St. Monans on the East Fife coast was a very busy fishing village when the assembly began in 1924. For several years before this, God had been at work in what is now called the ‘Jock Troup revival’ affecting fishing communities from Wick in the north to Great Yarmouth in the south. This powerful preacher brought the gospel to many Fife fishermen and their womenfolk as they followed the great herring shoals along the North Sea coast, and many were saved and baptized. Others were saved and baptized locally as the gospel was preached in churches, halls and in the open air.
During the 1914-18 war, one local fisherman, John Smith, saved and recently baptized at Fraserburgh, was put in charge of a minesweeper on the Clyde. One weekend, he went ashore at Ardrossan to seek a scriptural Christian fellowship. Seeing him with a Bible in his pocket, a lady invited him to a Bible Reading. On Lord’s Day he returned and witnessed the breaking of bread. He found what he had been seeking and joined himself to that assembly. Over the next few years, he found fellowship in assemblies in different ports he visited while fishing. When at home, John, with two other brethren regularly cycled a 24 miles return trip over a long hill to remember the Lord in their nearest assembly at St. Andrews.
In the autumn of 1923, he met a Scottish evangelist called Arthur Gilmour at Great Yarmouth and invited him to St. Monans. For two weeks that winter gospel meetings were held in John’s home, just across the road from the present Gospel Hall. Six souls were saved. Later, another evangelist, Jack Roberts, came and pitched his gospel tent on a piece of common ground where fishermen dried their nets. Meetings were held for young and old, a few more were saved and also heard from the scriptures about baptism and church principles. Mr Roberts stayed with the Fergusons who ran a bakery in the next street. James Ferguson himself had just been saved in the local Congregational Church. He had been quite a man of the world, keen and skilful on the football field and at the draughts-board. On the Sunday night he was saved, seeing elderly folk making their way to a service he said to his wife, ‘See these old folk? That’s what the kirk’s for – not for the likes o’ me!’ But that evening, he became a changed man.
The preacher in the Congregational Church during these eventful years was Mr. Thomson, a brother with experience of assemblies else-where. He had come to St. Monans to work as a builder, but when the minister took ill he was invited to take over the preaching which he continued to do after the minister died. He preached a sound gospel, and also explained the need for baptism and the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Convinced of the truth of these things, some believers severed their links with that church in the summer of 1924, to gather into the Lord’s Name in a scripturally-based assembly. They first met in the Fergusons’ home for the breaking of bread, prayer and preaching. Often, extra prayer meetings were held in the flour-loft above the bakehouse. Soon a large wooden hut was acquired from the naval base at Rosyth, dismantled and brought to St. Monans, covered in tar and oil. It was cleaned and painted by the brethren themselves, most of them fishermen briefly at home at the end of their summer fishing. By the time it was ready for use most of the brethren and sisters had gone to the autumn fishing at Yarmouth. So on that first Lord’s Day morning in the first Gospel Hall only six believers met to remember the Lord, but numbers increased when the boats returned in December. At the end of that year twelve more were added, some in their early teens, being baptized one night at a special meeting held in Union Hall, Cowdenbeath.
The assembly continued to meet in that wooden hut with its corrugated iron roof in a back street for 32 years, during which remarkable local gift was encouraged and developed. Sadly, some left the fellowship having ‘received new light’, but others were added, including families of many of the original couples. Baptisms took place in the sea, even in winter. In 1956 the present Gospel Hall was built for around £4,500, sacrificially provided by working men from their very modest incomes, debt free, without appeals for outside finance. On 16th June that year, around 55 local believers first met in the new hall for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. James Gowans, James Ferguson, Bob Cargill, David Fyall and Alex Allan gave short messages. The next weekend around 300 believers gathered for the Opening Conference when nine well-known visitors preached.
For many years before this, an annual weekend conference had become established in December, with up to 500 visitors arriving from many parts of the country by train and by busloads to hear gifted brethren teaching the word of God. In 1960 the date was moved to September to eliminate winter travel. This conference continues to the present with annual attendances now around 150. Over the years, there were open-air meetings all year round, some in neighbouring villages, a thriving Sunday School and Children’s Meetings in two locations, and Bible Readings on Saturday evenings which continued into the 1980s. These are now held on Monday evenings, and monthly ministry meetings during the winter attract good attendances from nearby assemblies.
In this village of less than 1400 people, at one time eight different groups met on Sundays. Now there are only three. The UK trend towards materialism and apathy has had its effect so that our numbers have fallen considerably as older saints have been called home. But we continue with a well attended Gospel Service, regular tract distribution, meetings in three care homes, and a summer Holiday Club for children, still seeking to honour our Lord Jesus in every possible way.