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Abbeygreen Church
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55°38′26″N 3°53′13″W / 55.64057°N 3.886878°W / 55.64057; -3.886878
Denomination Free Church of Scotland
Churchmanship Christian, Protestant, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Reformed
Website Abbeygreen,
Scottish Reformed Conference
Parish Abbeygreen Parish
Presbytery Glasgow
Minister(s) Rev. David S. Carmichael

Abbeygreen Church is a reformed, evangelical, congregation of the Free Church of Scotland in the small town of Lesmahagow, South Lanarkshire. As a Christian congregation it holds the Word of God, the Holy Bible, as the supreme rule of life and doctrine and holds the Westminster Confession of Faith as a sub-ordinate standard, which helps explain the doctrines of the Christian faith. Being Presbyterian, it serves as part of the Free Church of Scotland Presbytery of Glasgow and seeks to faithfully serve God in Lesmahagow and the surrounding area. Having a missional outlook it is involved with a number of missionary organizations including, but not only, UFM Worldwide and Rose of Sharon Ministries, and helps with the organization and support of the Scottish Reformed Conference.

The congregation was formed during the Disruption of 1843. Its foundation stone was laid in August of 1843 and the church opened on 15 February 1844. The church building, its manse and grounds are directly west of the Glebe Park on Abbeygreen. The congregation of Abbeygreen was formed out of the Parish Church of Lesmahagow by secession from the Church of Scotland in 1843. Lesmahagow Old Parish Church was built, in its present form, in 1804, at the site of the medieval Lesmahagow Priory.

History of Abbeygreen Church

Starting with the Disruption

The Disruption was a secession of ministers and congregations from the Church of Scotland which took place at the 1843 General Assembly because of the Church of Scotland continuing to allow state interference in its independent government under the authority of Christ, and Christ alone. At that meeting one hundred and twenty one ministers and seventy three elders, led by Dr. David Welsh, read a protest to the General Assembly and then left, assembling themselves as the first General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland at Tanfield Hall in the Canonmills area of Edinburgh on 18 May 1843. In all 474 ministers left the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. In 1900, a majority of the Free Church joined with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church of Scotland, with the remainder of the Free Church continuing as the present day Free Church of Scotland. In 1929, a majority of the United Free Church of Scotland joined to the Church of Scotland. The history of Abbeygreen followed these unions and mergers until, in September 2019, Abbeygreen Church (congregation, elders and minister) intimated, to the Presbytery of Lanark, its unanimous decision to leave the Church of Scotland. That process completed on 26 March 2020 and Abbeygreen then returned to the Free Church on 31 March 2020.

Reformed Scots Church Denominations
Timeline of the evolution of the churches of Scotland from the Reformation

The Disruption from a local Parish Church perspective

1839-1843: The impact in Lesmahagow and surrounding area

Lesmahagow Parish was one of only two parishes in the Presbytery of Lanark which were directly involved in the Disruption, the other being St. Leonard's of Lanark under Rev. Thomas Stark. The congregation at St. Leonard's was constituted on 27 May 1839 and the church was built and opened in 1841. Thomas Stark (b.1803) was ordained as a minister to the congregation on 29 June 1841 and became a minister of the Free Church in 1843. Dispute between the Church of Scotland and the Free Church over the property, led to the building being closed from 1845 to 1851 and the congregation bought the Associate Burgher church in Hope Street, Lanark and developed it for the needs of the congregation.

In Lesmahagow, the memory of the Covenanting period and the Killing Times was still current, and more particularly in relation to the problems caused within and for the Church of Scotland by the effects of the Revolution Settlement in Scotland and then again by the Act of Settlement and the following Patronage Act of 1711 which reinstated the right of lay Patronage in 1712. These difficulties were witnessed to by the presence in the village and surrounding area of congregations worshipping with and adhering to the ministry and discipline of the Covenanters or Society people, the Secession church, arising from the 1733 secession, and the Relief Church, arising from the 1761 secession. Each of these secessions from the established Church of Scotland being in relation to the same issues over church governance and patronage. At the time of the Disruption, it seems more than possible that the village of Lesmahagow was keenly aware of the very real spiritual issues relating to patronage; that is, that congregations did not have the freedom, under the leading and direction of God, to call their own minister and be guided in the faith by that minister.

