The town is home to a number of churches – some less familiar than others. Loretto Chapel is inter-denominational: in 2000 the chaplain was an Episcopalian.
By 2000 the Church of Scotland had three churches in Musselburgh: St Andrew’s High, North Esk and St Ninian’s. Civil parishes were abolished in 1974 and the old parish church of St Michael’s was included in the new Inveresk parish (see Inveresk – excluding Musselburgh).
In 1945 there were Musselburgh High (located where the High Street bridges the river), Bridge Street and Millhill churches. The last two united in 1960, under the name of St Andrew’s; the Bridge Street church was converted into St Andrew’s church halls and the congregation (and their Bridge Street organ) moved to the Millhill building. In the event it proved too costly to install the organ and it was sold.
In 1985 further rationalisation saw the St Andrew’s halls sold to the Assembly of God Christian Centre and St Andrew’s united with Musselburgh High as St Andrew’s High; the old High Church building was closed later the same year.
|1947-83||Alexander E.L. Paterson|
|United in 1985 with St Andrew’s as St Andrew’s High|
|1945-52||Alexander Coutie||1942-50||Murray Donaldson|
|1953-58||Edward F. Hall||1951-56||Alexander W. Rogerson|
|1956-60||Alexander D. MacLeod|
|United in 1960, as St Andrew’s|
|1960-83||William D. Laird|
|United in 1985 with Musselburgh High as St Andrew’s High|
|1985-90||Sheilagh M. Kesting|
|North Esk Church, Bridge Street|
|1941-69||Donald W. Mackay|
|1970-78||Frederick D.F. Shewan|
|1980-98||Ronald H. Brown|
St Ninian’s Church, Pinkie Brae (Levenhall) was a church extension charge built in 1955 (architect, Peter Whiston; engineer, T. Harley Haddow) to service the growing estates newly built to the east of Musselburgh. It was the centre of activity of the new houses – mother and toddler groups, women’s fellowships, the choir and concert party, as well as the everyday conducting of services, baptisms, weddings and funerals, all of which helped to root the church very much in the community. In 1987 it was united with St Clement’s, Wallyford (see Inveresk – excluding Musselburgh).
|1968-85||George W. Charlton|
|4 October 1987 – service of transference of St Clement’s from St Michael’s to St Ninian’s|
|New united charge of St Clements & St Ninian’s|
|1987-c95||Alexander F. Bonar|
The only Episcopalian place of worship is St Peter’s Scottish Episcopalian Church. This church has unbroken links to the pre-1690 church; the present building was built in 1865. A hall was built beside it c1970. In 1976 the congregation was linked with St Andrew’s Prestonpans. By the latter part of the 20th century there was still input to the local primary school, which the church originally founded and which still bears its name (Pinkie St Peter’s).
|In 1976 St Andrew’s, Prestonpans linked with St Peter’s|
|1986-93||Dr K.F. Scott|
|1993-94||J. Jones Deacon in Charge|
|1994-95||J. Jones Priest in Charge (female priest)|
|1995-2002||J. Jones Rector with the Rev R. Cooke (NS) deacon from 1999; priest from 2000|
Although I attended Sunday school as a child in Millhill Church, I became interested in my friend’s church, St Peter’s Episcopal, and was later confirmed there in 1950 and married there a year later.
In 1945 the Fisherrow Coast Mission – as the Scottish Coast Mission – operated from premises at 72 New Street, Musselburgh, under the leadership of missionary Tom Lyon (whose son Ben was, by the early 1960s, a trainee minister attached to St Michael’s, Inveresk). The SCM had many stations in Scotland. About 1948 the Sunday school had become so large that the beginners’ section had to move into the rooms of the house attached to what had been the local Royal Scots drill hall at 68 New Street, while the normal worship services continued at 72. In 1950 the Mission completed the move into the larger premises at 68 New Street and the Church of Christ took over the other building.
It was during this period that the SCM was taken over by the British Sailors’ Society (BSS) now known as the British and International Sailors’ Society (BISS). Mr Lyon continued in leadership until 1958 when he moved to Arbroath. From that period the leadership changed four times though the Rev G. Bethune was the main missionary until early 1963.
In August 1963 Mr Hector G. Ronald and his family came from Glasgow and he took over as missionary. Thanks to his hard work, considerable abilities and vision ‘The Mission’ prospered. The seating capacity was 140 in individual wicker chairs. The vast majority of these were occupied on a Sunday evening, many by people who attended other places of worship in the morning. Nevertheless, morning services saw a lot of seats filled too. The Sunday school continued to thrive under enthusiastic teachers and the Bright Hour was an active ladies group, meeting weekly over the winter.
Other activities included family services, such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Baptism and of course funerals were all part of what ‘The Mission’ sought to provide, not only to the fishing community but to the people of Musselburgh. The largest service of the year was the Harvest of the Sea where the hall was decorated to an extraordinary degree. This took a full week to complete by a band of dedicated workers and dismantling took almost as long. People came from as far away as Peterhead, Eyemouth and Grangemouth by the coach load. At these times there were close to 400 folk in the hall.
In 1981 the BISS decided to pull out of Scotland completely and after discussion and negotiation led by Mr Ronald, it was advocated that the membership would lease the property from the BISS and attempt to be self- supporting. In this we were successful for almost 20 years, particularly in the annual sale of work that raised considerable sums of money thanks to generous giving and a lot of hard work. In the late 1990s Mr. Ronald became very ill and in late June 1999 went to be with his Lord.
By this time the numbers attending services had declined considerably and it was fairly obvious that we could not continue for much longer but we did, for a further 15 months, thanks to the many who were prepared to stand in the pulpit morning and evenings.
