Inverness church continues to grow from strength to strength

It is a church without an organ and meets in a special needs school.

The congregation worships more with contemporary songs than traditional hymns, accompanied by an energetic praise band.

Inverness St Columba Church
Easter fun at Inverness St Columba New Charge.

The minister wears an open neck shirt and regularly interrupts his sermons to ask the congregation questions and have a lively discussion.

It may be an unusual set-up but Inverness St Columba New Charge has seen its congregation increase in size by more than 230% since its inception.

Over half of the attendees are under 40, thirty of them are under 18 and there’s one or two in their 80s.

Modern

Minister, Rev Scott McRoberts, anticipates that the congregation, established nine years ago following the closure of St Columba High Church in Bank Street, will continue to grow from strength to strength.

The 36-year old said: “We are born from the sale of an old church in the city centre because what was needed was a church in a new community housing estate.

“We started out with a blank canvas and in the beginning around 30 people attended but these days we are up to about 100.

“The form of gathering and worship is very modern and relaxed in style.

“We don’t have an organ, we have a modern praise band instead.

“It is a very different image of the Church of Scotland from what a lot of people who live in the parish might remember from their childhood.”

Rev Scott McRoberts
Rev Scott McRoberts

Mr McRoberts said the average Sunday service begins with people of all ages gathering together to sing lively songs and listen to a Bible reading.

“During my sermons, I like to stop a few times and ask people questions and think or talk about how we live out what we’re hearing” he added.

“A lot of the sermons are focused on knowing and loving Jesus and how he shapes our families, workplaces and the culture around us.

“It is stuff that connects with the day-to-day lives of the folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are raising kids and working in professions.

“We’re interested in God’s answers to today’s identity questions, and our church’s vision is we are people discovering and sharing that life in Jesus is infinitely fuller.

“And more and more people are coming and believing that message and sharing it.”

Flourishing

Mr McRoberts said the congregation, which meets in Drummond School, is currently raising money to build new premises, which will cost about £2 million.

The chosen site is on land off Dores Road, between Tesco supermarket and the River Ness.

The minister said: “We have raised about half of the £2 million needed and what we want to do is build a modern building which is not just for the church to gather on a Sunday morning but for the entire community.

“At a time where there is not a lot of community space in the area, lots of houses going up and people experiencing loneliness, wounded mental health and huge pressures of busyness carried on the shoulders of individuals, we would like to enable the development of a flourishing community.”

Mr McRoberts said the church used social media and its website but only as a “first point of contact”.

“In a world where Facebook likes seem to be becoming more important than actually ‘do you like me?’, face to face relationships are very important,” he added.

“Quite a lot of families are isolated – they are going to work, doing the school run and coming home.

“We still want to be with each other and shake hands, share hugs and share love in that way.

“Part of the wholeness of life God gives us is a physical community, a God-family called church where people are together.”

Sharing faith

Mr McRoberts said the congregation’s story is a “counter cultural narrative” to the idea that more and more people live their lives online.

“People are finding that friendship and community shared in gathering is bringing greater fullness to their lives,” he added.

“There’s a growing role of online church and I wouldn't knock it - it’s reaching people in ways that nobody else is.

"But for our part, in the growing suburbs of Inverness, we’re offering a community of seeking, searching, asking questions and sharing faith in Jesus that we’d love to see more and more people keep joining us in.”