Rev. Dr. Andrew Boreland Parker

The minister of the Church of Scotland Parish of Lesmahagow at the time was the Rev. Dr. Andrew Borland Parker. Born in 1810 and licensed to the ministry on 2 October 1833 he came to Lesmahagow from ministering at Levern, Barrhead, near Glasgow until 28 February 1839. Dr. Parker was presented to the congregation by Alexander Hamilton, the 10th Duke of Hamilton on 21 November 1838 and admitted to the first charge of Lesmahagow on 4 April 1839. Lesmahagow parish of the Church of Scotland was a ministry involving two charges, the first and the second. The minister of the second charge when Dr. Parker arrived in 1839 was the Rev. Dr. John Wilson. Dr. Wilson died in 1842 and was succeeded, in the same year, by the Rev. Thomas Burns who was translated from the High Church in Airdrie. Dr. Parker arrived in the village just prior to the following events which brought the issues relating to patronage so sharply into focus for the people of Lesmahagow:

The impact of a refusal of Patronage

The North Church in Lesmahagow, was a congregation of the Secession or Burgher Church (an "Auld Lichts" congregation) which received separate pulpit supply from 1814 and was formed a session on 5 May 1816 from the Original Burgher congregation in Carluke. This formation of a session was to benefit the people of Lesmahagow who worshipped with the Carluke congregation and to allow them to call a minister. The North Church inducted its first minister on 1 March 1820; a newly licensed minister, the Rev. William Logan, born 1789 and licensed to the ministry in January 1819. This branch of the Original Secession church re-united with the Church of Scotland on 11 September 1839 and on that union, a third charge of the Church of Scotland was created in the Lesmahagow Parish. However, the Duke of Hamilton refused patronage for the incumbent minister of the North Church. This refusal was a clear action against both the minister and the congregation as they were constituted under God. Despite this refusal, the "Burgher" congregation, now part of the Church of Scotland, continued to worship in its own building with the Rev. William Logan as minister. The church building was situated on site of what is now called the Jubilee Hall on Bloomfield Road in Lesmahagow. Now, with the North Church being the third charge of the Church of Scotland in Lesmahagow, the second charge of Lesmahagow became vacant by the Death of the Rev. Dr. John Wilson on 13 February 1842. Rev. William Logan was selected as a candidate for the second charge and won the vote of the congregation (on 7 July 1842), receiving 293 votes compared to the 205 votes for Rev. Thomas Burns of Airdrie. The Duke of Hamilton gave patronage to and presented the Rev. Thomas Burns to the Lesmahagow Parish Church congregation and Rev. Burns then succeeded to the ministry of the second charge on 29 September 1842.

When the disruption took place in 1843, Rev. William Logan and the North Church joined the Free Church of Scotland. Almost immediately on joining the Free Church, the Rev. William Logan was called to Sanquhar Free Church, and in June 1843, at the first meeting of the Free Church Presbytery of Lanark, decisions were taken; firstly, to unite the North Church and the congregation that came out of the Church of Scotland to prevent there being two charges of the Free Church in Lesmahagow when many parts of Scotland had no provision and secondly, to preach the North Church vacant since the church building was too small for the Free Church membership now in Lesmahagow. That presbytery was constituted by Rev. William Logan (Moderator), Rev. Thomas Stark of Lanark and Rev. Dr. Andrew Boreland Parker and an elder from each congregation. However, the North Church congregation, decided to hear the Rev. John Milwain, a preacher from the nearby Reformed Presbyterian Church at Ponfeigh, near Douglas Water, on the Sabbath day the Free Church had chosen to preach it vacant. The North Church session and congregation called Rev. Milwain, and on his acceptance of the call the North Church transferred (both property and congregation) to the Reformed Presbyterian Church with a portion of the congregation choosing to unite with Lesmahagow Free Church. The transfer completed on 4 March 1844 and the ministry was shared between Ponfeigh and Lesmahagow North Church for a time until moderation was granted on 28 April 1845. On 10 August 1846, Rev. McMeekin (or Macmeeken) was called as minister to the North church and ordained on 30 December 1846. However, due to financial difficulty, the North Church congregation was dissolved in 1869 and therefore did not survive to the time when a majority of the Reformed Presbyterian Church united with the Free Church of Scotland in 1876. Subsequently, the church building was modified and became the village hall, and from 1887, the Jubilee Hall, at the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Rev. William Logan died, as minister of Sanquhar Free Church, on 3 February 1863 having served Christ and His Church as minister for forty five years.

