Knowledge of the beginning of assemblies in Orkney is rather scant but it was during the early 1870’s that they began and it is known that the assembly in the island of Westray was in existence in 1868 being the first to be established in Orkney. It came into being through the ministry of Mr. Hopkins who visited the island and it was shortly after that the other assemblies began in Orkney.
At present there are five:- Kirkwall, St. Margaret’s Hope, Harray, Westray and Papa Westray.
In Kirkwall, brethren and sisters originally met in property in Shore Street. In 1879 property in Victoria Street which consisted of a cottage and garden. It was bought by the brethren for £134. The cottage was completely demolished and a hall was built which occupied the whole of the ground. It consisted of a shop on the ground floor and a hall on the first floor, the idea was that revenue from the shop would assist in the expenses of the property. The believers met there for the first time on the 14th November 1880 and according to their well maintained cash books the collection on that occasion was 4/4Qsd. Toward the end of the 1880’s the brethren felt that they lacked a teaching ministry and had made this a matter of prayer. Their prayers were answered beyond their expectations. In 1889 a Mr. Charles Smith who was a member of the United Presbyterian Church in Kirkwall, and being a student of the Scriptures, had begun to see the truth of assembly gathering, left that church and was received into fellowship in the assembly in Kirkwall. His teaching was consecutive and spanned thirty years. His sermons were all recorded in five volumes each having two hundred pages and which I understand have been lodged in the assembly archives facility in Manchester.
In the beginning of the twentieth century there was a thriving Sunday School with ninety-nine names on the roll and twelve teachers. The Sunday School in those days was a very profitable area of evangelism and many of the children came to know Christ as Saviour.
One of the more prominent brethren associated with the assembly in the early days was a Mr. George Rendall who founded the drapery business which bore his name. He was followed by his nephew Mr. William Reid who was a partner in the same business. He in turn was followed by Mr. Robert Rendall whose name still lives among us and who contributed much through teaching and literature. He could be aptly described as a ‘ready writer’. His books ‘History, Prophecy and God’ and ‘The Greatness and Glory of Christ’, are classics in their sphere.
The years during the war were memorable times of blessing. Many of the forces’ servicemen came to the gospel meetings and quite a number were converted. Over the years, I have had the privilege to talk to several who had been stationed in Orkney during the war years and they mentioned the happy times they had at Victoria Hall and also the encouragement they received as young Christians.
In 1967 occupation of the whole building was obtained and the ground floor which was a shoe shop was completely cleared and refurbished providing a small hall, kitchen, toilets and cloak rooms. The entrance to the hall upstairs was changed from the side to the front of the building. These new facilities proved a great asset in many ways. However, as fire regulations on public buildings were becoming more rigid and parking regulations in town were tightened, it became clear that the present building was becoming more unsuitable for assembly gathering. This was a matter of concern to the elders who were prayerfully looking elsewhere for a more suitable location. In May 1989 property in a housing area came on the market. This property, formerly a restaurant and pool-room was basically ‘custom built’ and would make an ideal Gospel Hall without having to carry out any structural alterations. An offer was submitted and the Lord wonderfully provided it for us. Although positioned in a housing area, we face the problem that many assemblies face in these days and that is, to encourage people to come. However, we are thankful for those who do come and trust that as a witness is maintained the Lord will yet bless His Word as it is proclaimed in Meadows Gospel Hall. There are currently twenty-seven in fellowship in the assembly and visitors are warmly welcomed.