The History of Leith

February 9, 2005

Services in the Churchyard

It has been stated that during the 18th century the communion was dispensed in the churchyard, but it is doubtful if this is the case.

The belief originated from statements in the Records about setting up tents in the church yard, an example of which occurs on 5th April 1697. That Minute states that the Treasurer was ordered to set up the tent in the Kirkyard, and as a certain party in North Leith had promised a sail cloth for the purpose a messenger was sent thither to bring it. But this Minute coincides with other arrangements, such as clearing out the seats in the church and setting up the tables, shewing that the tent was made use of for preachings when the church itself was not available. The tent was more probably an erection for the ministers, in which they met and from which they preached in succession to the crowds gathered around on the grass. Henry Gray Graham tells us that meetings in the open air had a keen fascination for the people, for they were redolent of memories of the old days of persecution when they had sat on the moors or hillsides listening to the inspired words of covenanting ministers. The lees popular preachers were kuown as Yuil ministers, for when they appeared the crowds drew off to the ale barrels to refresh themselves. When, however, gospel men stood up, the throngs sitting around were large and enraptured and gave way to sighs and groans and tears. Such men were known as Kail-pot preachers because their thrilling appeals kept the people in rapt attention till night, all forgetful of the Sabbath kail simmering in the pot at home.
What kind of sermons were delivered to these congregations we can learn from a perusal of old religious books which abounded in the homes of our grandparents where they were read and re-read until the pages became worn and disfigured. Now they have ceased to be of interest and lie discarded and forsaken on the shelves of second-hand book shops. One such book is available for perusal here, a volume of the sermons of the Rev. John Logan, one of the ministers of South Leith, a poet and preacher of fame in his day though his career had an unfortunate ending.
This sketch has been occupied with details which have perhaps missed the spirit and meaning of the communion service, but it may help the young people of the church to under stand the subject more fully in the hope that thereby their appreciation of the service may be increased.
Source-South Leith Records

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