The Disruption and the Formation of Abbeygreen, Free Church of Scotland

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Abbeygreen Church c1900. Church building opened 15 February 1844.
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Netherfauldhouse Farm Buildings, 2021
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Panorama looking south east over the Muttonhole and Poniel Water, 2021

The situation in Lesmahagow was not unusual and represents a typical picture of events in various parts of Scotland where the will of congregations, in their requests to call ministers of their choosing, were overturned by land-owners (or "lay-patrons") supported by both the general assembly and presbyteries of the established church. In 1833, the Church of Scotland General Assembly passed a Veto Act, notionally allowing congregations to assert their right over land-owners but in practice this was meaningless, as the Lesmahagow events show, and the courts of the church were continually dealing with disputes over the appointment of ministers. Therefore, nationally, in the run up to 1843, the issues relating to patronage continued to be contested within the Church of Scotland and positions became ever more entrenched. With the backdrop of all that had happened in the churches of the village from 1839 to 1842, a general meeting of the congregation of Lesmahagow Parish Church was called on 28 December 1842 by Dr. Parker. At that meeting, many of the congregation subscribed to support ministers faithful to the Word of God and the independence of the Church of Jesus Christ from state or worldly interference in its spiritual matters. Immediately following the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, on 28 May 1843, Dr. Parker preached his last sermon in the Parish Church. Intending to begin an exposition in the Book of Exodus, Dr. Parker declared "I can no longer continue in connection with an establishment which has virtually denied the Kingly office of Christ, and submitted its spiritual jurisdiction to the control of Caesar". Dr. Parker, five of the seven elders and eight hundred communicant members left the Church of Scotland and the Parish Church at the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.

The new congregation had no property, building or land and faced strong opposition from a number of villagers and local landowners. The minister, being homeless, eventually found a house to rent at Netherfauldhouse, about 3.5 miles south east of Lesmahagow. Mr Robert Frame, a surgeon and member of the Parish Church of Lesmahagow, granted the use of a field for the congregation to use for worship at the Muttonhole, between Ballieshall farm (or Bellishole) and Folkerton Mill on the Poniel water, some 3.6 miles south east of the centre of Lesmahagow and accessible by roadway from Lesmahagow. Being a good summer, the congregation worshipped in the open air through the summer, attracting interest from the people of nearby Douglas, Rigside, Douglas Water and Coalburn, a situation which continued for some time, as open air preaching here continued even after the building of Abbeygreen Church was completed. Mr James Brown of Auchlochan negotiated a plot of land, immediately west of the Glebe fields, from the Duke of Hamilton and the foundation stone of a new church building was laid in August 1843. On 15 February 1844, Abbeygreen Free Church was opened to the Glory of God, free of debt and without the aid of the Free Church central fund. The building was designed to a plan provided by the Free Church Building Committee and originally contained 960 sittings.

The congregation of Abbeygreen immediately organized Sabbath day and regular Schools with supporting libraries, and built the church manse later in 1844. A Free Church School was built on Peasehill, Lesmahagow, in 1851. The church also established a number of mission stations in the local area resulting in the planting of a number of congregations which then developed within the Free Church of Scotland. The church in the neighbouring village of Coalburn was one such mission station established in 1893, becoming an independent Free Church congregation in November 1895. Additionally, Free Church congregations were established in the villages of Douglas, (with the church being built in 1845), and Rigside/Douglas Water, (with the church being built in 1886), each resulting, at least in part, from the open air preaching ministry during the summer of 1843 and following.

Abbeygreen: Free Church Ministers until 1900

The ministry of Dr. Parker continued until 1854 when he was called to the Free Church congregation of Wellpark in Dennistoun, Glasgow. On 16 May 1856 a probationer minister, the Rev. James Laing, was ordained and inducted. Mr Laing continued as the minister in Abbeygreen until 25 February 1872 when he preached his farewell sermon on his translation to Glasgow-West Free Church, thereafter to Bermondsey London and on 26 September 1878, to Stonehouse, Lanarkshire. Rev. Laing's successor, the Rev. James Arthur Gray, b.1843 at Slamannan, was ordained and inducted on 22 November 1872.

