Pathhead Baptist Church

© Pathhead Baptist Church is a registered Scottish Charity, SC016590

The Story of our Church

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Pathhead Baptist Church can trace its origins to the formation of the Fifeshire Baptist Association in 1894.

After an address to the Association in September 1897 by the Rev. W. J. Hunter of Whytescauseway Baptist Church on ‘Church Extension’ it is recorded that a desire arose within the Association ‘to have an evangelist who would take up some part of the County with a view of forming a church’.

So it was that a proposal was made at an Association meeting in May 1899 to form a church ‘amongst the congested and growing population in Pathhead and district’.

One of the moving spirits in the formation and establishing of the new church was Mr. James Wishart, who not only provided a large sum of money towards this work but was also instrumental in bringing the Rev. J. G. Wilson of Helensborough Baptist Church to take up the role of ‘Agent of the Association in the formation of a church at Pathhead’.

On Saturday afternoon there was a reception meeting to welcome the Rev. J. G. Wilson. The Rev. H. Henderson, Cowdenbeath, President of the Fife and Clackmannan Baptist Association, presided and in a brief message welcomed Mr. Wilson in the name of the Association and expressed the hope that, under his ministry, the mission might prosper and prove a blessing to many. It is resolved to form the mission into a Baptist Church on Sunday 7th January 1900. Already 28 have given their names as prospective members, it is hoped that this number will be the nucleus of a strong, aggressive Baptist body in Pathhead.’

The new church grew steadily over its early years and in 1904 a building (our present church hall) was erected and dedicated for worship. Only two years later this building became inadequate and a new larger building became a necessity. So, on Saturday 10th October 1909, the present church building was opened.

The membership was now 130. It is recorded that the collection at the dedication service amounted to £132.5s.7d, at that time a substantial sum, and the building was declared practically free of debt.

The fellowship was clearly active and committed as was demonstrated by the fact that the women of the church undertook a scheme of visitation in the area which resulted in several conversions, thereby raising the membership to 140.

Over the following years, the church was to lose some of the original Diaconate. Firstly came the death of Mr. Frederick Wheeler followed later by Mr. Archibald Bowman, but the greatest loss was that of Mr. James Wishart.

As mentioned, Mr. James Wishart played an important role in establishing Pathhead Baptist Church. The memorial tablet at the church entrance is witness to the esteem in which he was held.

The Role of Whytescauseway Baptist Church. A history of Pathhead Baptist Church would not be complete without mentioning the significant contribution of our sister church in Whytescauseway.

By the time Pathhead came into being, Whytescauseway had been established for almost half a century. During that time and since Whytescausesway attracted many scholarly and godly men to its pulpit.

Through the ministry and influence of these men and through the commitment of notable deacons and church members, God’s Word had a very real impact on the community.

But it was during the longest vacancy (September 1898 to March 1900) that the first moves were made to extend the witness of the church into the Pathhead area.

Around this time the Fife and Clackmannan Baptist Association invited Whytescausesway to join them in the effort of forming a new church. However, they had already begun mission work in the Pathhead area under the leadership of Mr. Colin Chrystal, who later became Rev. Colin Chrystal. When he left to continue his studies at University the work was then taken over by the Rev. J. C. Wilson.

Whytescausesway were more than willing to take up this challenge and, in fact, helped to establish the new work within one year. They also backed this support by the transfer of twenty members to Pathhead, - this on 24th December 1899.

Among those who transferred were Mr. James Wishart and Archibald Bowman - two men who would play a significant part in the building up of the new church.

The first Pastor, Rev. Wilson, spent thirteen fruitful years at Pathhead. He left to take up the ministry of Knightsbridge Baptist Church, Adelaide, Australia. Sadly, he took ill and died three weeks after his arrival in Australia. [DG … His family in Australia contacted us and we sent out to them the Bible he read from during his ministry in Pathhead]

The Rev. T. Esplin came to the church in January 1913 and ministered for three years before passing on the task to the Rev. W. Ruthven from Gourock. His ministry ended after five years with his sudden death in May 1921.

After a short vacancy the church called Rev. J. T. Stark M.A. It seems that the seed sown by the previous pastors blossomed during Mr. Stark’s time. The church prospered and numbers at services were such that it became necessary to increase capacity. There are none now remaining who can recall such congregations, but the late Mrs. Margaret Muir told of how, as a teenager, arriving early for the evening service and having to sit on the pulpit steps.

Extra seats had been placed down the aisles but even then, latecomers had to stand in the vestibule with the inside doors open so that others could stand in the passageway behind the pulpit. The seating capacity at that time was 230 but often a further 60 or 70 would crowd in.

Although the Deacon’s Court was unanimous on the need to increase the building’s capacity, it was William Anderson, a revered Deacon and founding member who first presented and pressed the case for the addition of a gallery.

The following is based on the minutes of the meeting when it was agreed to install the gallery. "After a great deal of prayer and research, it was decided to build a gallery with seating for approximately 100. A ‘gallery committee’ was formed to oversee the project and they set 11th November 1922 as the completion date.

One of the fellowship, Robert Walker, a stonemason to trade, was allocated the task of building the stone stairway and all able bodied men would assist. The gallery was completed in time at a cost of £137.2s.5d. The electrician was paid £2 for his services and the seating was bought for £20." As a thanksgiving, a conference was organised to take place on completion date, to be followed by a fortnight’s mission.