On a Sunday evening in October 2000 there was a very loud crack, which we took to be a stone thrown at the windows. It was, however, the beginning of the end. Two days later the building suffered structural failure and East Lothian Council placed a prohibition notice on the building. The Mission was no more.
The present Musselburgh Baptist Church was constituted in 1933 and its first home was a hall in Newbigging. By 1945 the church was without a full time Pastor and the meetings were conducted by various members and visiting speakers. In 1957 Rev John McIntosh was appointed Pastor. Numbers increased and the deepening of spiritual life was evident in the lives of many. He retired from the work in 1967.
Rev Stanley Harper was called to the pastorate in 1968 and he led the church through uncertain days. In 1969 the building in Newbigging was demolished to make way for flats and for the next three years the church was kindly granted the use of St Andrew’s Hall in Bridge Street.
The present property in the High Street was originally known as ‘Stein’s Dance Hall’. It was also used as a British Restaurant during the war and is still known as the ‘Loaves and Fishes’ from that period in its history. Since 1973 the building has been set apart for the worship of God. Pastor Harper retired in 1982 and was succeeded by Pastor John Shearer. During his ten years in the pastorate the congregation became involved in outreach to Eastern Europe, a work that still continues. The church’s first manse was purchased in 1987, a property in Milton Road East. In 1993 Rev Jonathan Wood became Pastor and the church continued in its outreach to the town with an annual summer Holiday Bible Club being established.
The church remains committed to preaching the word of God and reaching out with the message of hope in Jesus Christ as the only saviour. We adhere to the Bible and practise believer’s baptism by immersion. As well as the Sunday services at 10.30am and 6pm there are meetings for the whole range of ages, including Sunday school, youth fellowship, pensioners’ lunch, mothers & toddlers, ladies’ meeting, prayer meeting and Friday youth club.
The Musselburgh Community Church (MCC) is a new church, which began officially in January 2002. It is not a denominational church but works closely with a number of local denominational churches.
There are good healthy relationships with other church leaders in the area. We see ourselves as all on the same team. MCC is a cell church based on the G12 model of cell church. This means we believe in positively influencing our communities through prayer and social action. Faith based community projects have been shown with government backing to consistently make the most positive change in communities over a long period of time.
Our main meeting is in small groups based in the home called cell groups which meet weekly. They are informal and highly participatory. They include time for worship, prayer and bible study. There is a strong emphasis on friendship. The cell group is a place to grow spiritually with a goal that most people will be trained to lead their own cell group where they live. Cells include specific groups for children and teenagers. At present we are running a cell group called Check it Out! for girls aged 8-12.
We meet on Sundays to gather the cell groups together. This is a celebration event and has an emphasis on time together to get to know people better and praise.
Our vision is to eventually build a well-being centre for working together with other community projects and agencies to provide a holistic approach to life, body, soul and spirit. The cell groups would filter people into the centre to receive support and training through counselling, practical help (eg for single parents, needy families), crèche facilities, stress management courses, parenting groups, financial planning advice etc.
The Musselburgh Congregational Church has had four ministers in the past 50 years: Rev Robert Gibson, Rev Jean Robson (Musselburgh’s first female minister), Rev Alexander McDougall and since 1968, Rev Donald Lindgren.
The Rev Lindgren has given 32 years of rewarding ministry. In 1998, the church celebrated its 200th anniversary; people and messages came from all over Britain and beyond the seas to join the current congregation. A most interesting exhibition, reflecting the church’s life over the years, was enjoyed by all. With a special service (shown on Scottish Television) we went forward into a new century. Our Sunday school and junior choir are very active, with rainbows and brownies we welcome many young people to our church each week. The Women’s Fellowship and the Thursday Lunch Club are occasions when the adults get together apart from Sunday.
Roman Catholic worshippers are accommodated at Our Lady of Loretto & St Michael Church. In 1880, the former Protestant mission hall in Newbigging was acquired by the Catholic Church and converted into a chapel, becoming Musselburgh’s first post-Reformation Catholic church. It was named ‘Our Lady of Loretto’ after an earlier chapel, the remains of which are in the grounds of Loretto School. The present parish of Our Lady of Loretto & St Michael was formally established in 1889 when Canon Meagher assumed charge. At the time the parish strength was around 350. The foundation stone for the present church and presbytery, also in Newbigging, was laid by Archbishop James Smith in 1903 who also was opened and dedicated the completed building in 1905. The church has beautiful artwork, stained glass and inscriptions and this was added to in 1946 when a memorial window was installed in the south (Sacred Heart altar) transept, to commemorate the dead of world war two. This was accompanied by Roll of Honour brass plaques inscribed with the names of those local Catholics who were killed in the two wars.
In the 1956 Riding of the Marches celebrations, the church took part in a huge historical pageant. The development of the church was portrayed and the statue of the Virgin and Child was driven in solemn procession round the town for the first time in over 400 years.
A church refurbishment costing £50,000 took place in 1966. During the work, 100-year-old pledges of cash were found secreted behind the altar, relating to the financing of the church’s construction. Church membership currently stands at 1,830.
Other church groups located in Musselburgh in the past included the Plymouth Brethren and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. At the end of the period, active groups in addition to those noted above included: the Assembly of God Christian Centre (49 Bridge Street); the Church of God (126b High Street); the Edinburgh Apostolic Church (122 New Street); the Gospel Hall (96 New Street); The New Life Christian Fellowship (Assembly Hall, Burgh Primary School); and Wilson Memorial Church.