A Succession of Unions and Mergers

1900: Majority of the Free Church of Scotland joins the United Presbyterian Church to become the United Free Church of Scotland

Abbeygreen became a branch of the United Free Church of Scotland at the joining of a majority of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church in 1900. Mr Gray continued as the minister until his retirement in 1927. Then, on 27 October 1927, the Rev. John Walker MA was ordained as minister of Abbeygreen.

1929: Majority of the United Free Church of Scotland joins the Church of Scotland

Early in Rev. Walker's ministry, in 1929, the United Free Church reunited with the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland having been reconstituted to honour the principles of the Disruption, through the abolishment of patronage, in 1874, and by further Acts of Parliament in 1921 and 1925. The congregation that became Abbeygreen therefore found itself back within the Church of Scotland as the congregation of Lesmahagow-Abbeygreen on 2 October 1929. The joining of a majority of the United Free Church of Scotland with the Church of Scotland also brought the Cordiner church into the Church of Scotland, leading to three separate congregations of the Church of Scotland in the Parish of Lesmahagow. Mr Walker's ministry ended in May 1939 and he was followed by the Rev. T.F. Neill. Mr Neill was ordained on 25 January 1940.

1940: Union with the Cordiner Church: And a change of constitution for Abbeygreen

Late in 1940, Mr Morton, the minister of the neighbouring Cordiner Church became seriously ill.

The Cordiner Church was founded as the Lesmahagow Relief Church in 1837 and took its name from its second minister, the Rev. Robert Cordiner, who served it from 1846 until 1897. The Cordiner Church was situated in what is now a housing and flats development named Cordiner Court, between New Trows Road and New Road. The Relief church dates back to the second secession, of 1761, and in common with the situation of the Societies, the Asscoiated Presbyteries, then Burghers and Anti-Burghers the history of these churches and congregations through the latter part of the 1700s is one where ministry was in short supply. Few of these gatherings were constituted as formal church organizations, with the attendance at preaching events organized in one or other of the branches of the church being attended by adherents from the other branches of this fragmented line of Scottish church organization. Preaching events would be organized in the few buildings owned by the branches, or would typically feature open air events, reminiscent of the conventicles of the covenanting times. Presbyteries and Synods of the churches existed but ministers and buildings, being in short supply within each of the branches of the church, led to this situation prevailing through the most of the 1700s. The need, in Lesmahagow, for a preaching station of the Relief church came to the notice of the Glasgow Presbytery on 26 July 1836, by Mr M'Lay of Strathaven, and this led to the supply of preachers to meet the needs of the people in Lesmahagow. The congregation was formed on 7 November 1837 and a church was built having 724 seats, although the church was finished early in 1838, it was not opened until August of that year.

Its first minister, Mr Alexander Lindsay was ordained on 22 May 1838. Rev. Lindsay left the charge at the end of 1845 and subsequently joined the Free Church in 1848. Rev. Robert Cordiner was called to the charge in 1846, being ordained on 16 March 1847 and the congregation flourished under his ministry, paying off debt and securing suitable, more modern, manse accommodation for the minister. In 1847, the Relief Church joined with the United Secession Church to form the United Presbyterian Church. Rev. Robert Cordiner retired on 11 October 1894 and was succeeded by Rev. John Lewars on 20 March 1895 who served the congregation until he was released due to a call to another charge on 31 July 1900.

In the same year, the United Presbyterian Church joined with a majority of the Free Church of Scotland (1843-1900) to form the United Free Church of Scotland. At this event, Abbeygreen and the Cordiner Church found themselves in the same church denomination. Then, in 1929, Abbegreen Church and the Cordiner Church followed the majority of the United Free Church of Scotland into the Church of Scotland at the union of the United Free Church of Scotland with the Church of Scotland. The individual congregations respectively becoming Lesmahagow-Abbeygreen and Lesmahagow Cordiner Church.

Abbeygreen Church and the Cordiner Church enjoyed a long and mutually supportive relationship and so, with the illness of Rev. Morton, the members of the Cordiner church were invited to temporarily join with Abbeygreen in worship. In June 1941 members of the Cordiner Church met with the congregation of Abbeygreen to discuss union of the two churches and in July 1941, the two churches united. The sessions united and a congregational board was formed, with the last meeting of the old Deacons Court of Abbeygreen taking place on 1 July 1941. This action created Lesmahagow-Abbeygreen, Church of Scotland, under the "Model Deed of Constitution"; a constitution which separates the temporal affairs of the church, to be led by elected members of the "Congregational Board" working with the ordained elders, from the spiritual affairs of the church, to be led by the ordained elders as the Kirk Session. The first meeting of the final constitution of Lesmahagow-Abbeygreen Church of Scotland, the session and congregational board, took place on 7 July 1941.

