The history of our church is not about buildings, but about folk and their love for their Saviour and the Gospel and for the folk of Shotts. A story of sacrificial faithfulness and vision which brought our forefathers through many times of hardship and testing and the very fact that we have a Church today, is because of their faithfulness
Our story begins in 1843, when 32 Shotts folk would walk to Bellshill Congregational Chapel to worship. This weekly pilgrimage was undertaken in all kinds of weather, many taking with them their children.
In 1843, this band of Shotts Congregationalists, members of Bellshill Congregational Chapel, heard a sermon preached in Shotts by the Rev. James Morrison of Bathgate. On the text “ and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me” They were so moved by the sermon that they resolved to seek permission from Bellshill Congregational Chapel to be released from membership there in order to form their own Church in Shotts.
This was duly granted and they left with the prayers and blessings of the Bellshill Congregational Chapel to sustain them.
In the September of 1844 these 32 folk began to meet in the barn of Stane farm. Always a people of vision, they realised that this could only be a temporary measure, and so, in November of the same year they moved into their own building, At the junction of Bridge Street and Stane Pit Road. This vision was not just for a building, but also for a Pastor, and in December of 1844, a mere 3 months after they were formed they called the Reverend William Bathgate to lead the flock. This small band of mining folk had in so short a time, out of their own meagre resources established a place of worship and called to them a Pastor. A tremendous testimony to their love of Jesus.
Recognising that independence is a lonely place, the Church in 1876 became part of the Evangelical Union, a free association of Churches of like minds. This is where the letters EU originate in the name of our Church.
In 1896, along with many other members of the E.U.,we became part of the Congregational Union of Scotland, an association that began in 1812, thus uniting the congregational witness in Scotland.
By the close of the pastorate of the Rev. James Neil in 1890, it was becoming apparent that the present building was now no longer adequate for the needs of the congregation, and on his leaving the Church, Rev. Neil gave them a sum of money he had collected from his friends, and this was the beginning of a building fund.
In 1906, this fundraising culminated in a 3 day bazaar held in Calderhead public school on the 29th, 30th and 31st of March, to raise the final £1000 needed. No mean sum of money in 1906.
Many and varied were the attractions. Evening concerts by first class artistes at 3d entrance fee, afternoon pianoforte recitals at 2d, you could even treat yourself to an electric shock for 1d.
There was parlour golf and putting competitions, nail driving competitions for the ladies and hat trimming competitions for the gentlemen and there were shooting competitions for all. There were even special trains laid on to bring folk to Shotts and even the 9.50 p.m. express from Edinburgh made a special stop at Shotts on the night of the bazaar
As you walk up the Church drive on a Sunday look up at the stone incorporated in the front wall of the Church which commemorates the laying of the foundation stone and remembers with gratitude and thanks to God those faithful visionaries who worked so hard to provide a centre for the Congregational witness in Shotts and praise, too, the God who made it all possible.
This faithfulness to vision has also been demonstrated in another way in so much that through it’s entire history to the present day the Church has never experienced a vacancy lasting more than a few months.
Although retaining much of its original character the building has been altered over the years notably by the hall extension opened in 1959 and the erection of the large hall in 1967. This was the first Church building in which the East Kilbride Congregational Church met prior to their present building being constructed.
Many of the artefacts in our Church are dedicated to past faithful servants of God and our Church. Perhaps at the end of a service you would like to look around the Church and discover for yourself who they were and to give thanks to God for them.
The next major development in our history came in August 1993, when, to preserve true Congregationalism in Scotland and after an association of nearly 100 years we withdrew from the Congregational Union of Scotland, which had elected to become part of the United Reform Church. Along with 29 other Churches, which had taken the same stance we formed the “Association.” Then in May 1994 the individual Churches, which made up the “Association” were welcomed into the Congregational Federation at their Assembly in Sheffield and we now stand in fellowship with over 300 Congregational Churches in the United Kingdom, and a new and exciting chapter of our ongoing history begins.
In 1996, we joined the Evangelical Alliance, an association of Churches across the denominations, which hold dear those principals held by the long extinct E.U. and our forebears.
Today, we are the ones writing the ongoing history of our Church. Let each one of us determine to uphold vision and the zeal of those who have gone before and may those who come after us find us faithful.