In this connection an interesting item appears in the minutes of 31st October 1922. "… the Pastor stated that he had arranged with Mr. Beaton for advertising on a tram bus which was to cost £1."

After three happy and successful years, Mr. Stark left to take up the ministry at Lady Lane Baptist Church, Paisley in May 1924. He was followed a short time later by Rev. W. Fotheringham from Shetland, the membership standing then at 142. However, Mr. Fotheringham’s ministry lasted less than two years and for various reasons the membership began to decline, before being built up again during the ten year pastorate of Rev. Samuel Conway.

It is understood from available records that after the first twenty-five years the ‘fervent spiritual impulse which gave the church birth had not yet spent itself’.

It seems too, that the fellowship, like many other churches of that time, saw its role firstly to spread the gospel but also to be involved in the struggle for better living and working conditions for ordinary people.

Rev. John Robertson arrived from Newburgh in 1937 and ministered over the period of the Second World War. Membership numbers remained fairly constant during these difficult years and although they had fallen towards the end of the war, they quickly recovered during the pastorate of the Rev. Robert Galbraith, who came from Glasgow in September 1944. In fact, it reached its peak - 165 members - in 1948.

The shortest ministry was that of Mr. Robert Carter, a student from the Free Church College. It seems that various difficulties and disagreements arose within the church at this time and it was decided that Mr. Carter should leave. He arrived in July 1949 and left in November the same year - 5 months. He returned to the Free Church and to a very successful ministry.

So Pathhead Baptist Church carried forward the Gospel message into the 50's and 60's with the calling of Rev. Stanley Thomas in December 1950, followed in 1956 by Rev. Thomas Stirling from Berwick-on-Tweed. Although these men who ministered in Pathhead at this time were both capable and committed, they were unable to halt the decline in membership, a falling away that was a reflection of a general and increasing loss of interest in the Christian faith.

This was the age of rock and roll and the ‘Beatles’. Television was having a greater influence and young people in particular were turning away from the church.

The changes in the Pathhead area population which were beginning at this time was also a factor, so that by the time the Rev. John Thomson, a student, arrived in 1965, the membership had fallen below 100 for the first time since 1905.

Mr. Thomson was a young energetic man who attracted many young people to the church but left in 1970 for Larkhall Baptist Church. Sadly, his ministry there was tragically cut short. He died suddenly after what appeared to be a minor accident. He left a young wife and family.

The man who would take Pathhead Baptist almost to the end of the century, Rev. William Turnbull, was also a student from the Baptist College. He took up full-time ministry later in life and preached at Pathhead until his retiral in May 1999.

So Pathhead was not just his only charge but his twenty-seven years was also the longest pastorate in the church’s one hundred-year history. Mr. Turnbull’s preaching bore the hallmark of thorough Bible study. His ministry was Bible-based and led over the years to a deepening of spiritual life within the ministry.

In the wider community he gained a reputation as someone to turn to in times of difficulty, His own, often troubled experience of life as a young man, enabled him to deal with those in need with understanding and compassion.

This part of his ministry led many into the fellowship at Pathhead. Mr. Turnbull and his wife May, who ably supported him during his pastorate, retired to Stenhousemuir in June 1999.

As the church’s first hundred years is achieved, a new chapter begins with the arrival of our new pastor, Dr. David Greenaway. An Irishman (from Ulster!) he was called to Pathhead with his wife, Pearl and his son Philip, from the Girvan and Maybole Churches.

When he left school, Dr. Greenaway went to London’s East End to take up Christian work among alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes and one-parent families. On coming back to Northern Ireland he joined the army and served for eight years.

Then, following a course of study in the European Bible Institute near Paris, he and his wife returned to Belfast so that he could pursue further theological studies in Irish Baptist College and Queen’s University Belfast. With their son, they moved to Scotland in 1987 to serve the Baptist Church in Glenburn (Paisley).

Dr. Greenaway came to Pathhead a month after the retiral of Mr. Turnbull and so accepted the responsibility of leading the church into a new Millennium.

As the work developed new opportunities arose for the Pastor. These included serving on the Chaplaincy team of the local High School. He was also invited to become the Chaplain for the local RAF Air Cadets squadron. He served in this capacity for fourteen years, during which time he met each month with the cadets and staff, and conducted special services, such as the Remembrance Service and the annual RAFAC service. The cadets also paraded to the Christmas Carol service each year and contributed in many ways, to the delight of the congregation.

The church also encouraged the Pastor in his involvement with the establishment of the Edinburgh Bible College, serving on the Board of Directors and as a lecturer. Through the college, ‘pastoral students’ were assigned to our church, and each of them progressed to enter full-time Christian ministry.

The church also supported him in preaching engagements in Israel, Nigeria, Romania, and the United States, as well as churches throughout Scotland.

As the years have passed though, there has been a steady decline in church attendance within our own fellowship and also throughout Kirkcaldy and Scotland. This has been hastened by the ‘Covid Crisis’, but it is also symptomatic of the present spiritual decadence. In addition, our 124-year-old building has been requiring increasing maintenance costs, with fewer means to sustain the work. Consequently, we sold our premises in November 2023 and are presently meeting in the Pastor’s home. Please pray the Lord will bless the faithfulness of His people as we face the future, into the new chapter which He is opening up before us.


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