Diverse, inspirational and imaginative - Moderator reflects on the life of Glasgow churches

Thriving churches are ones that dynamically re-imagine how they engage with local communities, the Moderator of the General Assembly has said.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning said it could be a costly and demanding process but firmly believes it is the way forward.

He made the remarks after an inspiring 10-day visit to churches and community projects in the Glasgow Presbytery area.

Right Rev Dr Derek Browning at Cathcart Old Parish Church, Glasgow.

Presbytery Clerk, Rev George Cowie, said it was a “great pleasure” to show Dr Browning the imaginative work that is taking place, not least with people disadvantaged or overlooked by society.

He added that the Church was making a "great difference" to the lives of many people and Dr Browning’s visit helped affirm that in the minds of people involved.

Writing in his own words, the Moderator, who is taking time off from his role as minister of Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh while he represents the Church at home and abroad, reflects on his trip.

“After I got over all the 'wise man travelling from the East' jokes, the visit to Glasgow Presbytery has been marked by diversity, imagination and overwhelming generosity.

Dr Browning chats with children at Church House in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow


“The enormous size of Glasgow is reflected in the huge variety of churches, styles of worship and opportunities for service.

“In a secular world, where people are not so much hostile to faith but unaware of it, the churches that are not only going to survive but thrive are the ones that are seeking imaginative, and sometimes sacrificial, ways to re-engage with their communities.

“The most exciting projects are the ones that have reinvented what it means to be a parish church.

“It's costly, it's demanding, it's not without its challenges, but it is the way ahead for the Church of Scotland.

“Particularly inspiring was work being done in Govanhill, Bridgeton, Springburn and Castlemilk.

“With areas of great poverty, diverse ethnicity, refugees and asylum seekers, and issues about how to build resilience and esteem in people who feel they have been left behind or devalued, the churches, in partnership with others sometimes, give affirmation and dignity, alongside practical help and care.

“It was good to see Church House in Bridgeton providing a welcome for young children and families, work also echoed in CrossReach's Daisy Chain project in Govanhill.

Govan Hill
Dr Browning and Rev Dr Elijah Wade Smith, minister of Queen’s Park Govanhill Church, and members


“Castlemilk Parish Church's Self-Reliant Group for women and men enables people from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve their confidence, skills and income.

“The Gorbals Parish Church, relocated and rebuilt, provides community space for a staggering number of groups who need room to face some of the challenges of living in a city centre.

“Springburn Parish Church hosts 'Singing for the Brain', a group helping people living with dementia and their carers, relive memories through song and music.

“The Lodging House Mission, supported by dozens of congregational volunteers across Glasgow, has provided Christian care and compassion for over 100 years for women and men on the margins of society through homelessness.

“Equally important has been the establishment of strong, inclusive and flexible chaplaincy work at the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital where support and spiritual care is offered to people of all faiths and none.

“A highlight was seeing the chaplaincy work at Knightswood Secondary school where chaplains blend into the life of the school, not only in traditional religious ways, but helping young people and teaching staff look at a wide range of moral and ethical issues in contemporary society.

“The developing chaplaincy in the enormous Glasgow City College has an interfaith team who work together to support students and staff.

Musicians who study at the Conservatoire performed at a concert in Greenbank Church, Glasgow, in aid of school rebuilding work in Ekwendeni, Malawi


“A particular treat was to see the Scottish Dance Academy at Knightswood, where some stunningly talented young people are trained in classical and modern dance, and musical theatre.

“St George's Tron Parish Church, from a difficult history, has emerged as a forward-looking, community-serving centre for worship, social engagement and artistic excellence.

“This beautiful space in the heart of the city centre is host to a well-run cafe, the Street Pastors, and the wonderful artwork of Iain Campbell.

“Iain's current projects include paintings of stories from the Gospel of Luke, a vibrant and thought-provoking contribution to new ways of engaging people all faiths and none with the message of the gospel.

Dr Browning's Glasgow survival pack. With members of Castlemilk Parish Church

“It has been a privilege and delight to be hosted by Glasgow Presbytery.

“And to have the opportunity to see places where ministry is working well, and others where hard questions need to be asked, has been both honest and refreshing.”