Our 2022 Patron’s “Gathering” in St Andrew’s West, Glasgow.

Dr DJ Johnston-Smith

Director, Scotland’s Churches Trust

On the 23rd June 2022 we hosted our first in-person “Gathering” event since 2019 with our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, in attendance.

Before the arrival of Princess Anne at the magnificent 19th century St Andrew’s West Church in Glasgow, around a hundred guests from a variety of churches, faith groups, conservation bodies and other organisations, were piped in by 14 year old Angus from Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band before enjoying a short musical programme performed by Mianoora, Edyta, Sam & Arianna from Women in Chamber Music, an all-female, professional, music collective based in Glasgow.

Women in Chamber Music entertained HRH The Princess Royal and our guests with an exciting, varied and thoroughly engaging programme of music, encompassing the works of Gershwin, Piazzolla, Brahms, Williams, Britten, Schubert, Debussy and more, that was an absolute delight and was the talk of the reception that followed.

After being met outside by Mrs Ruth Maltman, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Glasgow, Trust Chairperson, Col Jamie Erskine, and Trust President, Mr Robin Blair, Princess Anne joined guests inside the Church to hear a little more about the Trust’s activities over during the Pandemic years and their plans for the year ahead, before listening to another short selection of delightful musical pieces from Women in Chamber Music.

Our Chairperson reported how we have now distributed, when adjusted for inflation, almost £5million in grant support to churches across Scotland since 1978. While we are incredibly sad to have found it necessary to pause our grant-giving for the time being, he outlined our aspiration to build new collaborative partnerships in the coming months that will allow us to once again financially assist Scotland’s Churches in the difficult years ahead.

As the various custodians of Scotland’s ecclesiastical built heritage adjust to a new post-COVID operational paradigm, he explained how Scotland’s Churches Trust is committed to continue and build upon its long tradition of preserving, protecting and promoting this rich built legacy in communities in every corner of the country.

This summer and autumn, with the support of Historic Environment Scotland, we will be relaunching our church recording initiative. Colonel Erskine asked our guest to reach out to their contacts as we are currently seeking volunteers to assist them in recording the interior contents of churches anywhere in the country that are earmarked for closure.

Before the precious contents of these buildings are scattered forever, this project will make a permanent record of the multi-generational tangible cultural capital that has been invested in these community spaces over many centuries.

Why do we need a record of our churches’ contents?

Cultural heritage includes artefacts, monuments, a group of buildings and sites, museums that have a diversity of values including symbolic, historic, artistic, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological, scientific and social significance.

UNESCO Definition of cultural heritage

Princess Anne then met with the musicians and our Trustees before joining our guests downstairs, in the Blythswood Hall of the adjacent Renfield Centre, for some excellent conversations over refreshments.

While the our Patron moved around the room chatting with guests, much of the conversation inevitably turned to our aspirations to develop and nurture a country-wide conversation about the future of Scotland’s churches, perhaps via a national conference or symposium in the near future. There was a great deal of interest too in our very tentative plans to host a nation-wide “Sacred Places Open Days” event, in collaboration with key stakeholders such as our lovely friends at Historic Churches Scotland and other heritage organisations, to encourage communities across the country to get back into their local church buildings in the spring or early summer of 2023 .

We offer our sincere gratitude and appreciation to our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, her Lady-in-Waiting and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Glasgow for joining us at our 2022 Gathering, and to our Patron’s and the Lord Lieutenant’s office teams for co-ordinating the visit with us and to Police Scotland officers for their care and attention.

We must also thank the very hard-working team at the Renfield Centre, who kept the whole day running smoothly, the fantastic Newlands Home Bakery, who provided the delicious afternoon tea boxes, the five talented musicians who entertained us during the afternoon, our amazing volunteers Hannah and Lesley and various Trustees, past and present, who helped with stewarding and registration activities and our wonderful VP Sir Boyd Tunnock who helped with the costs of the event.

Finally, our huge thanks to all of the lovely guests who came along from all over Scotland, despite travel issues and a resurgent threat from COVID. It was a fantastic day, full of positive conversations about how we can all continue to protect, promote and preserve our cherished ecclesiastical built heritage in Scotland.

If you would like to join us a future event, you can very quickly become a Friend of Scotland’s Churches Trust HERE.