A Spirit of Optimism
Mr Hastie’s ministry, which started during the first year of peace, coincided with an increase in attendance and in giving as well as a renewed interest in all aspects of church life. Also, because Mr Hastie had been a Y.M.C.A. worker among the soldiers on the battlefields of France, he was in touch with what the returning service men were thinking and feeling. At his first Communion in June 1919, forty-eight new members were added to the roll and 356 communicants participated. The Communion season in December was marred by a distressing event that took place at the Preparatory Service on the Friday evening. As the congregation was about to sing the opening hymn Mrs Cochran, the wife of a former Session Clerk, collapsed and died. The minister decided to abandon the service and the congregation quietly dispersed. At the Communion services that Sunday, eighty-six new members were added to the roll and 461 communicants participated.
Early in the new ministry a decision had to be reached regarding a memorial to the men from the church who had fallen in the 1914 – 18 War. After much discussion it was decided to erect the memorial which now stands in the vestibule of the church.
There followed a period of intense activity at Trinity. In the spirit of optimism which prevailed, everything seemed possible and many of the projects which had been postponed because of the war were now implemented. These included: individual communion cups; better lighting for the church and halls; a pipe organ; improved hall accommodation and redecoration. A special fund was set up for the redecoration of the church and the installation of electric lighting. Later the fund was also used for a pipe organ and an extension to the church halls. The managers were able to record: “The first two charges on the fund, namely, the redecoration of the church and the lighting of the buildings with electricity have been fully met and a considerable balance carried forward.” The individual Communion cups were first used in 1922 and, to quote the Session’s report for that year: “The response towards making this most desirable change in the observance of our Holy Sacrament was so gratifying that we were able to use the cups, free of debt.”
Early in Mr Hastie’s ministry, the Session called for the revival of the weekly prayer meeting. Mr Hastie offered instead to conduct a service on Wednesday evenings during the winter months. This offer was accepted by the Session and on Tuesday 1st November 1921 these services were inaugurated when the Reverend George H. Morrison of Wellington Church, Glasgow occupied the pulpit. Although started on a Tuesday, the mid-week services continued on the traditional Wednesday and at the end of 1921 the elders were able to report: “The week night service which began with a visit by the Reverend Doctor H. Morrison of Wellington Church, Glasgow has so far been most successful. Still, after making allowance for the non attendance of some, the Session are not satisfied that all the members who could be present are with us on the Wednesday evenings and we hereby extend a cordial invitation to all who are free to join us in the study of the parables of our Lord.”
The Session reported that the work among the young people was flourishing. The Sunday School under Mr Mitchell Ramsay had 286 children and 26 teachers on the roll. The re-organised Primary Department, which met at 2pm, was proving a great success under the leadership of Miss Lexie Gray and Miss Margaret Mitchell. The Junior Bible Class under the guidance of Miss N.B. Craig had 85 members on the roll while the Senior Bible Class, taught by the minister, had 128 members. The Junior Choir and Musical Association with Mr Alexander Mitchell as their leader, brought honour to Trinity when they won a silver medal at the Edinburgh Music Festival despite a busy programme organising Kinderspiels in the Town Hall, giving concerts in Renfrew and Paisley and leading the praise at the quarterly Children’s Services. There was also a lively Band of Hope, under the leadership of Mr Peter Reid, with 200 members on the roll.
At this time, there was a demand for more week night activities and so, in 1920, a company of Girl Guides was formed with Miss N.B. Craig as Captain and Miss Annie Murdoch as Lieutenant. The Patrol Leaders were Miss V.N. Bradley, Miss Rae Grant, Miss Jean Law, Miss Margaret Mitchell, Miss Barbara McQueen and Miss Jean Taylor. Thirty-eight girls enrolled at the first meeting on 14th January 1920 and that number quickly rose to over fifty. Colours, which had been presented – the Union Flag by the minister and the Company Colours by the Kirk Session – were dedicated at a special church parade on 24th October 1920.
In 1921, a troop of Boy Scouts was formed with Mr A.M. Ferguson as Scoutmaster and Mr James S. Ritchie and Mr Alex McCracken as Assistant Scoutmasters. They met for the first time in September 1921. The first Patrol Leaders were Mr William Calderwood and Mr John Gray and there were 25 boys on the roll. The troop’s colours were presented to the Scouts by the elders and managers and dedicated at a church parade on Sunday 17th June 1923, the day on which the Reverend Robert B. Hastie took his farewell of Trinity Church.
One of the most important steps taken by Mr Hastie during his ministry was the introduction of the weekly freewill offering scheme. This had first been considered at a Session Meeting as early as February 1920, but it was not until June 1923 that the Preses was able to report that the weekly freewill offering scheme was in operation and that about 280 members had subscribed. By the time that this announcement was made, however, Mr Hastie had received and accepted a call from St Andrew’s Church, Blairgowrie where he remained till he retired due to failing health shortly before his death. The number on the roll at the end of Mr Hastie’s ministry was 879 and the stipend £400 per annum.
The congregation was again without a minister and, for a second time, the Reverend W. Risk Thomson was appointed as Interim Moderator. A vacancy committee was appointed and groups went off to hear the sixteen candidates preach. After the committee had heard them all, a short leet of four ministers was drawn up. It consisted of the Reverend Robert Elliott MA, Oban; the Reverend H.A. Whitelaw, Burnbank; the Reverend Charles Simmers BD, Brechin and the Reverend R.L. Bain MA, Denny all of whom preached before the congregation though Mr Bain withdrew his application after preaching. At a Congregational Meeting on the 25th September 1923, the Reverend Robert Elliott was elected by a majority and was sent a unanimous call. When all the formalities were completed before both the Paisley and Lorne Presbyteries, Mr Elliott was inducted on 22nd November 1923 and very soon the new minister, with his rich Irish brogue and his quiet friendly manner, endeared himself to all.
