Renfrew Trinity Church

Home » Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Chapter 7

Towards War


When the Reverend Richard Robertson BD accepted a call from St Clement’s Church, Aberdeen the Presbytery appointed the Reverend John MacKinnon MA of St John’s Church, Paisley as Interim Moderator and the Reverend J.L.Craig MA, Senior Minister of Queen’s Park West Church, Glasgow as locum tenens.

At the close of Mr Robertson’s ministry the stipend had been £500 per annum and the congregation agreed that the stipend of the new minister should be set at £450 per annum. On Sunday 25th September 1932, a vacancy committee was appointed and, without delay, they set off to hear candidates. So well and so diligently did the members of the committee carry out their task that, by the 9th January 1933, they were able to report back to the congregation. The familiar question was put: “Are you prepared to elect?” They unanimously agreed to proceed to an election and the Reverend William Barclay BD, probationer, was elected without dissent. The call was signed by 574 members and 64 adherents. Mr Barclay was handed his first quarter’s stipend in the traditional manner: his ministry at Trinity had begun. He was ordained and inducted on 22nd February 1933. It was considered by some a bold step on Mr Barclay’s part to come as a probationary minister to a congregation of over a thousand, but events proved the wisdom of his decision and of the congregation’s choice.

Mr Barclay had been an outstanding student and he had such powers of exposition that it was no surprise to the congregation that he developed into a preacher of national repute. Much was to happen, however, between the time the young probationer preached for his first kirk and the time when the same man, in his maturity, was counting his audience in hundreds of thousands.

Mr Barclay had come to Trinity in the middle of a world slump in trade. It was a time of widespread unemployment and the congregation, many of whom were experiencing financial difficulties themselves, agreed to take up a special collection for an Unemployed Clothing Fund. In spite of the Depression, there were still members who could afford to give special gifts to their church. Mr and Mrs William Tod presented praise boards and a reading desk for use at Communion and Mr and Mrs Robert Findlay gifted a portable set of vessels for use by the minister when dispensing home Communion. An example of how ideas change over the years was evident when the Session decided in November 1935 to use non-alcoholic wine at Communion. This proposal met with no opposition yet, when the same proposal had been made forty years earlier, it had caused quite a stir.

In February 1935, the Reverend William Barclay BD was selected to deliver the “Bruce Lectures” for the year 1936-1937 at Trinity College, Glasgow. This selection demonstrated their appreciation of Mr Barclay’s scholarship.

At a Congregational Meeting held on 18th May 1936, it was decided to clean and re-decorate the church and to install new electric lights at a total cost of £1200. To allow this work to be carried out, the church was closed for the months of July and August 1936 and the church services were held in the new Masonic hall in Queen Street.

At the Session Meeting on the 14th October 1936, approval was given for two new clubs – a Stamp Club and a Football Club, in both of which Mr Barclay took an active part. Despite all his other activities, he also found time to conduct the Woman’s Guild Choir which proved very successful.

On the 11th September 1939, a number of gifts were presented to mark the re-opening of the church. From the Woman’s Guild, a new pulpit bible; from Mr and Mrs Tod, a new communion table and from the managers, a new clock for the church which was described at the time as not “a very good time keeper, nor for that matter, a very good time teller, since it isn’t easy to read”.

For the second time in the history of the church and in the lifetime of many of its members, the world was soon to be shaken by a world war. At the outbreak of war, Mr Barclay presented himself at the nearest recruiting office but, owing to his defective hearing, he was not accepted for active service.

In previous wars, those at home had worried about the safety of their loved ones who were away fighting but in the Second World War, because of aerial warfare, those at home would be in danger too. The coming of the blackout was the first indication of this changed situation. The immediate reaction of the Kirk Session was to close down all week night activities. This ban proved to be only temporary as it soon became obvious that an attempt would have to be made to carry on the work of the church. The first step taken, therefore, was the fitting of blinds to all the windows in the lesser hall, cloakrooms, kitchen and corridor and this allowed the evening services to be held in the lesser hall during that first winter. During 1940 the windows in the church were fitted with blinds too making it possible to hold the Sunday evening services there.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, two of the local schools were taken over by the military authorities for the training of recruits. As a result Trinity Church Hall became a makeshift school and the children continued to receive their education in this hall for most of the war years. At the same time, there was a need to provide somewhere in the burgh for the servicemen and women to spend their off-duty hours. A canteen, staffed by members of all four Church of Scotland congregations, was set up in the large hall at Trinity. The canteen proved popular and was open seven nights a week as long as there were recruits in Renfrew.

Back to Chapter 6  or  Continue to Chapter 8

%d bloggers like this: