A church that started life as an experiment has celebrated its 50th anniversary
Published on 18 January, 2016
A congregation which started life as a pioneering, multi-denominational "experiment" has celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Ministers past and present recently gathered at Livingston United Parish Church to mark the significant milestone and a service of celebration and thanksgiving was held.
The service, which was attended by representatives of the four founding denominations, which includes the Church of Scotland, and civic heads from the local community, was addressed by the Rev Canon Brian Hardy who was one of the ministers inducted to the new charge on January 6, 1966.
John Burgoyne, convener of the Church's Parish Council, sets out the background and history of the church here:
"When Livingston was designated as Scotland's fourth new town development in 1962, the Church of Scotland called together representatives of the mainstream Protestant denominations.
Eventually agreement was reached between the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Congregational Union of Scotland and the Church of Scotland, followed later by the Methodist Church, to treat Livingston as an area of ecumenical experiment and to share buildings, worship and services.
History was made on January, 6 1966 when in Kirk of Calder, Midcalder, the Livingston Ecumenical Experiment was introduced with the induction/installation of the Rev James Maitland a Church of Scotland minister and the Rev Brian Hardy, an Episcopal Priest to the newcharge, by Presbytery and Bishop functioning together for the first time in the history of our country.
The first service was held in Riverside Primary School on May 8, 1966 and services continued to be held there alongside services of the Roman Catholic faith, until the opening of St Columba's Church in Craigshill in 1969.
The original team ministry comprised the Rev Jim Maitland, the Rev Brian Hardy, the Rev. Hamish Smith, congregational Church, and Max Cruikshank who was a youth and community worker.
Very much a pioneering ministry, much of the team's time was spent helping new residents settle in this new alien environment and assisting in the establishment of support groups and organisations to help create a sense of community.
And many of these groups are still in existence today.
The experiment's second church building, St. Paul's in Ladywell, was opened in 1972 to serve the established areas of north Howden and Ladywell (where services were being held in a corporation house) as well as new housing areas being developed in Knightsridge.
The St. Columba's building had been provided by the Church of Scotland and St Paul's was built by the Scottish Episcopal Church.
When the time came for the experiment's third building to be planned to serve the growing Dedridge and Murieston areas of the town, it was agreed that this was the opportunity to provide a building which at its core had a worship area shared by the four denominations of the ecumenical experiment but also with the Roman Catholic community.
Furthermore, this was a building designed for community use housing a library and a variety of useable space for community groups and church groups working together.
The building, which was funded by the Congregational Church in partnership with the Roman Catholic Church and the local authorities, was named The Lanthorn - an old Scottish term for a shining light.
The ministry team grew over these formative years with all four denominations funding one or in some cases, two ministers in the town and in 1984 the decision was taken that the experiment had 'come of age' and needed to be recognised as a more established church presence in the town.
The word experiment was duly dropped and the churches became known as the Livingston Ecumenical Parish.
A major change to the church status during the 90's took place when the Church of Scotland decided to designate the area of Livingston Ecumenical as one parish.
Another church plant was opened in Murieston to try to meet the church needs of that growing community but, in keeping with national trends, numbers throughout the parish were deteriorating and it was becoming less and less viable to maintain six congregations in six different worship centres.
This, in tandem with a reducing team ministry with little prospect of our parent denominations being in a position to fund replacements, led the parish to take a root and branch review of available options for providing a church presence in Livingston both now and in the future.
And so, after a great deal of deliberation, consultation and prayer, the parish agreed in 2012 to come together as one worshipping congregation – Livingston United Parish Church.
Over these past 50 years the Livingston Ecumenical Parish is grateful to have been blessed with an abundance of good people – clergy and laity – who have shaped their existence and laid the foundation of the parish.
They know that they will still have many challenges to face on the journey, however, out of those years has emerged a vibrant and responsive Livingston United Parish Church providing a variety of worship on Sunday mornings at Nether Dechmont and in other areas throughout the week.
The parish now looks forward in faith to a bright and positive future."