The Present Ministry
On Sunday 23rd August, the Reverend Stuart C. Steell BD preached as sole nominee and his call was signed by three hundred members and twelve adherents. He was duly ordained and admitted by the Presbytery of Paisley to the Church and Parish of Renfrew Trinity on 23rd September 1992. This was Mr Steell’s first charge and, from the start, he responded to each challenge with vigour and enthusiasm.
The first few months of the new ministry was a busy time for the minister, the officebearers and the congregation. First of all, a creche was started up to give young parents the chance to attend morning worship. Also members and visitors were encouraged to use the new pew cards to pass on information to the minister or to ask him to make contact. Mission Praise books were introduced and used alongside the Church Hymnary and the New International Version Bible was adopted for all readings. A new Bible study group – the Mid-week Fellowship – was started up in April 1993 as was the Youth Fellowship which was to cater for young people aged sixteen and over. Finally, a new noticeboard was erected at the front of the church displaying details of the organisations as well as the services thus extending a welcome to others to come along and share in the secular as well as the spiritual life of the church.
When Mr Jack Gardner, the Session Clerk, gave his report at the ABM in March 1993 he remarked that “a good preacher is good to have because he keeps the congregation together; a good pastor is well liked because he looks after the sick and the needy but, if you have both, you’ve got something out of this world. In our new minister we have both”. Mr Gardner was to be proved right because, from the start, Mr Steell preached with conviction often through a series of sermons – “Heroes of Faith” or “Following Philippians”, for example – and when he spoke to the young people he used stories and illustrations to communicate the gospel to them in ways they could understand. Similarly, people of all ages in need of advice or comfort found him approachable, a ready listener and a source of wise counsel.
In the spring of 1993, district teas were held after the morning services to allow the minister to get to know members of the congregation as quickly as possible. These proved so popular that the organisations, on a rota basis, have provided tea and coffee each Sunday since then to allow an opportunity for fellowship.
Outreach was to feature strongly in this ministry and the first leaflet drop in the parish was arranged for the August of that year. A letter was sent out to all homes with a list of the organisations and their meeting times. At Christmas time, another new idea that captured the imagination of “children” of all ages was the Jar of Grace appeal on behalf of UNICEF. An approach was also made to Wimpy Homes regarding having information about church activities included in the official welcome pack given out to potential house-buyers in the new Nethergreen Estate which is within Trinity’s parish boundaries.
The Session decided that the time was right for another Stewardship Campaign and, as a first step, a committee was formed. A team of volunteers went out with information to members who were asked about their commitment to the church. The campaign was voted a “great success; many in the congregation expressed their thanks for the friendly visits from the teams that called. There was a noticeable increase in collections during May (giving increased by 30%) and a good response to the plea to take out or increase Bonds of Annuity”. It also provided useful information about how members felt they could use their talents. A good number of members said, for example, that they would be willing to visit the elderly and housebound and these volunteers were later put to good use when the Care Committee was established.
A number of social events were held in 1994. The first of these was a Family Night held on the 1st April when families enjoyed themselves playing games and tackling quizzes. Later that month, those who had joined the church in the last two years were invited to a New Members’ Night at which they were introduced to some of the officebearers and learned interesting facts about Trinity. Then in the autumn, members and friends were invited to a Harvest Lunch. An Ian Whyte Concert which was held on 28th October was well attended with people, many of them young, coming from all over the Glasgow area to enjoy the music and learn from the lyrics.
The congregation showed their commitment again when members gave of their time and talents for major fund-raising initiatives. In 1993, Trinity Fayre realised the sum of £1,200, the four Lunch Café teams raised a total of £3,540 from September 1992 to August 1993 and £490 was collected at a Silent Auction. Between 1994 and 1995, the managers had to go to the congregation three times to get approval to spend large sums of money the first for the upgrading of the heating system in the church and halls and then again to buy a machine to replace the old photocopier. In 1995 a new kitchen with a six-ring gas cooker and two new windows was planned at a cost of £4,150.
While this was happening the adult and youth organisations continued to flourish. The Rainbow Guide Unit, which started up at the beginning of the year, catered for girls who had not yet reached Brownie age.
