| After Dr Hutchison accepted the call to Bonnington, there followed a long vacancy at the United Presbyterian Church in Renfrew. The congregation were twice disappointed in their choice of a minister, first by Mr James Scott and then by Mr Alexander Borland. They now looked further afield and, in February 1878, a petition was prepared for presentation to the Presbytery, asking permission to call the Reverend William James Thomson of the Irish Presbyterian Church at Amoy in Ireland provided he was granted the status of minister in the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Once again they were to be disappointed for, at a Session Meeting on the 15th April of the same year, the clerk read a letter from Mr Thomson stating that his presbytery had declined to release him from his charge at Amoy. The Session did the only thing they could do in the circumstances – advise the congregation to abandon the call.
After these setbacks, the search for a minister was renewed with the Reverend Andrew G. Fleming of Paisley as Interim Moderator once again. To add to the burdens of the Session the Sunday School Superintendent, Mr William Fleming, who was leaving the burgh to live in Glasgow, handed in his resignation.
In July the outlook brightened when Mr Charles Moyes, a probationer, was elected to the vacant charge and on the 18th September he was ordained so ending a vacancy which had lasted twenty-one months.
To follow a successful ministry – especially that of a first and much loved minister – is perhaps the most difficult task that any young probationer can face. It calls for determination and plenty of stamina, but it soon became obvious that Mr Moyes was not in the best of health. To add to his difficulties, he was denied the counsel and help of an experienced Session Clerk as Mr James Cuthbertson, who had held that office for about sixteen years, had had to resign for personal reasons.
Despite the difficulties, or perhaps because of the challenge they offered, the work of the church began to pick up momentum again. The membership continued to increase and new elders were added to the Session. At the first Congregational Meeting of Mr Moyes’ ministry, a desire was expressed to have instrumental music incorporated into the service. The Session, ever canny, was agreeable, provided that the congregation approved and a suitable instrument and player could be found. Nothing further seems to have been done about the matter at this time as the harmonium was not installed until 1882.
In the May of the first year of his ministry, Mr Moyes intimated to the Session that, with a view to “promoting an interest in divine things”, he intended to start a series of kitchen prayer meetings in the town. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the records to show whether or not these were actually held, but the fact remains that Mr Moyes had shown himself to be a man of vision, willing to take the message to the people instead of waiting for the people to come to him.
In 1880 the Missionary Society was re-formed and Mr Peter Duncan, a student of the United Presbyterian Church, was appointed to carry on evangelistic work. At the end of his three months’ engagement, he was followed in the same work by Mr Ramsay. A Tract Distribution Society was also formed at this time – further evidence of the enthusiasm that existed within the church.
However, concern was again expressed at Session Meetings about church attendance. The records also show that the Sunday School was suffering from a shortage of teachers and that the Session had been asked to find additional help. In addition, a trade depression in the burgh was having an effect on the church’s income. In spite of these difficulties, the question of introducing a harmonium into the church was once again raised when a deputation of managers, anxious to settle the question, met with the elders. The harmonium was duly installed in 1882 and the first harmoniumist, Mr Gilchrist, was appointed at a salary of £20 per annum.
Two months later came the first definite news of the minister’s poor state of health. Mr Moyes announced to the Session on 30th July that it was absolutely necessary that he should have an immediate rest from all work for a period of three or four weeks and, that if he was not sufficiently recovered at the end of that time, it would be necessary for him to apply to the Presbytery for three or four months’ leave of absence. In fact, it was December before he returned to his charge.
Some indication of the church’s financial position can be gleaned from the fact that, in 1883, the Renfrew congregation was granted the sum of £30 annually for a term of three years by the Home Mission Board. Concern was also expressed in the Session about the growing indifference to Sabbath observance and church attendance within the burgh and an attempt was made to arrange for a joint visitation in the town by the three churches: the Free, the U.P. and the Established Church but, owing to lack of support from the members of the Auld Kirk, the scheme was abandoned.
Any improvement in Mr Moyes’ health was a temporary one because, in June 1885, he was forced to apply for a further three months’ leave of absence and in October came a certificate from an “eminent Medical Practitioner” stating that Mr Moyes ought not to resume work in Scotland. This was followed immediately by Mr Moyes’ resignation and once more Renfrew U.P. Kirk was without a minister.
The Reverend Andrew G. Fleming of Paisley was again appointed Interim Moderator and an early duty he had to perform was to intimate to the Session, in January 1886, that Mr Moyes had passed away.
