The story of Bishopbriggs Community Church begins in the early 1970s with a group of teenagers who gathered in homes each week to worship God, pray and study the Bible. It was a time of spiritual renewal in the church and these young people had experienced baptism in the Holy Spirit which added a new and exciting dimension to their Christian experience. This led them to rethink their expression of Church. After a transitional period, the leadership of the group joined with David Black, who became founding pastor of the new Bishopbriggs Baptist Church.
The fellowship moved into and refurbished its own home, Burnside Villa. It came complete with a living room, so we could continue to live out our “house church” values, and we held regular prayer gatherings, outreach cafés, youth meetings and other events – even weddings! Over the next two or three years the church continued to expand. We soon outgrew our living room.
By 1977 God began leading us into something much bigger and a lot more ambitious. We would not be just a church but a Christian community – God’s family – living and working together. We didn’t have a clue how this would happen. In the end the idea that began to take shape was of a Christian neighbourhood, a place dedicated to praise and family life. But where?
Our attention was drawn to a disused whisky warehouse, on the site that is now ASDA, and in turn the rubble-strewn abandoned brickworks next door. Ezekiel 36 became the word for that day:
“The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “this land that was laid waste has become like the Garden of Eden‟ … so will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
And so Christian Centre, Bishopbriggs was born. By the summer of 1979 we had demolished the brickworks and started building the first houses. By 1981 there were 20 houses and eight flats in Park Avenue, all owned by Christians. Most were members of our own fellowship, but others worshipped elsewhere. We were from different denominations but united by a common faith in Jesus.
We wanted to be a living picture of what God intended His church to be, but as far as we knew nothing like this had ever been attempted before. We got a lot of media coverage and Christians from all over the country (and from abroad) came to see what we were up to. Our faith had been stretched to see our vision for a Christian community become a reality.
It was put to the test again on the day the church centre was officially opened. God had told us the building was to be opened debt free. The balance of the building costs was collected during the offering at that opening service. It was just one of a long line of financial miracles. God had given us the means to do what He asked of us.
More flats followed (forming what is now Park Court) and were sold, with some reserved for sheltered housing.
Christian Centre was never intended to be a “holy huddle” – inward looking and exclusive. Our vision was always to be an open community, welcoming the stranger and reaching out to our neighbours with holistic care. This vision soon found many expressions: in assistance to the unemployed, a day care centre for the elderly and infirm, a playgroup and cafe.
This vision has always extended beyond Bishopbriggs, too, and Christian Centre was involved in planting churches in other areas. Today we are linked with a fellowship of like-minded churches across the nation called the Scottish Network Churches. These links were nurtured by Keith Short, who joined the church as senior pastor in 1992 and is now leading St John’s Church in Linlithgow.
The vision for our sanctuary was completed in August 2005, when the new hall and rooms for children’s activities were opened. We recently refurbishing the annex and look forward, in the near future, to exploring new ways in which we can use our building to express our vision (Jesus’ vision!) to love God and love our neighbours in Bishopbriggs and beyond. As we often say, church is not about the building – it’s about the people.
Bishopbriggs Community Church began as a group of young radicals who, because of their love of God and desire to bless their neighbours, weren’t afraid to question their assumptions about church and what it should “look like”. We hope that we still have this passion – not to become fixated on buildings, programmes and services but to always express what it means to be “church‟ in a way that brings God’s life and love to those around us. Some of those early “radical teenagers” are still here – still radical (even if they are no longer teenagers!) and still reminding us to follow God into unexplored territory.
There isn’t space here to tell you the real story of Bishopbriggs Community Church – a picture that can only be found in the mosaic of many interlocking stories of the people who have journeyed with us over the years as we have sought after God and his kingdom.
For those stories, you’ll just have to ask round!