From Yorkshire To Perthshire

by Stuart Harrison.

With a soft Scottish lilt, Stuart smiled as he shared his recollections of how he had seen God at work in the rolling hills of rural Perthshire in the 1980’s. They had taken a different approach to growing church and community and had seen many lives changed and rural isolation overcome. “Is this the sort of thing you are picturing here?” he asked me.

“It could be,” I replied, “it sounds exciting! Let’s see!”

Please read or listen to Stuart’s memories and imagine what God may be wanting to do here in these Northern Yorkshire Dales today, and the adventure he may be inviting you to join. Please add any thoughts and responses  you may have to the comments section, below. And join me in thanking Stuart for sharing his experience.

Be encouraged.

“Having moved in 1976 from the relatively arid barrenness of the industrialised Vaal Triangle in South Africa to the lush greenness of Horsforth on the road out of Leeds to the Yorkshire Dales, my family and I were all blessed with the nearness of towns like Harrogate, Ilkley, Otley and Grassington and villages like Hawes and Kettlewell where we fell upon Scargill House.

Mondays were our days off from full-time pastoral responsibilities, allowing us to bask in the beauteousness of all the hills and dales whilst being mindful of the rugged stone walls on unsighted lanes.

So, when we were called to Dundee in Scotland to be part of a charismatic leadership team of the church where I had belonged as an adolescent and where I had been firstly baptised in the Holy Spirit and then a year later in water, I thought it would be a spiritually fulfilling experience.

But while my old pastor was enthusiastic, the other elders were not all glad to welcome me onto the team. When a group of people from the rural community of Blairgowrie and Rattray in Perthshire visited, God indicated to me that these were people who had no shepherd even though they were mainly mature Christians.

After the passing of the 1981/2 winter and the snowdrops were literally breaking through the snow, we began to worship on Sundays, firstly in homes, then the Methodist hall followed by the YMCA, then the local recreation centre where we had some baptisms in the pool and finally the town hall when we needed extra space for worship and a growing need for rooms for Sunday School classes.

So here we were pioneering with another church plant, having cut my teeth on a church plant in Yorkshire in the 1970s when a middle-aged woman was healed of cancer after which many people saw God’s power at work and asked Jesus to be their Saviour.

I found that in serving the communities in my area of 600 square miles, we needed to decentralise as much as possible not only through dispersed home groups but also by holding our Sunday services in other localities namely in Alyth, Coupar Angus and Aberfeldy which were all smaller communities from where our members came to us regularly.

They loved us coming to their community halls and homes because they were comfortable and familiar with their own habitats and were able to invite friends, neighbours, and families along to the meetings. Those of us who travelled from Blairgowrie were glad of a change of scenery, some of which was spectacular as Perthshire like Yorkshire is a beautifully wooded and undulant area with some considerable mountains like Ben Lawers and Schiehallion.

As a church, we travelled to our Dundee ‘mother’ church to meet with dozens of other people and enjoy worship, ministry and fellowship with them in God’s presence. In this way, we weren’t only ‘giving out’ all the time but were able to soak up the atmosphere and meet new people all the time.

We were therefore never in a rut but always moving on in our discipleship journey with Jesus and progressing towards being more in tune with His will and character. When I reflect on that 7-year periodic church planting, which ended thirty-six years ago, I look back not with nostalgia and regret but with thanks to God and amazement that so many lives and communities were touched by the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit.

We took four years of building foundations and relationship-building, healing and the building of confidence and trust in God and one another before embarking on sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in Wellmeadow, which was a central open space in the town on Saturdays when evangelists and musicians from Dundee would come to support us in our evangelistic venture.

There were also Holy Spirit visitations of revival occasionally when the Spirit would come down upon us and among us and convict us of sin and bring reconciliation and healing: they were very precious times indeed, and yet we continue to move on…”

Stuart Harrison

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