Monthly Record ’53

On Thursday, 30th July, the hopes and labours of many years on the part of the Free Church congregation of Kiltearn were realised and fulfilled in the opening of the fine new building which stands in the centre of Evanton and now replaces, as their place of worship, the old church on the outskirts of the village and the hall known as the “Chapel” in the village itself. Both these buildings are very old and in a bad state structurally, and it became apparent during the war that it would be cheaper to build a new church and hall than to make such substantial repairs and renewals as these buildings required. So the congregation set themselves the formidable task of raising £5000, a figure which in course of time rose as things do these days to £6000 and would have been £7000 or even £8000 but for the willing weeks and months of labour voluntarily given by some in the congregation and by the fact that the furnishings of the church and hall, pulpit, pews etc., in the lovely pitch pine which is unprocurable these days were a tribute willingly and, in some cases, freely yielded by other churches now closed as places of worship, such as the Middle Church at Nigg, a pre-1900 Free Church reseated about 1910, the old Parish Church at Alness and the pre-1929 U.F. Church at Strathpeffer. The seating for the hall of the new church came from the Rogart Free Church. So in 1943 the congregation set themselves this herculean task for a small congregation of raising at least £5000, and they went about it in such a quiet way that not many outside the congregation knew the magnitude of the effort. So far as we know there was not even an appeal through the pages of the Monthly Record and it was only during the past two years that some of the other congregations of the Presbytery and district were approached for help when already most of the money had been raised and the Church itself was in the process of building. One wonders how many, even of our larger congregations, could raise £6000 in 10 years and still continue to give generously to other necessary things!

In process of events, and principally because of rising prices, it became evident that to delay a start in building would mean an ultimate steep increase in cost, so it was decided to start operations, and a couple of years ago, without fuss or ceremony, the foundation stone was laid, presumably by one of Mr Kenneth Munro’s workmen. No notice was taken of this however, as the mind’s eye of all was filled with the vision of the completed building. In the process of erection, it became apparent to the least skilled onlooker that there would be nothing shoddy about the new church. Built to a splendid design, and of the best available materials, under the watchful eye of a skilled architect who took more than a professional interest in the building, the structure rose steadily, though not without its occasional delays.

The time came when the main structure was complete, the roof on, the wiring installed, and then the voluntary workers took over. Mr Henry MacDonald and Mr Jack MacLennan of the congregation installed over 500 panes of glass, set up the pulpit, and did most of the work of laying the beautiful parquet-type floor of African hardwood blocks which had been decided on in preference to the concrete floor which is all that regulations allow. When this floor had been laid, it was sanded and wax-polished also by voluntary labour, the fine seats of pitch pine from Strathpeffer were set up, the painting and varnishing completed, and the outside surroundings of the building tidied up and so preparations were completed, once the electric heating radiators had been installed, for the opening of the new church.

The opening service took place as stated on the 30th of July and was an outstanding event in Free Church circles in the area. By 7.30 that evening the church, the hall adjoining, the passages and lobbies, were packed with worshippers from far and near, and the service was relayed by loudspeaker to those outside who waited and listened in the calm of a pleasant summer evening. Dr Ross of Burghead took as his text, Matthew 21: 12-16, The Temple as God meant it to be, the House of Prayer, the Temple put to a Bad Use by those who desecrated the House of Prayer with alien and sinful things making religion too easy for some and impossible for others, and, finally, the Temple Restored by the Saviour when the blind and the lame were healed there and the children Sang His praises. In the circumstances, it was a deeply moving service and one is sure that many a silent prayer was offered that the everlasting blessing of Redemption might be found by many within these walls. So indeed may it be. This part of the service over, Dr Ross with solemn prayer and in the name of the Triune God set apart and dedicated the building to the worship of God for all time to come. Then in a speech historical and reminiscent, he spoke of Kiltearn Free Church in days gone by. He told of how he had sat in his boyhood under the preaching of the Rev. Mr MacQueen, and testified of his great esteem and admiration for the late Rev. Donald Smith, ” one of Scotland’s greatest preachers.” He ended by congratulating the present minister, the Rev. John A. MacDonald, and the congregation on their most remarkable achievement, and wished them all success and blessing in their new surroundings.

It remains but to give credit where it is due, to the architect who designed the building and the contractors who built it, especially among these latter Mr Kenneth Munro of the Kiltearn congregation who was responsible for the mason- work, to the voluntary helpers and chief among these, two gentlemen who did more than all the other helpers together, Mr Henry MacDonald retired joiner, and Mr Jack MacLennan retired blacksmith, both of Evanton, and finally to the minister for his enthusiasm and energy in the work, and to the congregation for their abundant liberality. They have built a House for His Name. May He indeed put His Name there.

kiltearn church sep 1957