Mr Elliott soon found that he had landed into a very busy kirk where there had been no lull in the activity even during the vacancy. At a Session Meeting held on 5th October 1923, a letter was read from the Organ Fund Committee asking the Session to call a meeting of the congregation to hear a report of the work done by that committee and to give them permission to make the necessary alterations and proceed with the installation of the pipe organ. The meeting was held on 16th October and Mr Joseph Bedgood, Clerk to the Organ Fund Committee, reported that his committee had engaged Mr Herbert Walton, organist of the Glasgow Cathedral, as their adviser and that they had decided on an organ to be built by William Hill, Norman and Beard at a cost of £1300. A further £120 would be required to cover the cost of a new pulpit and the other necessary alterations. The Organ Fund Committee’s report was accepted and permission was given to proceed with the installation of the pipe organ when it was ready for delivery. The rededication of the church and the dedication of the organ and pulpit, which was designed and built by Mr Archibald Ferguson, took place at special services on Sunday the 7th September 1924 and another of Trinity’s dreams was realised.
Another outstanding event in the life of the congregation was a visit from Dr. Inch, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the U.F. Church. On the afternoon of Sunday 14th December 1924, Dr Inch visited the Sunday School where he spoke to the children and, in the evening, he preached to a full church before meeting with the office bearers. The visit was a memorable one and was much appreciated by young and old alike.
During 1925 concern was expressed about the number of children failing to attend Sunday School and it was decided that the elders, when visiting their districts, should take a census of children of school age. Mr Elliott urged the elders to pay special attention to this as it was of vital importance in the life of the congregation. In the same year the Reverend Robert Elliott MA was appointed Moderator of the Paisley Presbytery.
On the 3rd November 1925 the Session had its first discussion on the question of a union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Church of Scotland. Consultations had been going on for some time and certain questions relating to the union had been sent down by the General Assembly to Kirk Sessions and congregations for their consideration.
There followed a special meeting of the congregation on 1st December at which the Reverend J. Maxwell Blair from Paisley gave a resume of the position that had been reached by the representatives of the two Churches. There was a strong minority group within the United Free Church, ably and forcefully led by the Reverend James Barr BD, and that minority group had followers within Renfrew Trinity Church. However, after a full and free discussion, the congregation decided by a majority that “barriers to union had been removed”. The first step towards union had been taken.
At a Session Meeting on 29th December 1925, a change in the time of worship was suggested but the proposal to have an evening instead of an afternoon service was rejected – the majority was not yet ready for such a change.
On 4th May 1926 Miss Craig, the Captain of the Girl Guide Company, was given permission to form a Brownie Pack to cater for girls younger than the age of entry into the Guides. The pack was formed in September and was under the leadership of Miss Gladys Skeoch. In December, Mr A.M. Ferguson was granted permission by the Session to form a Cub Pack for boys under Scout age and during the same year he also formed a Rover Scout Troop to cater for boys who had passed Scout age. This was a busy time for the Scouts for that year also saw the beginning of the Scout Pipe Band. A committee of parents gifted to the group three sets of bagpipes while a fourth set was presented by Mr Alexander Mitchell’s Junior Choir. Two side drums, a bass drum and a silver cup for patrol competitions were presented by Mr William Tod, Mr Archibald Ferguson (the Scoutmaster’s father) and Mr Robert Elliott respectively. It is not surprising that at this time there was another reference in the minutes to the need for more hall accommodation but the matter was taken no further at this point.
At a Session Meeting on 2nd November 1927 Mr Robert Moffat, the church officer, intimated his intention to resign at the end of the year. Mr Moffat had been church officer for about thirty years and had grown old in the job. He had been a member of the church for a much longer period than that and had been a Sunday School teacher before becoming church officer. He was a character and a strict disciplinarian as anyone caught whistling on church premises had reason to remember. His Irish wit was well known, a typical example being when a young minister waiting in the vestry one Sunday morning before the service asked which of the two services was better attended. Mr Moffat replied quickly: “It aw depends hoo ye dae in the mornin’ laddie”. His favourite threat to the choir if they were slow in going into church, was: “Come oan! Come oan! Or I’ll pit the minister in the pulpit afore ye”. The events of the day on which he put the minister in the pulpit for the last time brought a lump to many members’ throats. Mr Moffat had seen the minister into the pulpit, followed him slowly up the pulpit stair and snecked the door. Slowly step by step he came down again – he was an old man now and lame with rheumatism. When he reached the choir platform he was facing the congregation and, with the greatest simplicity, he drew himself up and bowed to the congregation then, turning, he walked to his seat for the last time. All this was done with a simple dignity that would have done credit to an actor portraying the incident on stage. A replacement for Mr Moffat was not found immediately so, on the following Saturday afternoon, some of the managers turned up to stoke the furnace. To their surprise, they found the fire blazing away. Bob had resigned, but the church had to be warm for Sunday. Truly Robert Moffat loved his kirk.
It was bad enough to lose one faithful servant but worse was to come. On the 19th December 1927, Mr Elliott intimated to the Session that he had received a call from Stow United Free Church and that he intended to accept it, indicating at the same time that he was making the change on health grounds: his health had been affected by his service in the Great War. At the same Session Meeting, a letter was read from Mr Henry Sommerville, the church organist, tendering his resignation and so the church found itself without a minister, without an organist and without a church officer. This unique situation was a matter for comment in the daily newspapers and the question was being asked: “What is wrong with Trinity Church?” However, events proved that there was nothing wrong with Trinity. On the 5th February a new church officer, Mr Robert K. Frazer, was appointed and by the 12th February a new organist and choirmaster, Mr William Izatt, was in place.
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