The story of Oakshaw Trinity Church is a colourful one, peopled by faithful and committed Christian men and women. As you read it, we ask you to remember to pray for those who serve the church in these days, that they may reflect something of the faithfulness of those former years not just in the past decade in Oakshaw Trinity but in the four Congregations from which OTC was born.
Since the early 1980s the congregations of Paisley High, St John’s and Orr Square Churches of Scotland along with Paisley Congregational Church had worked together in The Wynd Centre – an ecumenical Church Outreach Centre. In 1987 Congregations, Kirk Sessions and Deacons Court of these Churches decided to bring together representatives in a Joint Strategy Committee to consider the ways in which the Churches might be better coordinated and be more effective, and the Congregations better able to serve the Community in which they were placed. It was not long into that process when the various benefits of coming together were recognised and the Joint Strategy Committee began its work of investigating, discussing and planning the strategy and structure for an ecumenical Church in the Centre of Paisley.
In February 1990 the proposed Basis and Plan of Union was published, copies being distributed to every household within each Congregation and congregational meetings organised so that everyone would be fully informed before a decision was taken. When that decision was taken later in the year, the Basis and Plan of Union was overwhelmingly accepted in the congregations of Paisley High and St John’s Churches of Scotland and Paisley Congregational Church, but was rejected by Orr Square. The three remaining Churches continued in the Joint Strategy Committee and at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May 1991, unanimous blessing was given to the Basis and Plan of Union. In September 1991 Oakshaw Trinity Church was born and the Congregations began the process of coming together as one and helping to mould together three different traditions.
This cannot be a “tablet of stone”. It must underpin what we do, individually and collectively in our witness, work and worship. Then OTC will be a movement, not a monument!
Following the retirement of the Orr Square Minister, the Reverend Robert Morrison in 1994, the Presbytery of Paisley in consultation with Orr Square Church and Oakshaw Trinity Church effected a union in March 1994.
By 1994, Oakshaw Trinity owned four Church buildings and sets of halls and clearly at least three of these had to be disposed off. After protracted discussions, not always easy discussions, it was decided that the former High Church would be renovated and used as the Worship Centre, that the former St John’s Church and buildings would be a separate set of halls but the main function would be for community outreach with a number of organisations housed in the building. The Orr Square buildings were sold to a developer by the fortuitous name of Noah Construction – and the rain still falls down! The former Congregational Buildings were, over the years, rented to the University of Paisley and Reid Kerr College for teaching premises but when their use of the building ceased, the Congregation decided to sell the buildings to an organisation we had become close to: PACE – a youth theatre group attracting many hundred of young people each week.
When the decision was taken that the former Paisley High Church Would be the Worship Centre, but it required a major repair and refurbishment. A contractor began work in September 1993, finishing 12 months later. With great joy and enthusiasm, Oakshaw Trinity Church met in its Worship Centre for the first time in October 1994.
OTC is recognised as one of the leading providers of Church-based community services through the Wynd Centre. Undoubtedly, the Wynd Centre was the catalyst for the creation of Oakshaw Trinity, one of the few Unions of Churches to be brought about by the desire of the members rather than being driven by the Higher Courts of the Church. Oakshaw Trinity was not the first Church to be in membership of the Church of Scotland and, at the time of formation, the then Congregational Church (now the United Reformed Church) but it was the first in the Paisley area, maybe the first in the West of Scotland. A look at the timetable towards Union clearly demonstrates that unions are not easy but can be achieved where the people of congregations work together, understand different denominational attitudes (even different attitudes in the same denomination!) but union is possible when we see and know that we worship the same God through our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, time is a great medium and for Oakshaw Trinity, Union came about by a growing closeness over nine years, or in one case, 12 years!
