St Serf’s Parish Church

The following text is a history of the church from its formation to the 1990s. I am very grateful to the former minister of St Serf’s, Rev Sara Embleton, for providing this.

A history of St Serf’s Church

"In its report in 1898 the Church Extension Committee of the Presbytery recommended that Goldenacre was a district where action should be taken. This district was within the parish bounds of St Cuthbert’s Church and the Ministers and Kirk Session there prepared for action. In early 1899 a meeting of interested people in the Goldenacre district was called and the proposal to secure the site (now occupied by our church) and erect a temporary iron church was enthusiastically adopted. Within six weeks after the order was given the church was erected and on the 21st May 1899 was opened for worship. The name of St Serf – a great Scottish saint and a contemporary of St Cuthbert – was chosen as the new church was built on that part of St Cuthbert’s Parish lying nearest to the Forth and St Serf was known to have planted many churches throughout Fife.

The first minister of St Serf’s was Rev. D.G. Hamilton and one of the major tasks confronting him was the building of the new stone church. Plans had been prepared and a proportion of the £8,000 required secured. By the spring of 1902 building had begun, but it was decided to build only the nave and the south transept and hold over the chancel, north transept, vestry and session house until the necessary funds for these were available. In October 1903 the new stone church was dedicated to the service and worship of Almighty God and this meant that the ‘iron church’ could now be used as the Church Hall – a great asset for the activities of all the church organisations.

The church flourished and was active in its many branches. Money was raised for an Endowment Fund and when this was accomplished the building fund slowly grew in anticipation of completing the church building. But the First World War struck and the interests of the congregation naturally turned towards war service. Mr Hamilton left St Serf’s in 1916 to take up a ministry in Kelso and in January 1917 Rev. Charles Houlston was appointed to be the new minister of St Serf’s.

When the stone church was first dedicated Mrs Currie of Trinity Cottage had most generously gifted the lovely oak pulpit and the baptismal font. In 1921 a beautiful new carved oak communion table was gifted to the Church by Mrs Currie’s family. Later that year the staircase to the gallery was completed thus making available the gallery seats to the congregation.

It had been decided in 1920 that a war memorial fund be inaugurated and that the memorial should take the form of the completion of the chancel of the church. In the meantime until that was possible a richly carved screen of Scots oak, inscribed with the names of the twenty seven men who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War was unveiled and dedicated in November 1921. This screen was to occupy the archway to the right of the chancel when it was completed.

Together with the building of the chancel, a vestry and session house were planned and by the autumn of 1924 the work was completed. In October the dedication service took place – a memorable occasion – not only did the new church enrich the services of the sanctuary with its beauty but it contained, besides the communion table, a new lectern, a thank offering to God from the men who served in the Great War and survived, and also a prayer desk was gifted by the young people of the congregation. Over the chancel, on the great arch of the church is written, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’

St Serf’s Church suffered a sad blow when their much loved and highly respected minister Mr Houlston died suddenly at an early age of 49 in 1926. He was succeeded in the Spring of 1927 by Rev. George J. Wright who by his devotion to St Serf’s and its people quickly won a place in their affections. The worship and work went steadily on.

In October 1929 the beauty of the chancel screen was greatly enhanced by the addition of a reredos occupying the three central panels of the choir screen. In the centre panel is a figure of Christ, in the left hand panel is a figure of St Andrew and in the right hand panel is a figure of St Serf. They are beautifully executed and form the memorial to the late Mr Houlston – a worthy tribute to the memory of one so greatly loved.

In 1931 came another notable day in the history of St Serf’s – it saw the accomplishment of a work which had taken many years of labour and sacrifice and was the realisation of the dream of many lovers of St Serf’s, for on Sunday 11th October the new organ was dedicated and an organ recital some days later gave the congregation an opportunity to hear the full resources of the instrument.

The next challenge to the people of St Serf’s was the building of a new hall to replace the old "Iron Church" which had served the congregation for thirty years but was proving inadequate for all the demands put upon it. Accordingly in 1933 a Hall Fund was instituted. By 1936 plans had been drafted and expense considered and it was hoped to raise enough money to start the building in 1939 which would let the new halls be ready for use in October 1940. Sadly war came again to our country in the autumn of 1939 so no building work could be tackled. Mr Wright was called up for service as a chaplain in the armed forces and Rev. Mr Gibson ministered to the congregation in his absence, followed in 1943 by Dr Rae.

By the end of 1944 the Hall Building Fund was again a matter of concern and efforts were made to increase it. Mr Wright returned to his parish in 1945 but to our regret he left in 1946 and in July of that year Rev. Frank Findlay became our new minister – a position that he held for thirty years helped by his wife Muriel who gave him a son, Gordon. During his ministry there was an addition to the 1914/18 war memorial, it was for those who fell in the Second World War and it was unveiled in November 1949.

Much labour was expended in raising sufficient money for the new halls but the target was high and it was not until 1959 that the foundation stone was laid and in 1960 there was rejoicing when the present excellent suite of halls was dedicated and declared ready for use. Many organisations of our church, the parish and presbytery and beyond have benefited from this achievement.

Some years later the Kirk Session of St Serf’s received a legacy from Mr James Littlejohn for the erection in our church of a stained glass window in memory of his wife and his parents. Much thought and planning went into the position and design of this window and finally it was decided that the three windows of the chancel be chosen. The theme of the windows is ‘Te Deum Laudamus’ and they were beautifully designed and executed by Mr Gordon Webster and dedicated on Palm Sunday 1970.

About 1972 the children of the Junior Church raised money to transform the south transept into a small chapel for worship and the St Serf's Trefoil Guild contributed an oak reading desk to stand on the Communion table in the Chapel.

In 1976 Mr Findlay retired and Rev. Beatty succeeded him and ministered to the St Serf’s congregation for 7 years. After his death the presbytery appointed Rev. Neil Bernard as a locum and in 1984 Rev. W.S. Peat was welcomed as the new minister of St Serf's. Dr Bill Peat and his wife Eleanor were very good friends of our congregation but Dr Peat decided to retire in June 1991 and Dr Peter Donald succeeded him in September 1991 bringing to his appointment his wife Brigid who presented him with a baby son – David Peter on Saturday February 22nd 1992 and a daughter named Hannah on July 26th 1993."

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