod U.P Church but some records refer to it also as Great Junction Street or Junction Street U.P.Church.
1867 The Young Men’s Literary Society is founded. In 1957 “The Effort” the collected papers and Lectures of the Society is offered to and gratefully accepted by the City of Edinburgh Libraries and Museums Department.
1874 Junction Road Missionary Society takes over a Mission in Sheriff Brae. Later, when the Sheriff Brae district is largely depopulated, the Mission is transferred to the Bonnington Road District.
1890 The Ladies Work Party is founded
1894 News Halls are erected in the Bonnington Road and opened 4th October, In or from this centre the following agencies are operating-Sunday Evening meetings for adults, Children’s meetings and services, a savings Bank, a Clothing Scheme, Prayer meetings, a working Girls Sawing Class, a Band of Hope and a Mothers Meeting.
1900 The United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church Unite to form the United Free Church of Scotland. Junction Road (U.P) Church becomes Junction Road (U.F) Church.
1903 Installation of the Pipe Organ, Electric lighting and improved heating. It is interesting to note that in 1856 at the Annual meeting of the Congregation a proposal to use a harmonium in Public Worship was defeated by an “overwhelming majority”.
1919 Formation of the 17th Company of the Boy’s Brigade.
1920 Formation of the 71st Company of the Girl Guides and of the Brownie Pack.
1921 Unveiling of the War Memorial (194-1919) in the vestibule of the Church, 29th May.
Purchase of the Manse in Summerside Street
1922 Century Celebrations; The Church is renovated, reseated and redecorated. Service of reopening, Sunday Ist October.
1925 The Kirk Session grants the request of the Boy Reserves now called the Junior Section of the Boys Brigade-to have their own Pews in the Church
1929 Union of the Church of Scotland and of the United Free Church of Scotland. Junction Road (U.F.) Church becomes a congregation of the re-united Church of Scotland. The Bonnington Road District becomes officially the Parish of Junction Road Church.
1929 Formation of the Badminton Club
1931 The Communion munion Table, the Baptismal Font and Lectern are
dedicated as a Memorial to the Rev. James M. Scott D.D. (Minister of
Junction Road from 1887 to 1927), Sunday 18th January.
1932 Branch of the Woman’s Guild is formed.
1951 Formation of the Men’s Club.
1952 Formation of the Country Dance Club
1955 Formation of the Bowling Club
The Church is re-decorated. At the service of re-opening three Communion Chairs are dedicated “To the glory of God, in memory of the Fallen and in thanksgiving for those who returned, 1939-1945”, Sunday, 16th October.
1961 The Hall’s are re-decorated
1963 Young wives and Mothers Fellowship is formed
1965 Electric heating is installed in the Upper Hall and the Mission Hall and
upper hall are re-floored
1968 Electric heating is installed I the Church Hall
1969 Electric heating is installed in the Church
1972 150th Anniversary preparations and celebrations. The Church is completely re-decorated, re-wired, and re-floored.

We-Ministers, Elders, Managers and Members of Junction Road Church-do not know what the future has in store for us as individuals and for us as a Congregation. Nevertheless, we have no fears and we are not afraid, for as the past and the present. So the future too belongs to God in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, and to-day, a forever.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Minister and Kirk Session of St Thomas-Junction Road Church. All rights acknowledged.

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