A History of Greyfriars Church

The period from the middle of the 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th was a most volatile one in Scotland, particularly for the Presbyterian church. It was a time of much, resultant, church building. Lanark experienced the discussions and movement in the church and the new construction. By 1860 in addition to Christ Church and St. Mary’s there were six churches in the town that, to some degree or other, were Presbyterian.

In 1774 the Laigh Church was succeeded by the building of a new parish Church on the site of St. Nicholas chapel. Four years later a dispute over Patronage, the appointment of Ministers by landowners or superiors, led to the break-away of some members. They joined the Secession Church in Cambusnethan, some nine and a half walking miles away. By 1787 they had grown sufficiently strong to be able to build a church in the West Port.

The Reverend William Menzies was appointed Minister of the Laigh Church in 1793. His bringing in a second communion in the year, the introduction of Paraphrases and dropping the ‘reading of the line’ in the Psalms from the service faced some opposition and a further split developed. Those who left the church built one in the Broomgate and associated themselves with a denomination called "the Relief" which had been constituted during the earlier protests over patronage. A deep difference of opinion in 1835 over the appointment of a successor to the Reverend John McFarlane, led the minority group to obtain leave from the presbytery to constitute themselves as a congregation. They obtained a site in Hope Street and the next year commenced construction of a church named the Second Relief Church. The building later became the Registrars office.

The Broomgate congregation decided to move, purchased what had been a mansion house at the corner of Friars Lane, demolished it and erected the new Broomgate United Presbyterian Church, consecrated in October 1875. Efforts to form a union with the Hope Street UP Church when both churches became vacant at the same time failed. Ministers to each were appointed and when the Reverend William Logan retired from the Broomgate in 1918 the alliance was effected, the Reverend William W Dawson becoming the first minister. The new congregation took the name Cairns U.F. Church.

Looking back slightly to 1840, St. Leonards Church was opened as an extension church to the Parish Church. It stood on the present site of Atholl House (the job centre) adjacent to the train station. In the mercurial atmosphere of the disruption of 1843 many congregations took sides and the minister, the Reverend Thomas Start, John Marr a Provost and secretary of the committee who had been heavily involved in the building of the church and a major part of the membership decided to join the Free Church, their wish to continue worshipping, as such, in the church was frustrated in the Court and they moved to a church in Hope Street built in 1829 and previously occupied by the Associate burgh or Old Light Congregation.

In 1883 a new church was constructed on the site, the congregation in the meantime meeting in the County Hall and the Good Templar Hall, later to become the Electric Picture House. They moved into the new church the following September.

In 1900 St Kentigerns Church affiliated with the United Presbyterian Church, as did the other Free Churches and became a member of the United Free Church of Scotland. Twenty-nine years later the United Free Church reunited with the Church of Scotland.

Following the death of the late Reverend James P Wilson, the minister of St. Kentigerns Church in 1993, Cairns Church and St. Kentigerns Church united in the buildings of the former, using the name of Greyfriars Parish Church, recognising the history of the site on which the church stands, namely being part of the ancient Grey Friars Monastery. The Reverends Catherine and David Collins were ordained to the new charge in the same year and served until 2006. In March 2007 the present minister, The Reverend Bryan Kerr was inducted into the charge of Greyfriars Parish Church, Lanark.