A Scottish congregation has beaten the odds to take over a former bookies and turn it into a church. In what is believed to be a first, the former Ladbrokes betting shop in Upper Craigs, is now a city centre location for Stirling Free Church of Scotland.
The fledging congregation is slowly outgrowing its present leased premises for an increasing number of midweek initiatives. The new facility has been named ‘The Well’, which picks up on the biblical theme of Jesus as the water of life. It is also more than a nod at the famous Stirling landmark, St Ninian’s Well, on Wellgreen Place.
Stirling minister, Rev. Iain MacAskill said, ‘We are delighted to use our new facility for reaching right into the city centre. Some may say that it’s a new model of church, but it’s really just taking the church back to where it started in the days of the New Testament, back to the streets’.
The irony of the betting shop is not lost on the congregation who believe that a culture of risk and loss is replaced with a message of certainties and hope.
Stirling Free Church is a new congregation of the Free Church of Scotland, recently started as a church plant. Regular services have been held for the last 18 months and usually meet in the Smith Art Gallery. Mr MacAskill was appointed as minister in February 2016, having previously worked alongside church planting and revitalisation projects in North Uist and Invergordon.