The year 1995 was milestone in Trinity’s history: it was the church’s 130th anniversary. On Friday 12th May, a Civic Reception for officebearers and members was held in the Town Hall and on the Sunday the Reverend David Carmichael from Lesmahagow was the guest preacher at a special service. The following Saturday there was a Buffet Supper for members in the church hall and the celebrations ended with a three day Flower Festival in the church.
Three interesting changes were introduced towards the end of the year. First of all the children of the Sunday School, who had not previously been present, occupied their usual place in the church on Communion Sundays. In October, a bookstall was established to make Christian books and stationery available to members and friends and in the following month a printed order of service was introduced.
The Session, ready to help where they saw a need, had decided earlier in the year that the money from one of the special collections should be sent to help the pupils from two schools in Jamaica where one of the church’s young members was working. The five hundred and fifty pounds collected in the Jars of Grace that Christmas was also sent there to buy equipment. Other special collections over the years have gone locally to Erskine Hospital, the Paisley Christian Action Centre, the Glasgow City Mission and the David Livingstone Centre and also further afield to Romania and Pakistan.
The first of Trinity’s “Bring Your Own Lunch” Sundays was held in February of 1996. Members and friends had the opportunity to relax, share their sandwiches and enjoy the company of others from the congregation. In May, planned to coincide with Christian Aid Week, the Youth Fellowship organised a Hunger Lunch where, to the envy of the majority who were having a bread and cheese lunch, a minority enjoyed a slap-up meal. The analogy was clear: millions of people in the world do not have enough to eat yet there are food mountains in the developed countries. On the 14th November Trinity’s new missionary partners, Bill and Catherine Seaman, visited the Mid-week Fellowship to talk about their work in the Murree School in Pakistan while, at a St. Andrew’s Night at the end of the month, there were games, quizzes and ceilidh dancing which brought members and friends of all ages together.
At the end of the year, the Youth Choir (formerly the “Junior Choir”) held its 10th Anniversary Concert. The Woman’s Guild had, as a pilot scheme, introduced an occasional afternoon meeting and, since this seemed to be popular, these afternoon meetings were now built into the syllabus as a regular feature. The Guild’s “sister” organisation – the Ladies’ Group – decided to disband but, in the autumn of 1996, the Women’s Fellowship had its inaugural meeting and the combination of interesting speakers and substantial suppers soon proved popular with women of all ages. Another innovation was the Summer Club which met each Sunday morning during the holiday period. Volunteers from the congregation gave the Sunday School teachers a welcome break enabling them to enjoy the preaching.
The Fayre in May had raised the sum of £1,300 and the amount collected in at the Lunch Café during the session had reached £3,858 but still the congregation responded generously when the managers appealed, in the autumn of 1996, for donations to pay for the re-tiling of the roof of the lesser hall. That Christmas, Jars of Grace were again filled – this time for UNICEF’s appeal to help children suffering from dehydration – and Trinity’s contribution was in excess of £750.
The year ended on a sad note, however: in December, the congregation learned of the death of one of Trinity’s highly respected former ministers, the Reverend W. Sinclair Armstrong BD.
A new form of outreach was planned for the spring: a visitation of homes in the immediate vicinity of the church. Introductory letters were sent out and then the visiting teams called issuing an invitation to two special services which were to be held later that month. As usual, a leaflet drop was carried out throughout the parish in December inviting parishioners to the Christmas Services.
The Lunch Café was still operating regularly on Thursdays and again made a significant contribution to church funds with nearly £4,000 being raised between October and May 1997. The first of the church barbecues was held in the manse garden to mark the start of the early summer services and the beginning of the annual Summer Club. One way in which the members showed their concern for the wider community that summer was by running a “Trinity Tea Day for Dementia Sufferers” in support of World Alzheimer’s Tea Day. This, as well as the church barbecue became a regular summer event.
