How It All Began

 

The Musselburgh Church

 

Musselburgh Congregational Church was originally known as Fisherrow Congregational Church because of its location in, and service to, the fishing community of the town. It is one of Scotland’s oldest and most historic Congregational Churches. It’s beginning, in the latter part of the 18th century, was in part due to an unusual incident when one of the famous Wesley brothers, founders of the Methodist Church, was on his way from London to Edinburgh where he had been invited to address a revival meeting in the Capital. His carriage broke down in Musselburgh and he had to spend the night while his carriage was repaired in the ancient burgh. The Wesley brothers never wasted time and so a revival meeting was called for the evening. Among the assembly were several independents that were not happy with the established Church of Scotland and the preaching of Reverend Wesley inspired these independents. Soon after this impromptu meeting these independents asked permission of the Session of the Relief Church in the Millhill district of the burgh for the use of their building for a meting each Wednesday evening. Permission was granted provided half of the collection was given to the Relief Church and this was agreed.

Soon the group increased in numbers and the group found accommodation, for a short time, in the Town Hall, but this was soon outgrown and they moved to a barn in Fisherrow not far from the present building. The Church was formally established in August 1798 and in September 1799 the barn was suitably furnished with pews and a pulpit for the first service.

The modern day congregation is loyal to its founding father’s vision, hopes and dreams because it has kept its promise to follow the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The faith of this Church is strong and firm in Jesus Christ and its people are dedicated to Him and His people everywhere. With such faith the Church can look forward to a bright future of service in the local community and in the world-wide fellowship of friends and neighbours.

 

 

The Congregational Union

 

 In the neighbourhood of Musselburgh and close adjoining the pleasant and salubrious village of Inveresk there is a quiet dell formed by the descent of the elevation on which that village is built to the level of the river Esk and bearing the name of the Haugh In this retreat a few Christian friends were strolling one evening in the month of September 1812 enjoying the beauties of nature and the pleasures of Christian intercourse The company consisted of Mr Arthur late pastor of the Congregational church Dalkeith Messrs Rae and Leyden members of the same church Mr Watson and Mr William Tait one of the deacons of the church at Musselburgh Deeply interested in the state of the churches with which they stood concerned their conversation turned upon the prospects which lay before these churches and perhaps the approaching shadows of evening deepening the already sombre tints of autumn on the surrounding scenery somewhat predisposed their minds towards desponding views At length Mr Tait one of those sound hearted and happy Christians from whose nature despondency is altogether alien exclaimed What is to prevent the churches forming a union for mutual support whereby the strong may help the weak The very thing my dear friend exclaimed Mr Arthur with his usual quickness the very thing Come let us talk it over Mr Tait accordingly stated what had occurred to his own mind in regard to this matter and the friends eagerly discussed his suggestions until the shades of night warned them to seek their homes Before they separated however it was agreed that Mr Tait should bring forward his plan at an association meeting which was to be held at Dalkeith in the course of the following week This meeting was one of a friendly nature at which the pastors and brethren from the churches within a convenient circle had agreed to assemble for mutual devotion conference and exhortation On the occasion referred to the meeting which was held on the 9th of September was attended by Messrs Payne Edinburgh Pullar Leith Ritchie Kirkliston Orme Perth Watson Musselburgh and Arthur Dalkeith pastors along with Messrs Leyden Forbes Rae and Mackie members of the Dalkeith church and Mr Tait Before this company the last named individual unfolded his plan of a union among the churches for mutual support which was received with unanimous approbation In the course of a lengthened conversation the whole scheme was carefully considered and several suggestions offered tending to its greater efficiency This scrutiny writes Mr Arthur in a letter to a friend giving an account of the whole procedure was useful in leading us to adopt every precaution that might preserve the life of the babe and promote his health Like the savages in some countries we enlarged his forehead to give him a more imposing and commanding front we also loosened his tongue which at first was somewhat tacked But whatever services were thus rendered to the babe by these kind and skilful physicians after his birth the sole and undivided honours of parentage belong to Mr Tait Before the brethren left the meeting at Dalkeith they drew up the outline of a circular to be sent to the churches and appointed Mr Payne and Mr Watson to get it printed and distributed without any delay In this circular the plan of the proposed union was sketched its importance urged upon the churches and their advice craved respecting the whole matter It was also agreed to summon a general meeting to be held in Edinburgh on the first Wednesday of the ensuing November to deliberate upon the proposed scheme and to form the society On the appointed day in November this meeting was held in Thistle Street chapel then occupied by the congregationgregation of Mr Payne The number present from all parts of the country was highly gratifying to those who had taken a lead in this movement and not less so were the zeal and cordial unity which animated the whole assembly After prayer and careful deliberation the plan of the society was agreed upon a committee and office bearers appointed for the first year and an address to the churches drawn up which was afterwards duly printed and circulated In the society thus formed Mr Watson and Mr Payne were continued as joint secretaries.* The first annual meeting was appointed to be held in Edinburgh on the 6th of May 1813.

 

* The other members of committee were as follow Messrs Aikmam Rochead Penn Gordon M Lothian Glover Skae Landale for Edinburgh Messrs Pullar and Alexander for Leith Messrs Arthur and Ley den for Dalkeith Mr Tait Musselburgh Mr Ritchie Kirkliston j Mr Knowles Linlithgow Mr Gray Edinburgh treasurer


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