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Chapter Three

Chapter 3

Expansion and Extension

 

Towards the end of the 19th century, it had become apparent to the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church that a union would be beneficial to both, especially since there was so little to divide them. Consequently there followed meetings between representatives of the two churches culminating in a union in 1900 under the name of the United Free Church of Scotland. As a result, there were now two United Free Churches in Renfrew and so, on the 7th September 1900, the Session agreed to recommend to the congregation the name of “Trinity” for the U.P. Kirk. The recommendation was adopted and the Renfrew U.P. Church became Trinity United Free Church and, at the same time, the former Free Church became the North United Free Church.

This was a period of maximum missionary effort and Mr Ogilvie, a divinity student, was appointed to the church in 1893. He married a member of the congregation and eventually became Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of England. It must be remembered that the missionary effort was in addition to the normal church activities.

Meanwhile, the membership had grown to such an extent by the 1890’s that the managers were reporting that they could not find seats for all the members and they began to look for ways of increasing the seating capacity. For a time the situation was eased by providing additional seating in the back gallery. There is no record of the exact size of the original gallery, but appearances suggest that it was simply the area above the front porch (the “Laird’s Laft” as it would have been called when the church was built) and, by the simple expedient of extending it forwards and sideways into the church to its present size, a number of extra seats were provided. Today, different sizes of panels can be seen along the front of this gallery – eight narrow ones in the centre (apart from the clock panel) and four broader ones on either side. The combined width of the narrow panels corresponds to the width of the recess in the back wall or, in other words, to the width of the porch. The extended gallery was opened for use on Sunday the 16th October 1892.

The last ten years of the 19th century must have been a period of great activity in the U.P. Kirk because not only was the gallery extended at a cost of £80 but plans were afoot for the building of what is now the large hall at a cost of £850 and of the mission hall at Moorpark at a cost of about £800. The foundation stone of the large hall was laid in October 1892 and the hall was opened for use on the 6th May 1893 by Thos. Anderson, Preses, while the new hall for Moorpark was ready by 15th May 1898.

By the year 1900 the membership had risen to over 500 and was still growing due, in part, to a successful ministry but also to the growth in population brought about by the burgh’s increasing trade. Soon all the additional seats provided by the extended gallery had been taken up and, at a joint meeting of the elders and managers, it was unanimously agreed to recommend to the congregation that plans should be drawn up for a further church extension. At a meeting of the congregation held on 29th December 1902, the decision was taken to accept the plans drawn up by the architect and proceed with the work.

These plans provided for an additional length of twenty feet to the existing building and, for this twenty feet, there were to be transepts recessed to nine feet at the ground level and thirteen and a half feet at gallery level, the difference being in a four and a half foot wide covered passage in the church grounds. This extension would have provided 374 additional seats giving a total seating capacity of 908 seats.

Additional accommodation consisting of a session room, ladies’ and gents’ cloakrooms and a vestry was to be provided at the back of the church with a corridor to connect the church to the existing hall. In the plans, there was also an arched space behind the pulpit for the pipe organ that the congregation hoped would be installed at a later date. At the Annual Congregational Meeting in January of the following year, it was decided to take a plebiscite of the congregation on the question of introducing an organ but when the schedules of work were presented to the Building Committee in May it was found that the total cost of the extension, excluding the organ, amounted to £2700 which was more than they were able to afford.

The plans were returned to the architect and an amended plan, submitted in September, showed a total of 260 additional seats at an estimated cost of £1650, excluding the provision of a pipe organ. Although no records exist confirming this new scheme, it appears to have been adopted and carried out leaving the church as it is today. The church was closed between Sunday 20th March and Sunday 6th November 1904 to allow the work to be carried out. A Session minute of 13th October 1904 stated: “agreed to convey the thanks of the Session of Trinity U.P. Church to the Deacon’s Court of the North U.P. Church for the use of that building during the extension of Trinity Church”.

The memorial stone of the extended church was laid by Mr William Brown of Renfrew on the 9th June 1904 and the formal re-opening of the church took place on Saturday 5th November of the same year when Mr George Hutchison, the only son of Trinity’s first minister, performed the ceremony. Meanwhile, the normal work of the church was being carried on with vigour and a large measure of success. One record refers to a Sunday School of 307, a Bible Class of 200 and a request from the Sunday School for permission to form a company of the Boys’ Brigade. About the turn of the century, a Junior Choir was formed under the joint leadership of Mrs Hogarth and Mr Alexander Mitchell.

Even while busying themselves with so much work in their own church, the members still had time to help a sister church for the records show that the ladies of the congregation organised a stall – called the “Trinity Church Stall” – at a bazaar being held by the Auld Kirk to raise funds for the building of the halls in Glebe Street. In addition, the minister of Trinity still had time to sit on the local School Board and to conduct a class in shorthand.

The congregation was looking to the future, too, because at a Session Meeting held on 9th May 1905 it was agreed “to take up the question of the introduction of individual communion cups”. The next meeting, however, was concerned with the more urgent business of the call to Mr Hogarth from Fairfield Church, Liverpool and it was, in fact, nearly twenty years before the cups were finally introduced.

Perhaps the best way to finish this part of the story would be to set down in print Mr Hogarth’s last pastoral letter to the congregation:

 

“My Dear People,

This has been an eventful year in our congregational history. For the second time in my own ministry, we have added considerably to the seating capacity of our church. At least we may now invite the stranger freely within our gate and, when so many strangers are coming in to our midst, this is a most desirable privilege. There are scores of families in our community who are only waiting for the invitation. Will you not give it or direct your minister that he may give it?

It was the fond hope of many that, once our new church was ready for occupation, heads of homes would see to it that they worshipped in it with their families with a regularity and to an extent that it was scarcely possible before. I notice with pleasure that some parents are doing so, but there is abundant room for improvement here. I cannot tell the disappointment that oppresses me when I see pews empty that might and ought to be filled. Another improvement I greatly long for is a larger representation of members at the Lord’s Table. What a privilege to miss! What a duty to neglect!

I remain your affectionate pastor,

John P. Hogarth.”

 

Time had run out and another ministry had reached its conclusion and a minute of the Congregational Meeting held on 14th August 1905 records that certain members were appointed to appear at Paisley Presbytery concerning Mr Hogarth’s call from Fairfield Church, Liverpool, a ministry which continued until his death in November 1913.

Once again Trinity Church was looking for a new minister and the process began with the appointment of the Reverend Robert Hill MA of Renfrew North U.P. Church as Interim Moderator. The Reverend John P. Hogarth had baptised many, married many and been the comfort of many when they mourned the loss of a dear one. To fill the place vacated by a highly respected and much loved minister who had served the congregation well for close on twenty years was not going to be an easy task. To satisfy everybody would be impossible; to satisfy the majority would be difficult. Would the new minister be U.P. or Free? This was an important question for a recently united Church where the two sides had not yet coalesced and where some might feel that the new man was from the “other side”.

A vacancy committee was appointed and the search began. By the end of November 1905, after the candidates on the short leet had preached in the church (the days of the sole nominee were still to come) the congregation met on the 28th November to make their choice. The three candidates were: the Reverend John Young MA, the Reverend Joseph Shillinglaw BD and the Reverend White. The minute records that Mr Young had an absolute majority over the other two candidates and was duly elected. The formalities completed, Mr Young was inducted to Trinity on Thursday 8th February 1906, the roll of the congregation being 534 and the stipend at the beginning of the new ministry £250 per annum.

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