Home Mission Work
HOME MISSION WORK
As has already been mentioned, a promise by the founders or our Church that Home Mission work would be undertaken as soon as possible by the new congregation was the factor which finally induced Mr. Wells to accept the call extended to him. No time was lost in implementing the promise. Within three months after the iron church was opened the Session were arranging for premises in which to start the work, and the Mission was begun on 4th June, 1876, in a big kitchen at the corner of Marlow Street and Shields Terrace. We possess a copy or the leaflet, dated 30th May, 1876, circulated in the district intimating the services and opening of the Sabbath School. From the very start the meetings were well attended, and Mr. Wells and the Elders took the Mission Services in turn. So far as visiting and other work was concerned, the Minister was his own Missionary.
In 1880 the Mission removed to the upper room of what was known as the "Territorial Hall" in Stanley Street, where active work was carried on in somewhat cramped quarters. In September of that year the Session decided the time had come when a Missionary should be appointed, so that Mr. Wells, who spent every Sabbath evening in the Mission district, might be free to carry on a young people’s class in the Church. The first Missionary is named in our Session records as " Mr. David Cross, Junior," who came afterwards to be well known both at home and abroad as the Rev. David Kerr Cross, M. B., C.M., F. R. G. S., Missionary of the Free Church of Scotland at Karongôs, Lake Nyasa, and later was Government Medical Representative at Blantyre, British Central Africa. When he resigned in 1835 to take up his appointment in Africa he was succeeded by Mr. James M Macphail, then a student of medicine, now one of the best known and most honoured of the missionaries of the United Free Church and son-in-law of Dr. Wells.
During these years the hope and intention of erecting more suitable premises for the work was always before the congregation, and Mr. W. B. Barr had bought from the Deacons' Court our iron church and then presented it to them on condition that it would be used in our Mission district. It had not been possible, however, to obtain a suitable site for it, and in consequence the church was sold and the price obtained for it, £319, was given by Mr. Barr to the fund for building permanent mission premises. The foundation stone of the premises in West Scotland Street was laid by Mrs. Barr on 15th September, 1888, and an interesting booklet containing a full account of the proceedings and the addresses given on that occasion has been preserved. By that time the Mission Church had had 181 communicants on its roll and the Sabbath School had 45 teachers and 439 scholars. The site and buildings together cost about £4000.
For several years the work consisted of a Sabbath Morning Meeting for children, which afterwards became a branch of the Foundry Boys' Society; Bible Classes and Sabbath School; and Sabbath Evening Evangelistic Service. During the week there were a Mothers' Meeting (presided over for a long time by Mrs. Wells), Savings Bank, Lending Library with about 700 volumes, Thursday Evening Fellowship Meeting, Band of Hope, and Saturday Evening Gospel Temperance Meeting. In December, 1883, the Presbytery had granted leave to dispense the Sacraments in the Mission premises.
In January, 1892, the Session received a deputation from the Presbytery, who urged that consideration be given to a suggestion that the Mission be raised to the status of a sanctioned charge. It was agreed, however, that the time for such a step was not yet ripe, and nothing was done in this direction until December, 1899, when it was agreed to request the next General Assembly to sanction the proposal. West Scotland Street Church was the last charge sanctioned before the Union of the Free and United Presbyterian Churches, and Mr. James Pollock, who had been Missionary during the year, was unanimously called as the first Minister. He was ordained and inducted on 25th October, 1900. It had been agreed by our Church that the buildings would be handed over to the new congregation, and we further agreed to assist financially for a number of years and to provide workers.
Although successful as a Mission, West Scotland Street never was successful as a Church, and when in 1917, the Rev. Edward Brown resigned the pastorate on receiving a call to Annbank there ensued long and anxious deliberations with the Presbytery's Home Mission Committee as to its future. We offered at that time to take the Church over as a Mission, which in effect it had always been in spite of its name, but the Presbytery favoured a union with Kinning Park United Free Church. This union was consummated in 1919, and the premises became the property of the new Church,. By invitation our members continued to take a large share of the work and were represented on the Joint Mission Board which supervised the work, In 1922 it became necessary to carry out extensive repairs on the premises, which had become unfit for occupation, but Kinning Park United Free Church did not see their way to undertake the cost of the alterations, After many negotiations our congregation agreed to the buildings becoming once more our own property and to reconstruct them for the purpose of again carrying 'on our Mission, The Congregational Meeting at which this decision was come to was held on 2nd March, 1924 - a few days after Dr. Wells's death, and in view of his long connection with the work and his intense interest in Home Missions it was agreed that the Mission be a memorial to him and be known as "The James Wells Memorial Mission,"
The reconstructed premises were opened on Friday, 1st May, 1925, when Mrs. Macphail unveiled a Bronze Memorial Tablet bearing the following inscription :-
THE JAMES WELLS MEMORIAL MISSION
AND DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
THE REV. JAMES WELLS, D. D.
POLLOKSHIELDS WEST UNITED FREE CHURCH,
Our Mission offers to our people, and especially to the young, a fine field for service, and those in charge of the various agencies will gladly receive offers to help, May our Mission be worthy of the name it bears and witness many triumphs of the mighty grace of God.
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