Refurbished Perth church shortlisted for award

Rev Scott Burton
Rev Scott Burton

An iconic church in Perth which recently underwent a £875,000 transformation has been nominated for an award.

St Matthew’s Church has been recognised by the Centre of Inclusive Living Perth and Kinross as a building which is now far more accessible to disabled people.

It has been shortlisted for a most improved access award – an accolade that will be decided by an online public vote.

Rev Scott Burton, minister at St Matthew’s Church, said the nomination was a “massive complement” to the hard work and dedication of the refurbishment project team.

“One of the key reasons for spending so much time, energy and finance on our iconic Perth church was to ensure our Victorian building became fully and independently accessible for wheelchair users and parents with prams,” he explained.

“This nomination immediately recognises how well we have succeeded in improving access for all.

“Sadly, one month prior to opening our newly refurbished premises, I had to turn down a couple who wanted to hold their wedding in our church.

“The groom, a wheelchair user, was determined to exit his wedding ceremony with his new wife via our front door.

“Alas, we weren't quite ready by the date of their ceremony and the wedding could not take place.

“Never again will this happen.”

Vision and courage

Mr Burton said the nomination meant an “enormous amount” to the congregation, not least because elder John Spence is also the Presbytery of Perth's disability advisor.

“How wonderful is it that his home congregation is recognised as taking accessibility needs seriously,” added the minister, who is Presbytery Moderator.

St Matthew’s Church was officially re-dedicated by former Moderator of the General Assembly, Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, last November.

He said what had been achieved over a 12 month period was “remarkable”.

Dr Morrison, who was Moderator in 2015-16, added that he admired the "vision, courage, prayer, and sheer hard work" of the congregation to bring the project to a happy, debt-free completion.

The upgrade project involved taking out the pews and replacing them with chairs, installing external disabled access, a café and lounge, an audio system and a flexible stage area.

Glass doors allow the church’s stained glass to be viewed from the street, while the First World War colours of The Black Watch Regiment, which hang in the main church, are now illuminated.

Stained glass has been conserved, new foundations laid, cracks filled and the roof and spire repaired.

Plastering pastor

A team of four people managed to secure grant money from funds across the UK, organised fundraising events and encouraged the congregation to give generously.

The original budget for the ambitious project was £965,000.

Mr Burton, who worked as a plasterer before entering the ministry, dusted down his overalls and tools and helped do some of the work to ensure the building is fit for 21st century mission.

Other members of the congregation also assisted in bringing the refurbishment programme to fruition.