Record

CodeNA4637
Dates1867-1960
Person NameWesthill Congregational Church; 1867-1960; Aberdeen
EpithetAberdeen
ActivityBlackhills Church was founded around 1805, though some adherents had been meeting in a newly built chapel on the Blackhills estate, just to the west of Aberdeen, from 1801. The first minister was a man named Gow, of whom little more is known. The congregation, under Alexander Munro (c1814 - 1883 - while at Blackhills he studied medicine at King’s College, Aberdeen, and graduated MD in 1834), joined the Evangelical Union in 1862 after some years of association with it. From 1867 it was known as Westhill, and the chapel was rebuilt in 1872. Though it had the benefit of a series of long-serving ministers during the twentieth century, the last of these, Charles Francis Graham, left in 1958 and the church closed in July 1960, by which time the area was part of Aberdeen.

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 NameWesthill Congregational Church
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