1900 – 1939
No Free Church of Scotland congregation in London
1939 – 1949
In May of that year the Highlands and Islands, Home Missions and Supply Committee of the Free Church of Scotland received a petition requesting that the committee organise Sunday services in the capital with a view to the establishment of a Free Church congregation. It was signed by 41 Free Church members and adherents resident in London, but it appears that more signatures could have been collected if more time had been available; those who did sign were mostly from the Isle of Lewis, and the majority of them from one township – Ness. The Committee was sympathetic but cautiously sought more information about the financial implications and the long-term viability of such a project. A few months later, however, the Second World War broke out, and discussions were shelved.
1939 - 1945
During the war occasional services were held. Sometimes these were taken by Free Church ministers serving as chaplains in the armed forces, sometimes by ministers willing to make the long journey from Scotland which, under wartime conditions, was slow and trying. These services were usually held in conjunction with members of the Dutch Reformed Churches who were exiled from their homeland. When the war ended so did the services, presumably because they had been focussed on Scottish sevicemen and Dutch exiles, who could then go home, rather than on those resident in London.
1945 - 1949
Both the Home Missions Committee and the General Assembly said from time to time that something should be done about getting services restarted, but nothing happened.
1949 – 1954
London Mission of the Free Church of Scotland
In March of this year the Committee appointed Miss Dolina Mackay to track down and round up the faithful. She had served with the Church’s Welfare of Troops Committee during the War, and was now working as a “Bible Woman”, ministering to fisherwomen, who followed the fishing fleets around the country, in Stornoway, East Anglia and elsewhere. She trudged round London, finding people of a Free Kirk background, and eventually the first service was held on 12th June 1949. The congregation was known as The London Mission of the Free Church of Scotland. They met in a hall rented in the Lambeth Shaftesbury Mission premises on Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall. In November a local committee was formed to oversee the work, two of its leading members being Dr Neil A R Mackay, former Headmaster of Colegio San Andrés in Lima, Peru, who was working with the British Council in London, and Dr Donald Mackay, a lecturer in King’s College. Neil Mackay went on to be appointed Head of the British Council in Buenos Aires, soon afterwards; Donald Mackay went on to become Professor of Communications in Keele University and a distinguished author on Science and Christianity.
1949 - 1954
A small group of people – most of them on low incomes but highly motivated – began regular worship. The congregation was without a minister for the first five years of its life. Ministers were sent from Scotland for a month at a time, but sometimes these arrangements fell through and local preachers had to be found; on one occasion in May 1950 the breach was filled by a certain Mr John Titcombe, who described himself as “an Anglican with Presbyterian leanings”, who, when he passed into Eternity, at the age of 95, had been the senior elder of the congregation for over 30 years.
In April 1952 the congregation moved to Wingate M’Cheyne Memorial Hall in Bateman Street, Soho.
1954 – 1982
Free Church of Scotland Congregation in London
1954 - 1957
In 1954 the congregation ceased to be a “mission” and became The Free Church of Scotland Congregation in London and hence was able to call its first full time minister. Rev Hector Cameron, was inducted on the 7th September. He remained for nearly three years.
1973 - 1977
The church was served by Rev John N Macleod. (He had previously been minister of the Free Church congregations in Toronto, Detroit, and Point on the Isle of Lewis)
1963 - 1970
On 21st February 1963 the Rev Murdo Macleod was inducted. He served the congregation until his appointment as General Director of IJS (now known as Christian Witness to Israel).
A new chapter began with the induction of a Londoner, Rev John Nicholls, to the congregation.
1982 – 2003
Cole Abbey Presbyterian Church
Another significant step was taken in 1981 when the congregation moved into its first permanent home, St Nicholas Cole Abbey – a Church of England building no longer required for Anglican worship. The official opening of the Cole Abbey building was on the 3rd April
John Nicholls left to become Candidates’ Secretary with London City Mission, becoming Director of the Mission in 2003. Later that year the congregation called Rev John MacPherson, previously a minister in Scotland and a missionary in Peru (By co-incidence he had, like Neil Mackay mentioned above, been a headmaster of Colegio San Andrés).
Both, this building’s central location and its status as a Wren church of historic importance, contributed to the congregation’s becoming more widely known. It increasingly provided a spiritual home for Christians from all over the UK and abroad particularly from Reformed churches with over a dozen nationalities represented in its membership. Shortly after moving to this building the congregation changed its name again to Cole Abbey Presbyterian Church.
January: Services were started in Cobham, Surrey. April: Mrs Kennag Maclean died aged 92. She was the last continuous link to the original congregation. During successive vacancies she played a vital role in the provision of hospitality for visiting ministers. May: Rev Kenny Boyd was called as assistant minister to help John with the increased work load of the services in Cobham.
John MacPherson retired in the summer of this year.
Kenny Boyd left to take up work in Italy, leaving the congregation vacant again. Kenny is now pastor of Govanhill Free Church in Glasgow, Scotland.
Cobham became a congregation in its own right in May.
2003 – present
London City Presbyterian Church
Our lease on the St Nicolas Cole Abbey building expired at the end of 2002. A new lease was offered which we were unable to afford, so we looked for a new home and were offered the limited use of St-Botolph-without-Aldersgate by the St Helens Church of England congregation. We have been worshipping there since February 2003. On the 25th of October that year Rev David Strain was inducted as minister. As the name Cole Abbey Presbyterian Church was now misleading, the congregation changed its name yet again to London City Presbyterian Church.
For a few years the number of South Africans in London had been growing. Many had grown up in reformed churches but weren’t settling anywhere in London. In 2004 two newly qualified young ministers from the Gereformeerde Kerk, Kruger de Kock and Thomas Dreyer, joined the congregation to explore how this group could be reached. They started a ministry called Draaipunt which translates as Turning Point reflecting their vision that “South Africans in London would reach a turning point in their love for Christ through service in the local church.” Enthusiastically pouncing on everyone they heard speaking Afrikaans they soon built up a large group. This started as a Sunday afternoon Bible study but grew to include house groups around, and even outside, London. Eventually Thomas returned to South Africa and Kruger was appointed a full time assisting minister.
In response to a growing Afrikaans housegroup in the Canada Water area services were started in Rotherhithe Free Church, in November.
On the eve of 2011 we counted 17 nationalities worshiping in the congregation. In April 2011 Rev Angus Lamont left to minister at the Union Church of Lima, Peru.
In November, Rev Andy Pearson was ordained and inducted, giving the congregation its third minister in just ten years.
2009 - 2010
In October Rev Angus Lamont became minister. He further reinforced the Colegio San Andres connection having taught there. He previously ministered in Chiclayo, Peru and Dornoch, Scotland. In autumn 2010 he started Spanish language bible studies
After 16 years, Cobham Presbyterian Church congregation was merged and united with London City Presbyterian Church.