It’s sadly not uncommon these days to hear of another local church witness closing down, but not common enough to hear of a new work being established on the foundations of the old. But that’s what has happened in Broxburn, on the western outskirts of Edinburgh.
In June 2013, Hope Hall Evangelical Church took the brave decision to close, after 110 years of faithful ministry in the town — numbers had dwindled to a handful and there was little prospect of a reversal in circumstances.
In the first of a remarkable series of events, Pastor John Brand, principal of Edinburgh Bible College, who knew the Hope Hall folk, learned of the closure of the work and asked if he could make use of the empty building for office and library purposes.
The former congregation was only too glad to see the building well used again. Over the next few months, as their relationship developed, there was a real sense God was at work and John shared the vision of a completely new witness. This vision was enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed by all involved.
The Hope Hall trustees gladly made the premises freely available for the new work. A new constitution was drawn up and the first service of Grace Community Church took place on Easter Sunday 2014.
Initially things moved slowly, with an average Sunday morning attendance of just six for the first six months. Then, in the autumn, working alongside students from Edinburgh Bible College, a weekly street café evangelism work was started.
Many profitable conversations were had with people, as free teas and coffees were handed out, and our regular presence on the street became an appreciated fixture. At the same time, the Lord started adding to our regular numbers and we now have an average attendance of 20 on Sunday mornings.
Freshness and excitement
Jennifer Muir was a member of Hope Hall for many years and her husband Andrew, who died in 2014, led the work for several years until illness forced him to stand down.
She said: ‘The Hope Hall fellowship always had a strong interest in missions, both by prayer and financial support, and it is great to see this interest continue, as we have “adopted” four missions.
‘There is a freshness and excitement about a new start, and new faces, but none of the depth of worship or of ministry has been lost. We are able to do outreach on the street that we had become too small and too old to do’.
On our first anniversary, in April 2015, the new church was formally constituted with 12 members — since increased to 15 — and two elders ordained. Adrian Lothian who was part of the Hope Hall work for many years, now serves in this role alongside Rev Brand.
Mr Lothian said: ‘The work is progressing, we are reaching out to the community with the gospel, through street evangelism and preaching.
‘We see a work of God continuing, and that is so encouraging, just as more than 100 years ago. Our prayer is that God will use us to help bring others to see their need of Jesus Christ as their Saviour’.
Our present premises are not ideal, being up a steep flight of stairs, and we have registered an interest in the local library building since its services are being relocated in the summer.
This would provide us with an ideal base, not just for our worship but also for connecting with the community in a number of meaningful and practical ways.
We have some ambitious prayer goals for 2016 and are looking forward with excitement and anticipation, believing all that has happened in the last couple of years has been of the Lord’s doing, and is marvellous in our eyes (www.gracebroxburn.org.uk).