Record

CodeNA4627
Dates1865-1966
Person NameBelmont Street Congregational Church; 1865-1966; Aberdeen
EpithetAberdeen
ActivityGeorge Street Congregational Church, or (as it was familiarly known) ‘The Loch Kirk’, was an important religious centre in Aberdeen from 1798. It was founded by three Aberdeen businessmen, George Moir, Alexander Innes and William Stephen, and built in a quiet courtyard in George Street where it remained until 1865 when the congregation removed to Belmont Street. The first minister in George Street was the Rev. William Stephens, and the second was the Rev. John Philip, under whose ministry the congregation grew considerably. He left in 1819 to take up a post with the London Missionary Society whose work had long been of interest to him. The minister under whose charge the congregation moved to Belmont Street was the Rev. David Arthur, who served from 1841 to 1874. Sir George King, the noted botanist, and the architect James Matthews who designed other Congregational churches in the city, were both members of the congregation, which also included the Bulloch family: John Bulloch was a local historian and chronicler of the Congregational Church in Aberdeen, and his son J. Malcolm Bulloch was a well-known theatre critic and benefactor of Aberdeen University. In 1966, Belmont Street Congregational Church, Albion Street Church and St. Paul Street Congregational Church amalgamated to form St. Nicholas’ Congregational Church in Belmont Street. The congregation later moved to be part of St. Nicholas’ Church of Scotland Church in Union Street where it now shares part of the building.

Based on the reformed or Calvinist tradition, Congregationalism originated in late 16th century splits within the Established Church of England. Separatists left to form their own independent congregations, which were sometimes known as Brownists after one of their principle thinkers Robert Browne (c1550-c1633). The spread of Congregationalism to Scotland seems to have come from England. In 1647 the Church of Scotland barred people holding independent views from taking communion in the kirk. The years 1650 to 1790 saw an increase in the numbers of Congregational churches in Scotland. Some were formed by those fleeing persecution for their beliefs in England. Between 1797 and 1808 brothers Robert Haldane (1764-1842) and James Haldane (1768-1851) encouraged the growth of Congregationalism in Scotland. The Haldane's family seat was at Airthrey near Stirling (now part of Stirling University). They constituted their first Tabernacle in Edinburgh in 1799. Their system of church government was inspired by Greville Ewing (1767-1841), who left the Church of Scotland and became associated with the Haldanes. Ewing became pastor of the Glasgow Tabernacle. A split developed in 1808 between Ewing and James Haldane which led to many fledgling congregations being dispossessed and a weakening of the movement; the Haldanes joined the Baptists. In 1811 the Glasgow Theological Academy came into being largely due to Greville Ewing's vision. But many churches remained poor and unable to financially to support training for ministers.

In 1812 the Congregational Union was formed with the idea of providing mutual support, and attracted 55 member churches immediately. The essential principle was the Union represented a confraternity of churches in fellowship with each other; each congregation is regulated by meetings of church members and deacons. After 1843 and the Disruption in the Church of Scotland (after which some Congregationalists moved to the Free Church), the Evangelical Union was founded by James Morrison (1816-1863). This united with the Congregational Union in 1896, to constitute a new Congregational Union of Scotland, bringing the Presbyterian system of two courts - one for deacons and one for elders - into Congregationalism. Churches were also able to style themselves Evangelical Union Congregational (EU Congregational). In 1993, the Congregational Union changed its constitution to become the Scottish Congregational Church. In 2000, the Scottish Congregational Church and the United Reform Church united under the name United Reform Church. However, there remained a rump of about 30 churches holding true to their Congregational principles (that each church is independent and therefore no national Congregational church can exist) and they joined the Congregational Federation in 1994.
Corporate NameBelmont Street Congregational Church
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