Following Mr Moyes’ resignation, a general stocktaking of the congregation’s resources had taken place. The Interim Moderator stated that “from all appearances, the congregation is not in a position at present to go on and hear candidates” and suggested that “a request be made to Presbytery to appoint two or three licentiates to preach, with a view to fixing on one of them for a temporary appointment”. This advice was accepted by the congregation and three licentiates preached. One withdrew his name having received an appointment elsewhere and so the choice lay between the other two – Mr Gibson and Mr Hogarth. In the end, the latter was appointed for three months.
When Mr Hogarth intimated his acceptance of the appointment, there began an association with Trinity that was to last for nineteen years for that three months extended to six months and, at a meeting of the congregation held on 3rd May 1886, Mr John Peden Hogarth MA was unanimously elected. On the 1st June he was ordained and so began a new ministry.
It is evident from the records that, with the coming of the new minister in 1886, a new era had begun for the U.P. Kirk. Mr Hogarth began his ministry enthusiastically. His diary for June 1886 must have looked something like this:
Tuesday June 1st Ordination.
Sunday June 6th Session Meeting – fix date of Communion.
Tuesday June 16th Session Meeting – revised roll gone over; arrange to visit defaulters with elder.
Thursday June 24th Preparatory Service.
Sunday June 27th Communion.
There is ample evidence in the records of a revival of interest in all aspects of the church’s work. First of all, there was an immediate and determined effort to clear off the debt which had accumulated during the previous ministry. As a result of a most successful bazaar held in 1887 all the debt, which amounted to about £800, was wiped out and a substantial balance left by means of which the church was redecorated.
In August, the first twelve Lady Collectors were appointed to collect subscriptions for the Mission Fund. Such is the general conservatism within the church that, although their function changed, their name remained the same for many decades.
A new and practical interest in the Sunday School was shown by the congregation when they agreed to take up a special collection for the school’s upkeep. A collection box was also placed in the vestibule of the church for contributions to foreign mission.
The membership, which had stood at 168 at Mr Hogarth’s ordination, began to increase steadily and with this increase came the need to add to the number of elders. Additions to the Session took place in 1891, 1896, 1901 and 1903.
The Session Minutes for 1888 record that a deputation from the Sunday School asked the Session to recommend to the congregation that they give a grant from the surplus funds from the bazaar to help to improve the accommodation at Moorpark where a successful mission had been established some time previously. In the following year, a committee consisting of William Whitelaw (Convenor), Allan Stewart and Charles Dougal Jr was appointed to superintend the work there. They asked the proprietor, Mr Hillcoat, for a five year lease on the hall and for permission to carry out alterations to the interior of the hall which stood on the west side of Paisley Road behind the properties at numbers 154 and 156. The discussion proved successful and, in September of the same year, the redecorated hall was opened at a special service. The best description still on record of the mission work at Moorpark is contained in notes prepared by Mr Hogarth in 1892: “A most successful mission has been carried on in the village of Moorpark. All the workers in connection therewith are members of the church. The hall in which the meetings are held was originally a stable. The mission workers transformed it by their own labours into a commodious and comfortable meeting place. The work there has been a blessing to many. The mission committee under the charge of the Kirk Session is: William Whitelaw (Convenor), Joseph Grant and Robert Spence. Meetings of all kinds are held regularly in connection with the mission as follows:
Sunday evenings at 5 o’clock Sunday School.
Sunday evenings at 7 o’clock Evangelistic Meeting
Wednesday evenings at 8 o’clock Bible Class.
Friday evenings at 8 o’clock A Mutual Improvement Association.
Saturday evenings at 7 o’clock A Temperance Society.
From time to time a series of meetings are held which are largely attended and much blessed of God.”
The mission continued to flourish and, in February 1897, it was resolved to build a hall at Moorpark. This hall, which cost about £850, was opened the following year and continued in use as a mission under the control of the Kirk Session of the Renfrew U.P. Kirk until 4th December 1901 when it was taken over by the Presbytery to become a preaching station under its care. The hall, in time, became part of the buildings known first of all as Rutherford Memorial Church and then as Moorpark Parish Church.
In addition, the Session had been looking around the town for a site where further mission work could be carried on. After an abortive attempt to persuade the office bearers of the Free Church to engage in a joint missionary venture, a minute of January records a decision to rent the Rosebank Hall, which stood at the top of the High Street adjacent to Babcock & Wilcox’ Research Station, at a cost of £4.10/- per annum. There was a Sunday School at 5 p.m. and a Sunday evening service for adults at 7 p.m. and these continued at Rosebank Hall until May 1903.
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