Major milestone at the East and Old

The Rev. Graham Norrie; the Right Reverend Dr Angus Morrison and the Rev. Barbara-Ann Sweetin.
The Rev. Graham Norrie; the Right Reverend Dr Angus Morrison and the Rev. Barbara-Ann Sweetin.

The Moderator of the General Assembly joined the congregation and invited guests as a Forfar church marked its 225th anniversary.

The Right Reverend Dr Angus Morrison was guest preacher for the commemoration service in the East and Old Parish Church on Sunday.

The Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin welcomed Angus Provost Helen Oswald; Mrs Frances Duncan, Deputy Lord-Lieutenant of Angus; Angus Councillors and representatives from FACT - the Forfar Action of Churches Together.

They included the Rev Dr Karen Fenwick of the Lowson Memorial, members of St Margaret’s church and Major Jim McCluskey of the Salvation Army.

Members of the town’s youth organisations, including the 2nd Forfar Company Boys Brigade, Scouts, Guides and Air Training Corps, were also in attendance.

A warm welcome was also extended to members of the town’s twinned congregation - Zuglo church in Hungary - who also took part in the service; a special video link was shown featuring church members and their choir.

There was warm applause for the Rev Graham Norrie, minister of the East and Old from 1977 to 2007, who gave a Bible reading.

He thanked the congregation for inviting him to share in this “significant celebration: adding: ”I wish you all the best and I know you will accomplish great things in the years to come.”

The Rev Morrison said he and his wife Marion were delighted to be part of the celebrations.

He was “impressed” with the range of ministries carried out by the East and Old and said: “It is a real joy to be with you - so much has been accomplished in this place. There are so many stories of the church. This is time for remembering with gratitude.

“I bring warm greetings, hearty congratulations and best wishes for the next 225 years.

“As an eco congregation you clearly have concerns for a global context and it is wonderful to hear of your twinning with Hungary.”

He said congregations throughout Scotland had to take stock of the current situation, with more ministers retiring than coming into the ministry and financial constraints.

“There is no room for complacency but we can look back in gratitude and look to the future in hope.”

The service also included a presentation to retiring session clerk Bob Kidd who was thanked by the Rev Sweetin for all the work he has done over the years.

Treasurer Mabel Martin presented Bob with a cheque on behalf of the Kirk Session and the congregation, and Bob’s wife Esther was presented with flowers.

The present congregation was formed in 1977 with the union of the East Church and the old Church.

The history of the church on the site dates back to 1241 when the Chapel of Forfar was built.

When the mother church – Restenneth Priory, built in 710 AD, fell into disrepair in 1591, religious observance ceased there and the Chapel of Forfar assumed the role of the Parish Church.

The present building replaced the original in 1790/91. The architect John Gibson of St Cyrus designed the building to seat 2000 people at a cost of £2000. The stone for the church and later the steeple was quarried locally at Craignathro. The steeple and the clock belong to Angus Council.

The church was so busy in the 1800s that, even though it seated 2000 people, an overspill church was built - St James Church.

The Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin is the eighth minister since 1782.

The first minister was ordained in 1782 in the original building. The longest serving minister was the Rev D M Bell at 46 years and The Rev Donaldson died in the pulpit at an evening service in 1934.

The historic building features Old and New Testament windows called the Thornton windows installed in 1887 and the north balcony was removed for the organ in 1899.

There are two stained glass windows with the names of all servicemen in the parish who died in WW1 and one other stained glass window with the names of those who died in WW2.