Blairhall Assembly, Scotland
Blairhall is a small village of approximately 1000 people in West Fife, Scotland. The Gospel Hall is situated at the North Lodge of what was the original estate of Comrie Castle.
During the early 1930’s social movements within the mining industry resulted in the commencement of the assembly at Blairhall. Provision of new housing in Blairhall attracted mining families from Kelty and Valleyfield, and population movements, as a result of the declining Lanarkshire coalfield, all provided the catalyst for the start of the assembly. Many assembly-minded Christians with a proven track record of church planting were among those relocating.
The assembly commenced in 1937 with twelve believers meeting in the front room of a house, at 20 East Avenue, which is still standing. Immediately, plans were put in place for the building of a hall on land leased from a local Catholic landowner. The building was completed in 1938 and the assembly was inaugurated with a gospel campaign. Some local people were saved and backsliders restored, resulting in growth in numbers.
The arrival in the early 1940’s of a number of Christians among the ‘Bevin Boys’ (conscripts who were sent to work in the coal mining industry and were named after Ernest Bevin, Minister for Labour and National Service in the wartime coalition Government) resulted in numbers again increasing.
A post-war open-air gospel campaign and the marriages of several assembly members increased the number in fellowship to twenty. This was the beginning of the assembly’s association with the Fife Assemblies Gospel Outreach. Blairhall assembly continued to support the Lord’s work both at home and abroad with time spent each week reading and praying with regard to missionaries and their work.
At this time the assembly conference was established as an annual event in May of each year and an anniversary celebration took place each September.
During the next two decades more mining families moved into the area following work and with the provision of new housing in the neighbouring village of Oakley. Gospel campaigns throughout the decade saw conversions of assembly members’ children as well as local residents and as a result numbers grew to around thirty. Sunday school was well established by this time with annual events such as the trip and prizegiving forming bridges with the community. There was an active Bible class with some being converted and moving into assembly fellowship. Blue collar and professional people also began to arrive in the area at this time.
Sunday school and Bible class work continued and the Friday night young people’s event drew considerable numbers from surrounding areas. Further gospel campaigns resulted in conversions with additions to the assembly compensating for those who left for work and marriage. Assembly members’ families continued to be added to the fellowship, keeping numbers stable at around thirty during this period.
The start of the general decline in the mining industry during the 1970’s affected assembly numbers and the character of the local community.
Support for the annual conference waned, as was the case at many conferences at that time, which prompted reestablishment of the anniversary celebrations and fellowship oriented events. Systematic teaching was incorporated into these events primarily for the benefit of the local assembly members.
Sunday school and Bible class work was augmented with weekend camps involving the whole assembly.
People leaving following their marriage and a search for work for secondgeneration members of the assembly resulted in a slight decrease in numbers although provision of new private houses in Comrie meant some movement of believers into the area.
In the 1980’s many of those who had started the assembly were called home, though their departure was in part compensated by the conversion and addition to the assembly of their great grandchildren, as well as some local people.
The Christmas Carol Service helped to maintain contact with the local community after the demise of the Sunday school and Bible class. Tract distribution bi-annually remains a feature of assembly life. A ‘festival-type’ approach to evangelism was tried at Easter and Harvest as we approached the end of the millennium but this had limited success. Christmas remains the only festival which attracts large numbers in local support.
A programme of Religious Education Resources was inaugurated and introduced to primary schools in the area. Bibles were, and continue to be, provided. Advice is given on taking school assemblies with overhead projector transparencies. Real Life Postal Sunday School is promoted and arrangements made for Bible story-tellers to visit schools.
Since the beginning of 2000 the believers have experimented with informal presentations starting with a ‘Back to the Bible’ series on Wednesday nights at monthly intervals. This continued with another on the plight of children around the world entitled, ‘Windows on the World’ focussing on the main continents. The presentations were worthwhile and had good support from neighbouring assemblies but the activity failed in the objective of creating a bridge into the local community.
Religious Education Resources, however, was expanded into over thirty schools.
Priority has recently been given to producing tracts and Bible-reading plans for local distribution. Internal assembly magazines called Outlook and Focus are also regular features of assembly life.
During this period progress was made towards Charity status for the assembly under the banner of Blairhall Evangelical Outreach, now a reality giving real tax benefits and helping to financially compensate for reducing numbers. These have now returned to the original number of twelve.
The assembly website www.blairhall gospelhall.co.uk commenced soon after the start of the new millennium and continues with monthly updates for its ‘Children’s Corner’ and ‘Thought for the Month’. This is an attempt to communicate with the growing number of internet users.
Work continues and in the last twelve months the hall was well filled for the 2009 Carol Service, followed by visits to twelve local schools in February. In March 2010 one of the largest congregations ever to meet in the hall gathered to celebrate the life and work of one of the sisters who had been involved in the assembly work and testimony for over fifty years.
As a final note of encouragement, in April many of the believers attended the baptism, at a neighbouring assembly, of one of the great, great grand-daughters of the founders of the assembly.
‘O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever’, Ps. 136. 1.