From Floods to Flagpoles: St Andrew's Kirk, Newcastle
By Jane Farr
Did you know there was a Church of Scotland which is not in Scotland but is further north than some which are? The same Church of Scotland has to compete with another 26 Christian denominations along with seven non-English-speaking Christian Churches…. and its linked charge is 250 miles away!
Who are we?
We are St Andrew's Kirk in Newcastle upon Tyne.
St Andrew's Kirk is the remaining legacy of 500 years of Scottish Presbyterian worship in the city, including a preaching stint by John Knox. We are the only Church of Scotland for 60 miles to the north or west and 200 to the south; that uniqueness gives us an opportunity - an opportunity to promote our `Scottishness` to the outside world.
We are slowly establishing our Kirk as a `go to` organisation for comment,interviews on all things Scottish in the city, or even just some Scottish accents for the radio; Burns Suppers, St Andrew's Day, Scottish Rugby - can we comment? Of course we can.Every time we give an interview we are raising awareness that there is a Church of Scotland in Newcastle and therefore a spiritual, and secular, home for exile Scots.
However this opportunity for outreach has come from adversity. For St Andrew's, the last few years have been punctuated with practical challenges including being overcome with floodwater, not once but twice within ten weeks. Just as we were starting to recover from one deluge, the rains came down again, flooding our newly dried-out hall and turning our garden into an outdoor pool.Aware of our legacy, we could not abandon the region's one remaining outpost of the Church of Scotland, so we rolled up our sleeves and saw it as an opportunity for teamwork and witness within the congregation.
Now three years later we have a secure, updated building with modern facilities - and with the facilities have come new opportunities: Brownies, keep-fit and dancing groups now use our hall and it gives us a modern venue for the congregation to come together socially.
But it is our garden which has become a focal point for the community. A greenhouse helps us bring on seedlings and young plants and a paved Celtic Cross gives an identity.The gate is always open and with seats and a newly constructed fence, we offer a safe haven for local people who live and work in the surrounding area to come and sit and socialise or just contemplate.When members talk to others about the Kirk we often hear "Oh the Church with the lovely garden" or "I've often noticed the Celtic Cross as I've walked past."
But our garden is not just for the future, through our Garden of Remembrance it is a memorial to the past and the people who have helped shape our congregation.
But work is never complete - our flagpole has `fallen down` and so we are no longer welcomed by the Saltire …. so we must roll-up our sleeves again to find another flagpole and get it installed.
Despite setbacks big and small we are a congregation committed to fulfilling our Vision Statement: To be a vibrant, growing, Christian community providing Spiritual care and love for all.We hope to be here for another 500 years.
Services begin at 10.45 a.m. every Sunday and we share fellowship together after morning worship with tea, coffee and occasional lunches.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion is held on the second Sundays of February, June and October.
Our Kirk in Newcastle upon Tyne is linked with St Columba's, Pont Street, London; the Minister of the linked charge is Rev Angus McLeod and our local Minister is Rev Dorothy Lunn.
If you would like to write a profile of your congregation please get in touch.