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The Building and Opening of the Church
Andrew Donaldson once observed in a speech that Mr. Moodie was so excited by the prospect of a beautiful new church that he practically slept on the premises during its construction. Although it was important to him as a place, it was far more than that: - it was special as a symbol of holiness and Christian hope. In 1897 he declared in a funeral sermon, “We worship this morning in a temple – the temple of immortality-which stands firm upon the rock of the risen Jesus”. Any church would have been home to him.
More mundanely, grants of money from various sources were received – from the Ferguson Bequest Fund, the UP Church Building Fund and Mr. James Campbell of the Bank of Scotland arranged a £2,000 overdraft. All this came about after a small congregational meeting of 9th September, 1882 boldly decided in favour of building a church.
In A. L. Drummond’s book, “The Church Architecture of Protestantism”, some of the warmest praise of this very fastidious writer is reserved for part of the world of Hippolyte Blanc (1844 – 1917), who was our architect at Ardeer. Born of French parents in Edinburgh, his reputation was always high, being eclipsed only be his older contemporary Sir Robert Rowand Anderson and his younger rival Sir John Jonas Burnet; the work of Peter McGregor Chalmers was frankly more popular. However, Blanc’s design of the Coats Memorial Baptist Church in Paisley (1893) won great acclaim – “a veritable cathedral in red sandstone… a very notable achievement”. He did restoration work at Edinburgh Castle. Upon rare occasions he was perhaps a shade too decorative for the true soul of Presbyterianism, according to Drummond! Interestingly, the little spire which he had intended to surmount the tower (a drawing exists) never materialised. A hint from Mr. Moodie and friends?
The church was designed in the Gothic style of the 15th century – a style one can see chiefly in the window design and the main gable front towards the roadway. Red sandstone was brought in from Ballochmyle Quarry. The eight pinnacles on the tower, each bedecked with crosses, are now long gone.
Building work was done as follows: - Mason work – John Reid. Carpenter work – Wm. Young (both of Stevenston). Plumber work – Wallace & Connell (Glasgow). Plaster work – David Stobie. Slater work – Thomas Hall (both of Irvine). NB – the descendants of John Reid have written us a contribution (see Appendix).
Hugh Slaven, convener of the UP Central Building Committee, laid the Memorial Stone of the church in a great ceremony on 12th May 1894. It is, of course, still visible, about 30 feel up the tower. Enclosed in a jar behind it are: the UP magazine; the Missionary Record of the Presbyterian Church; the Children’s Missionary Magazine; a sketch of the history of the congregation; the roll of members and list of office bearers; literature connected with the organisations of the church; the chief current coins of the realm; a plan of the church; photographs of the Rev. Mr. Moodie and Mr. Reid the builder; copies of the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald, the Stevenston Gazette, the Glasgow Herald, the Scotsman, the Scottish Leader and the North British Daily Mail.
Corn, wine and oil were poured over the stone by Mr. W. R. Copland, C. E. Glas., the synod elder for the congregation. The BB brass band, under William Michael McMath, player stirring hymns.
A year later the church was officially opened on Friday, 14th June, 1895, the dedicatory service being conducted by the Rev. Alexander Robertson McEwan, Claremont Church, Glasgow, who in 1915 became the Moderator of the General Assembly (UF). His sermon was based on Psalm 118:22. The aged Rev. James Wardrop born (1821), Professor at the UP College, preached on Sunday, 16th June from Psalm 31:19 “O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee”. Mr Moodie’s first sermon in the new church was to the children, significantly enough, on the afternoon of Sunday, 16th June. He said that in a special sense the church belonged to the children. “When the old people are passed and gone and their voices hushed in a silence, the children will still be in the building worshipping God”.
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