The following story pays tribute to a remarkable band of men and women in Perthshire, who 40 years ago had a vision for their faith which became a reality!
Tayside Christian Fellowship, like the first church in Jerusalem, sprang from a seed bed of prayer. For more than a year, a small company of faithful souls – who affectionately became known at the time as the Taysiders, met regularly for prayer and discussion.
“These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication .”
Harry Pope, who later would become the church’s first pastor, recalled at the time how a few evangelical Christians, from a number of churches were becoming increasingly aware of the need for an independent fellowship with no denominational barriers.
Many had experienced the compartmentalisation of believers and their great challenge at the time was to establish a church which would truly recognise the Oneness of the Body of Christ and the inter-communion of all believers.
God was leading them, step by step, along untrodden paths, and they had to be sure of the divine presence at every stage of the journey.
26 April 1981
At last, on the 26th April 1981, they met for the first time as a church called Tayside Christian Fellowship. The founder members came from a great variety of Christian cultures and together they had begun a spiritual work, which was soon to experience a remarkable wave of blessing.
With Christ as its Head, Tayside Christian Fellowship was extremely fortunate in having eight men at the time of proven spiritual character who together made an outstanding contribution as the church’s first elders.
The church began by renting accommodation for their services at St Stephens Hall in Paradise Place which was owned at the time by Perth and Kinross District Council, but within a few months of meeting as a church the Council decided to put the building up for sale.
The Taysiders, trusting in God to reveal His will, submitted an offer for £25,000 which was accepted. So, it happened, that Tayside Christian Fellowship had moved into the property business by November 1981.
The building in truth was dilapidated and needed major reconstruction. The founding members would soon be facing a new financial pressure nearer to £90,000 and there wasn’t a rich man among them!
Spiritual burdens too were almost unbearable, especially for their first Pastor, Harry Pope. At the time he was asked what do Taysiders do for money? He responded, well for a start, they pray about it and then they begin to see the answer in their own lives!
Members covenanted until it hurt; assets were liquidated; old cars had to stay on the road for another year; holidays were sacrificed.
Founder members will never forget the occasion when they were praying about their needs and there was a knock at the church door. A cheque for £5,000 had been handed in. It is only believing prayer which produced an amazing delivery like that! They also received very generous help from two evangelical trusts.
We laboured in the work
January 1982 – April 1983
Together with the financial and spiritual pressures, there was the sheer physical drudgery of reconstruction. The months ahead would be fraught with problems which would regularly feel insurmountable.
Altogether the building was the most depressing place imaginable. Even when they stripped back the inappropriate decor, the main auditorium needed a complete redesign and ancillary rooms were ripe for demolition. The heating was also expensive and totally inadequate. The really hard work was now about to begin!
Within 15 months, the church had an attractive sanctuary which was well pro-portioned, tastefully furnished and could accommodate up to180 and the lesser hall could take a further 60, if overflow was necessary.
An extensive foyer lined with facing bricks, provided access to the kitchen, toilets, vestry and coffee lounge. A games apartment was also prepared for youth activities.
They had done it! The old hall soon became a distant memory, and the new church was a reality!
Saturday 23, April 1983
A plaque still remains in the foyer from that day which says:
The reconstruction of this church
has been carried out mainly
by the voluntary labours of its members.
The work has been made possible through generous donations from many kind friends.”
Officially dedicated to the glory of God
By Ernest Childs, Esq on this,
the 23rd of April 1983.
Mr Jack Mitchell from Northern Ireland was the guest speaker for the service. Originally hailing from Glasgow and, at the time, Pastor of an independent evangelical church in Belfast, he regularly preached to audiences of 400.
Two years previously, the Taysiders numbered only 18!
However, three years later, a register compiled prior to the Dedication Service, showed the names of those who had made Tayside Christian Fellowship their regular place of worship. There were more than a 100 on the roll – 80 of whom regularly attended the Sunday services.
The mid-week fellowship attracted as many as 50 and the thriving Youth Fellowship numbered about 40, led by a band of dedicated leaders.
TCF established its own choir which performed at other churches as well as TCF. Each year the choir produced a Christmas cantata, illustrated with a variety of staging effects which was always guaranteed to fill the church to capacity
In the church’s first two years a number of people had been brought to a personal faith in Christ and 20 baptisms had been performed.
Today, we humbly give our grateful thanks to the founding members still on the register today or who have since moved away from Perth.
Source: The Commemorative Brochure from the Dedication Service.