Change, the ever rolling stream, is always with us. The Rev John Smith moved to a charge in Edinburgh appropriately a Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church where he had been as a student. The Rev Chris Levison moved to the Victoria Hospital as a Hospital Chaplain. The departure of both was felt as a loss by the Congregations and large numbers attended John’s induction, in Chris’ case an admission, to wish them well. The Rev Janette Black was welcomed as an Associate Minister, the first Minister to be ordained and inducted in OTC or any of the constituent congregations and, with the Union of the Presbyteries of Paisley and Greenock, she had also the unique privilege of being the last inducted Minister to sign the Presbytery roll. With the departure of the Rev Ian Currie to a Union of Churches in the Isle of Bute the post of full time minister at OTC moved to Rev Hutton Steel..
Yet the Church rolls on in its own unique way. It has had a further Strategy Committee to consider a variety of issues for the future of the Church.
OTC has, however, considered that it was necessary for its Mission to the Town Centre to continue the work first started in 1984 through a revised Wynd Centre.
Why does OTC operate the Wynd? We do it because the gospel of the incarnation is about God becoming involved with ordinary people in the lives and concerns that they have. The Wynd is the incarnation of the words we speak and the faith we profess. One element of making real of the gospel in our time and place.
The Wynd Centre is one of the main outreach arms of the now united congregation of Oakshaw Trinity Church. Initially the Centre provided a counselling service with five counsellors and a coffee shop. Today, and after a £2.7million refurbishment of the former St. John’s Church and halls, the centre has grown to provide a variety of services and facilities to many of Paisley and Renfrewshire’s mutual aid and self help groups.
The idea of a church centre arose in the Kirk Session of the former St John’s Church, in the early 1980’s. Neighbouring Church of Scotland congregations were approached to find out their interest in such an idea, and Orr Square Church expressed a desire to be involved.
It was decided to make it an ecumenical venture. The local Congregational Church in School Wynd was informed and soon joined St John’s and Orr Square in the project. Two years later the High Kirk became a partner in the centre.
A feasibility study was completed and concluded that such an outreach of the town centre churches, with gathered congregations, was highly desirable, and if the congregations were sufficiently committed to the project the necessary £50,000 or so would be found. It was act of faith. A building was available locally but renovations and alterations were necessary.
The main objective was to be a caring and serving arm of the church in the town centre by sharing our faith and the services of the church with the community – shoppers, visitors, students and workers. We considered that such an objective could be further served by providing:
• a base for pastoral and social care for those in need,
• a meeting place with catering facilities where Christians can communicate with various groups and
• a place for quiet thought and spiritual help.
These objectives shaped the plan of the use of the available building (owned by the Trustees of St John’s Church) – to include a coffee shop and small chapel.
By the time the centre was opened over eighty per cent of the estimated target of £50,000 had been gathered or firmly promised. This included over £18,000 from the Mission Fund of St John’s Church, from the Council for World Mission of which the Congregational Union of Scotland was a member, £4,000 from special fundraising and sponsored activities, £3,000 from the Paisley Congregational Churches’ (including the then recently closed New Street EU Church), and a grant for £3,000 from the Church of Scotland. Loans were also made by the Church of Scotland and the Congregational Union of Scotland. A refurbishment appeal realised approximately £50,000 in two years including £38,000 from individuals, trusts and other bodies and £11,000 from our own reserves.
The centre is operated as a church-promoted registered company with charitable status, by guarantee rather than share capital. The Directors are representatives from OTC congregation.
The Management Committee determines the policy for the day to day running of the centre, while the Coffee Shop is managed by voluntary supervisors co-ordinated by a team of four. The letting of the premises is also looked after by the Management Committee.
Counselling: one of the main aims of the Wynd Centre is to help people in difficulty. At present this is done by the Wynd Counselling Service, and Paisley Victim Support Scheme, which has its office within the building.
The ministry of the Wynd is a team ministry and in the Wynd that means all of us together, volunteers, supervisors, Board members, Coffee Shop management, office staff, those who support the work in any way, those who remember the work of the Wynd by their care and in prayer.
The day starts with a short service in the Chapel at 9.45am – this is open to all. The Coffee Shop is more than serving tea and coffee. The welcome and friendliness of helpers to visitors is an essential characteristic of the Wynd.
This remains the intention of the Wynd – to provide opportunity for Christian service and witness.