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Làrach-lìn ùr

This website is a welcome new resource as the congregation of St. Columba Gaelic Church rethinks its mission for the present time.

At one time St. Columba Gaelic Church attracted many hundreds of regular worshippers both at its Gaelic and its English services. Most of them lived within walking distance of the church. Like nearly every church we have seen a reduction in numbers, but as a city centre church situated in what is now Glasgow’s business district with few residents, the challenge is particularly acute.

We are nonetheless convinced that with Gaelic culture enjoying a great worldwide renaissance, and a Gaelic speaking population in Glasgow exceeding, so they say, the number of speakers in the Isle of Lewis, our distinctive ministry has as much relevance and importance as ever it did. As the only remaining church offering weekly worship in Gaelic in the west of Scotland, we have a particular responsibility to continue and develop our witness.

We have been building a Mission Plan for the present time. In so doing, we recognise that the thousands of people that come into Glasgow to work in nearby offices present a superb opportunity to offer St. Columba’s as a place of refuge and refreshment for a short time out of the working day.

Our principal focus however must always be our outreach to Gaelic speakers and learners, and to all who cherish their Celtic culture and Highland heritage. We are currently thinking about how best to fulfil this ministry in the 21st century. Indisputably, mission needs a base. Our current base is a grand-scale Gothic style church, little altered since its opening in 1904. Now requiring extensive renovation our building, beautiful though it is, has a leaky roof and rampant rot, and is proving an expensive distraction from our core tasks of mission and ministry. We need either to raise a huge amount of money to restore the church, or contemplate moving to a new base. Both options are daunting. Only our faith in God will sustain us as we face these unprecedented challenges.

St Columba Gaelic has had a distinctive ministry. For its entire existence it has been a spiritual home in Glasgow for generations of people from the Highlands who either speak Gaelic as their first language or who identify closely with the culture and traditions of Gaeldom. At the same time, unlike many Highland congregations, St Columba’s has always proclaimed its adherence to the "Moderate" tradition of the Church. This is a term that is usually associated with historical issues and disputes, but in general it indicates an open theological position that has existed in a not-always-easy tension with the more conservative theology of the Evangelical wing of the church. Facing the challenge of creating a Mission Plan for the future of the congregation, the office bearers were asked to reflect on what "Moderate" means in the 21st century. We felt that being “moderate” informed our theological understanding and how we interpret the Bible. As well as being faithful to the Scriptures and to the life and teaching of Jesus, we felt it meant, in practical terms, an open church which does not discriminate, on any level, on grounds of economic power, gender, physical ability, mental health, race or sexual identity. As one Elder put it, “Gaelic speakers themselves were a persecuted minority not so long ago…we understand how others in that situation feel.”

We hope to know quite soon exactly what challenge our ageing buildings set us. From there we will be able to discern more clearly how our Mission Plan can be implemented. The views and the support of everyone who shares a passion for our ministry here in Glasgow will be greatly valued as we go forward where God leads us.

Gabh mo leisgeul

Melvyn Wood

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