On Abbeygreen rejoining the Free Church of Scotland in 2020, there are still two members of the congregation who were members of the Cordiner Church Sunday School; both have served as office bearers to Abbeygreen Church for some considerable time.

1941 to 2020: Ministry within the Church of Scotland

From the union with the Cordiner Church congregation, the Rev. T.F. Neill served the church until 1953 when he was called to Cranhill in Glasgow. On 6 April 1954, the Rev. Dr. Robert B.W. Walker MB, ChB was inducted as minister of Abbeygreen. Dr. Walker continued in the ministry until ill health forced him to demit his charge at the end of October 1981. Following a period of vacancy, a probationer minister, the Rev. David S. Carmichael, was ordained and inducted on 2 September 1982, where he has since continued to faithfully serve the Lord and His people.

Return to the Free Church of Scotland

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Abbeygreen Church, Lesmahagow
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Abbeygreen Church and Manse from Abbeygreen

On 26 March 2020, the congregation of Abbeygreen Church, in unity with its minister and elders left the Church of Scotland to form Abbeygreen New Church, meeting once as an independent congregation on 29 March (online). The church had worked with the Church of Scotland, Presbytery of Lanark, to secure its land and buildings and completed the transfer on the morning of 26 March. On 31 March 2020, the minister was accepted and recognized as a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and the congregation of Abbeygreen was joyfully re-admitted into the Free Church of Scotland, where it began in 1843. The meeting of the church "online" on 29 March 2020 was a feature of the Sars-CoV-2 virus situation which resulted in public gatherings being legally closed down from the afternoon of 26 March in the UK & Scotland. The church is constituted within the Free Church of Scotland under the Model Trust Deed constitution, that of having a Kirk Session and a Finance Committee.

Timeline of Ministers & Events of Abbeygreen Church

Table of Events in the Life of Abbeygreen Church
Year(s) Name of Minister Event Date of Event (if relevant/known)
2020 Rev. David S. Carmichael Minister and congregation of Abbeygreen accepted into the Free Church of Scotland 31/3/2020
2020 Rev. David S. Carmichael Abbeygreen Leaves Church of Scotland & becomes Abbeygreen New Church 26/3/2020
1982 Rev. David S. Carmichael Minister ordained & inducted 2/9/1982
1981 Rev. Dr. Robert B.W. Walker Minister demits due to ill health 30/10/1981
1954 Rev. Dr. Robert B.W. Walker Minister inducted 6/4/1954
1953 Rev. T. F. Neill Minister called to Cranhill, Glasgow
1941 Rev. T. F. Neill Abbeygreen and Cordiner Church Unite, Abbeygreen reconstituted to "Model Deed of Constitution" 7/7/1941
1941 Rev. T. F. Neill Last Deacons' Court meeting of Abbeygreen Church 1/7/1941
1940 Rev. T. F. Neill Minister inducted 25/1/1940
1939 Rev. John Walker Minister leaves 1/5/1939
1929 Rev. John Walker Abbeygreen joins the Church of Scotland along with the majority of the United Free Church of Scotland 2/10/1929
1927 Rev. John Walker Minister inducted 27/10/1927
1927 Rev. James Arthur Gray Minister Retires
1900 Rev. James Arthur Gray Abbeygreen joins the United Presbyterian Church along with the majority of the Free Church of Scotland at the formation of the United Free Church of Scotland
1872 Rev. James Arthur Gray Minister Inducted 22/11/1872
1872 Rev. James Laing Minister translated to West Congregation, Free Church of Scotland, Glasgow 25/2/1872
1856 Rev. James Laing Minister ordained & induced 16/5/1856
1855 N/A Vacant
1854 Rev. Dr. Andrew Boreland Parker Dr Parker Called to Wellpark Free Church, Dennistoun, Glasgow
1844 Rev. Dr. Andrew Borland Parker Church Building opened 15/2/1844
1843 Rev. Dr. Andrew Borland Parker Leaving Church of Scotland 28/5/1843
1842 Rev. Dr. Andrew Borland Parker General Meeting of Lesmahagow Congregation 28/12/1842

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