granton baptist church
The Hut was officially opened on 4th May 1940 and the church constituted on 9th July with 19 members, most of whom had transferred from other Edinburgh Baptist churches. Although their first pastor wasn’t inducted until the December, the enthusiastic new congregation had their first baptismal service on Wednesday, 16th October. Obviously there wasn’t a baptistry in The Hut so the service took place in the Leith Baptist Church, Madeira Street, where all our baptisms were carried out before 1952.
As the membership and activities of GBC began to increase in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Church began working towards building a permanent structure that would replace “The Hut”. Various estimates were received and tenders accepted indicating that the new church building would cost in the region of £10,000.
A loan of £1000 from the Baptist Union of Scotland was given, repayable over 10 years, with a further £3000 being given towards the costs. This latter amount would come from the proceeds of the sale of Marshall Street Baptist Church in Edinburgh to Edinburgh University.
The link between the sale of Marshall Street and the Granton project came about as a result of the fact that a former member of Marshall Street, a Mrs Nisbet, was one of four women from the Women’s Auxiliary who served on the Granton Joint Committee in 1938. In January 1939, Joseph Russell chaired an open meeting for those interested in the new Baptist cause at Granton, and he referred to the need for making sacrifices in order to support such projects, and he gave the example of Rev Francis Johnstone, who was one of the influential figures at the founding of the Baptist Union of Scotland. He gave up a rewarding ministry in Cupar in 1845 so that he could establish a work in his home town of Edinburgh, and he served the congregation that was to become Marshall Street Baptist Church for over 30 years, in two separate spells of ministry, until his death in 1880.
When Marshall Street closed in 1943 the proceeds from the sale were set aside for a Baptist extension cause in Edinburgh and the cause at Granton was the beneficiary. That is why Granton Baptist Church is called the “Francis Johnstone Memorial”.
The opening ceremony of the new church building took place on the 20th of December 1952 in the presence of the Baptist Union Secretary, Rev George M Hardie, the honorary Treasurer J.A. Dick, Thomas Coats, the convener of the Building Advisory Committee and Joseph Russell the clerk of works. The actual ceremony was performed by the President of the Baptist Union, in 1952-53, Rev A. Campbell Dovey, the minister at Morningside.
The first baptisms in that building took place on 5th April 1953 when Rev Donald McCallum baptised Betty Archer, Doreen Corcoran and Sylvia Roberts.
It wasn’t only money towards bricks and mortar that Granton inherited from Marshall Street. The communion table and some of the chairs you see here today once belonged to Marshall Street, as did a pulpit light that hung above the pulpit in the 1952 building and the First World War memorial windows that are now located in current gallery. Some of these items were used in The Hut prior to the 1952 building being completed whilst others arrived after the official opening.
This wasn’t the end of building development with regards to GBC. As ministries expanded and the original Hut began to deteriorate the Church began to use Ainslie Park High School for some of its youth work, and serious discussion began about developing the building once more.
January 1971 saw the end of an emotional attachment for the members when The Hut was demolished to make way for the new building development that was started later that year. This was just as well because the 1970s saw an increase in vandalism in the area, largely due to the Edinburgh Council policy of settling problem families in the area, many of them in Crewe Road Gardens. In fact, because of attacks on the new building and the theft of materials, the church deacons had to do spells as nightwatchmen until the building was secure. But the work was completed and on 24th March 1972 the new hall was officially opened by senior deacon Alec Hall.
During another period of witness and membership expansion, at which attendances at the morning services were around 180-200, with 80-100 in the evening, a word of prophecy was given to one of our deacons, Andy Sinclair, that the church should “double the worship facilities”.
Wrestling with this problem led the fellowship into seasons of prayer until, with this word having been tested in different ways over the months that followed, God seemed to be giving His confirmation that a new building project should begin. At a members’ meeting in September 1987 the church agreed to go ahead with plans for a new building that would eventually give us the present 350 seat sanctuary.
Granton has never been a financially rich church, but in faith the people stepped out and once again the sacrificial, and giving, nature of the Granton folks was evident as the Building Development Fund came into being.
Rev Andy Scarcliffe, the minister of Granton at that time, cut the first turf on Sunday 18th August 1991, with the building officially opened and dedicated on Saturday 10th October 1992 with the cutting of a ribbon by Granton’s only surviving founder member at that time, Isobel Inglis, daughter of our first treasurer, Frank Allan.
The last person to be baptised in the 1952 building was Mr Alex Steven on 28th June 1992 and the first baptisms in this present building took place on 13th December 1992; Rev Andrew B Scarcliffe baptising Paul Dooley and Gordon Mackay Jnr.
The church is of course not the buildings, but the people of God, and we will now turn to reveal something about the folks of Granton Baptist Church over the decades.