The Church of the Nazarene is an evangelical Christian denomination that emerged from the 19th-century Holiness movement in North America around 1907.
The Holiness work in Blantyre began in March 1907, the following year the American movement commenced. It was originally called the ‘Blantyre Holiness Mission’ but changed name in 1910 to become the ‘Blantyre Pentecostal Church.’ When they initially formed they met in each others houses, those meetings known as “cottage” or “kitchen meetings”. However by 1909, just 2 years later they worshipped in the Caldwell Hall at the junction of Glasgow Road and the previous location of Auchinraith Road junction. The hall was shared with Stonefield Parish Church.
In need of a separate identity and to avoid confision and conflicting service times, in 1910, opportunity arose to buy land and a large Nissan wooden hut was built. (pictured in 1952 from Neil Gordon’s book.) The hut was erected further west in Jackson Street and their inaugural service was held on 10th March 1910 conducted by Rev. George Sharpe, the first minister of the church. George was also doing work for the mission at Parkhead. In those early years anybody involved with the church had to abstain from smoking and drinking. The hut faced on to Jackson Street, the rear facing on to the miners homes of Merry’s Rows.
Their religious work became a part of the Pentecostal Church of Scotland uniting with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene in 1915, with other venue added at Perth, Uddingston and Paisley. In Blantyre the church became known after World War One as “The Nazerene Church”, those early names confined to history.
The first resident pastor was Rev. George Dempsie, appointed on 31st August 1910. Since 1907, a total of 24 ministers had served as pastors, the best known of whom was the much respected Rev. William Mackie, who served from 1967 until 1987. Rev. Mackie was a butcher in the Central C0-op on Glasgow Road and sometimes at High Blantyre. A large vacant field was adjacent to the mission hut or “Mission Hall” as it was shown on maps of the era. This field was still vacant right up until the 1950s.
In 1924, the Pastor was Pastor McLaglan. By 1931, Pastor Wilkie. In December 1947, Pastor Leslie Roberts was in charge.
When Elm Street houses were being constructed in 1952, Mr. Bill Clayden, a member of the congregation asked the council to lay a small path to the rear of the church, so people could access it from the new street. With the council agreeing to the request, it was decided by the congregation, they would reverse the layout of the church entirely, amending the insides to suit. This was done with much enthusiasm and almost single handedly by Bill.
After many years of meeting in the old Nazerene Church (hut), a new church, on Elm Street, was built and officially opened by Mrs. Janet Mackie and dedicated on Sunday 24th October 1982. The old Nissan hut which was opposite, was later demolished. For nearly 100 years the witness was maintained in Blantyre; a ministry that concluded on Sunday 24th September 2006. The church was officially closed in its centenary year 2007 when the building on Elm Street was sold to St Andrew’s Church of Scotland whose church is adjacent to it, and named, by the Church of Scotland, “Nazarene Hall”.
The name lives on – and the work of making Christ known in that community continues. The Nazarene Hall is used every day of the week…for youth and children’s work, for Sunday School and community groups. We are glad that the sacrifice and investment of those involved in the early religious work in Blantyre over the years, is still bearing fruit.
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Moira Macfarlane Remember it well