Sunday 26th October was an important date in Trinity’s calendar as the church hosted the Renfrew 600 Songs of Praise that evening. Renfrew churches of all denominations were involved and the organist, Miss Susan Wilson, assisted by Mr Donald Kennedy and the Burgh Band accompanied the hymn singing. Among the evening’s favourites were: “Will your anchor hold”, “What a friend we have in Jesus”, “Thine be the glory” and “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah”. Following the service there was a buffet in the hall for guests. The original hope had been to attract six hundred people into the church and this was achieved. The evening was voted a great success by everyone who attended. A Youth Praise Concert was also planned as part of the Renfrew 600 celebrations. It was held to attract people in the sixteen to forty age group and tickets were sold throughout Renfrew to hear the Stuart Trotter Band.
A secular club which was revived around this time was the All-age Badminton Club which meets on Monday evenings throughout the winter months. This club has proved successful with players of all levels taking part.
An important issue discussed at the General Assembly that year was The Code of Practice for the Protection of Children and Young People within the Church of Scotland. A coordinator was appointed to oversee the implementation of the Code which was to affect everyone who worked with young people.
To enable the minister and officebearers to plan for the future, survey forms were issued to each member of the congregation. The information from the form was collated and Mr Steell preached a sermon on each of the five areas covered by the questionnaire while Session sub-committees looked at how the congregation’s needs could be addressed. At the same time invitations to a Re-dedication Service were sent out.
Trinity Fayre, on the 9th May 1998 was opened by Renfrew’s poet Walter McCorrisken who composed a poem for the occasion. Not only was the sum of £1,870 raised but working for the Fayre gave members and friends a common goal. Similarly, the four Lunch Café teams continued to provide the opportunity for members and friends to meet for fellowship over an inexpensive lunch. The Church of Scotland Guild, formerly known as the Woman’s Guild, bought a television and video to be used by the church’s organisations for educational purposes. To finish off the year, the elders organised a special lunch for the congregation.
On 15th September 1998, the Reverend Gilbert Drummond passed away. Mr Drummond, who had retired in 1988 on the advice of his doctor, had served Trinity for twenty-one years. The large turnout at his funeral in Largs was evidence of the high esteem in which he was held.
A Flower Festival – “Towards 2000 AD” – was planned for the autumn at which some of the important events of the last two thousand years would be depicted in flowers. The materials to be displayed at the accompanying exhibition would show the influence of Jesus, His Church and His Word over the same period while a Millennium quiz was made up to challenge members and friends. Finally, Mr Steell planned to preach a series of five sermons on the theme “Y 2000?”
By the end of 1998, the Session was already making plans to mark the Millennium. It was agreed that a plaque be erected in the church next to the one bearing the names of all Trinity’s ministers. The inscription was to read:
This plaque is gratefully dedicated in Trinity Church to
Those whose praises go so largely unsung but without whose
regular attendance, constant dependability, faithful intercession,
love, unstinted generosity in the giving of time, money and
strength the ministry of the Lord’s Church would not be possible.”
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”.
Philippians Ch1 v3
1862 –Present Day
The New Year saw the start of a new project: it was decided that a lending library should be run alongside the bookstall, enabling members to borrow Christian books and tapes.
At the start of February, Bill and Catherine Seaman visited Trinity again, this time showing a video about their work in Pakistan and, later that month, a second New Members Night was held. For some months, discussions had been taking place about a Saturday evening Youth Club for young people between the ages of 8 and 16 and, in August, it met for the first time.
Channels of communication are vitally important and month by month, the magazine “Trinity Topics” kept members informed of what was happening in the church. Also, Mr Steell sent out two newsletters, one in March the other in September, to members detailing the church’s financial position.
The Committee of Management, always concerned with maintaining and making improvements to the church, the halls and the grounds, decided to upgrade the church heating and install new radiators in the large hall. At the start of the summer, the central lights in the church were replaced and later the lights under the balconies.
During the present ministry, the idea of the church as a “family” has been emphasised and no where is this seen so clearly as in the annual congregational outings in June which have been to such diverse places as Linlithgow, Kilsyth, Strathaven, Troon, Falkirk and the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre.
A former minister of Trinity when he found his flock looking back like Lot’s wife used to cry, “Hats off to the past, coats off to the future.” In the preceding pages we have taken our hats off to the past, and now we are going to ask YOU to take YOUR coat off for the future thus ensuring the message from Trinity will continue to be heard into the next millennium.
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