Edinburgh church unveils stunning two-year renovation

An Edinburgh Church will reopen at the weekend for services following a stunning £1.1 million renovation which has taken two years to complete.

View of the nave of St Columba's
Blackhall St Columba's will reopen this weekend after a two-year renovation.

Blackhall St Columba's, who will be welcoming back members of the congregation into the space for the first time since 2018, will now be fully equipped for 21st century worship.

The ambitious upgrade of the building, which was first built in 1900, includes the removal of pews to create a more flexible space and an entirely refurbished sanctuary.

Despite the scale of the project, the changes were funded entirely by the congregation, with just under half of the cost coming from the sale of a church property and the rest from donations and fundraising.

Rev Fergus Cook, who was ordained and inducted as the parish minister just before lockdown began, said: "The Church of Scotland is looking for church buildings to be well equipped spaces in the right places. "Blackhall St Columba's Parish Church is well located and I firmly believe that due to foresight and the generosity of the congregation in managing this refurbishment of its sanctuary it is now well equipped to fulfil its mission statement: to glorify God, to proclaim Christ, to serve others."

He also paid tribute to the hard work of those involved including the Building For the Future Group, Alan Thomson of Lee Boy Architects and the project manager Fay Stirling.

Rev Fergus Cook was ordained and inducted the day before lockdown
Rev Fergus Cook was ordained and inducted the day before lockdown

Speaking about reaching the end of the renovation, Ms Stirling explained the ethos behind it.

"There were a few important principles which we wanted to adhere to," she said.

"Firstly we had to be good stewards of the money which had been so generously given and spend it wisely.

"We also wanted to maintain the character of the building."

Despite Coronavirus throwing their plans into "disarray" and inevitably delaying work, Ms Stirling describes the final results as "transformational".

Glass doors provide a welcoming, well-lit entrance, with new underfloor heating added to ensure the building is efficiently heated.

A sophisticated audio-visual system now allows for varied lighting, screens and livestreaming, with elegant and efficient LED lighting added to the nave.

More space has been created for meetings and the church office and vestry has been upgraded.