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Greenbank Church is an active, forward-thinking congregation of over 700 members in Morningside, south Edinburgh. We became vacant on 18 May 2017 when the Rev Alison Swindells, our Minister since 2007, left to take up a call in Aberdeenshire. We are fortunate in being able to call a full-time minister on unrestricted tenure. From our own resources, we also employ a full-time Youth Associate and a retired minister who helps with the pastoral care of older and housebound people on a part-time basis. The Kirk Session has voted to permit a minister in a same sex civil partnership or marriage to be considered for the vacancy. A recent congregational consultation strongly supported this decision.
We were founded in 1900 as a United Presbyterian Church congregation and became a Church of Scotland parish church in 1929, just after the existing sanctuary was built. Adaptations and additions have taken place since then. The most significant was the construction of the Centenary Hall and meeting rooms at a cost of £1.25 million in 2001. This was done to serve the needs of our parish and as a statement of our faith in the future of our congregation.
We have a Kirk Session and a Board.
We are, at heart, a parish church with 93% of our members living within three miles of the church. It is an attractive place to live, lying close to large parks and to the Pentland Hills. There are few commercial or public buildings in the parish. Just outside the parish is the main primary school for the area; the Minister is chaplain.
At this vital time in our congregational life we decided to consult the congregation about our current strengths and challenges and to clarify our hopes for the new Ministry. Around 100 people attended discussions and around 120 returned a questionnaire distributed to the members.
Here is a summary of the responses:
About half the respondents indicated that they would be interested in attending mid-week worship or bible study. Sunday worship attracted many positive remarks about music, preaching, prayer and reflection.
Less appealing features included the use of responses and intimations.
The congregation ranked the desirable characteristics of our next minister, most important first:
The Roll stands at 714. The number on the Roll has been declining steadily in recent years, down 10% in the last decade. A quarter of that reduction was because more people moved away than moved into the congregation, but three-quarters was because the number of deaths exceeded the number of admissions by profession of faith. In the last 5 years, 8 members have joined by Profession of Faith, 19 by Certificate of Transference and 22 by Resolution of the Kirk Session. In the same period, there were 18 baptisms, 10 weddings and 94 funerals.
Worship is central to the life of Greenbank and takes many forms. The congregation has always had an inclusive theological ethos. It believes in the importance of the Minister preaching/teaching each Sunday. All the activities that happen throughout the week are a reflection of the faith expressed during worship.
We attach high priority to the spiritual and practical care of our members, whether in the Parish or beyond, and to all people living in the Parish itself.
Greenbank has a longstanding interest and commitment to children and young people. As part of our investment in young people we have appointed a full time Youth Associate. We launched our YACHT (Youth At CHurch Today) initiative in 2014 as a 5-year fundraising programme to lay down money to resource, support and encourage our work with youth and children in Greenbank. We are about half way towards our target of £500,000.
For our adult members we offer opportunities for Bible Study and prayer during the week, though numbers taking part are small. Other opportunities for study are available.
We publish Connections, our magazine, 9 times a year in paper form and online. We did a major redesign in 2016 to give it better appeal for the congregation and wider community. The early autumn edition goes to the full Parish, as do cards at Christmas and Easter. We are currently updating and refreshing our website.
The congregation has a strong commitment to taking help to those who need it.
We run organisations for people of various ages, and provide accommodation for others. We have an active Guild with about 40 members, from our own congregation and outside. The Friendship Club for older people also has members who are not in the Congregation. The Work Party makes and supplies clothes for children to the Edinburgh Clothing Store and ERI baby unit.
There are also our own Badminton and Country Dancing groups; and external Bridge, Community Choir and Yoga groups. The congregational website gives further details.
Right: A Friendship Club outing to the Kelpies.
The Accounts for 2016 are available here (PDF)
The total surplus in 2016 was £36,749 and in 2015 £8,674. However, this includes the YACHT Fund, the ongregational Organisations and the Greenbank Preschool. The church broke even in 2016.
In 2017 the Mission and Ministries contribution is £140,461, recently reduced to £135,312.
The Congregation participates in the Church of Scotland’s National Stewardship Campaign. We ask members to review their giving each spring.
The congregation is registered as an Eco-congregation. It is adopting in-house energy efficiency and green initiatives, and identifying with wider campaigning on Climate Change issues. For example, we have installed an intelligent heating system and replaced much of our lighting with LED bulbs from an imaginative funding scheme called “Light a Light”.
Using our own financial resources we employ a full-time Youth Associate (not ordained), a part-time ordained Associate who helps with pastoral care of the elderly and housebound, and an Organist/Choirmaster. We also have a very friendly support team of church administrator, caretaker/ handyperson, cleaner and Sunday beadle. They are managed by a Staff Elder.
The congregation has no major property issues in any of its buildings but, with such a large estate, maintenance and improvement is always a challenge. The Board has accepted this and in the last two years has increased the allocation to property maintenance and to the property reserve. Hall letting is managed by our voluntary Halls Administrator. The Congregational Board sets letting rates. Our own organisations make donations.
The Sanctuary is a large, light, modernised, traditional building with fixed pews and several spectacular stained glass windows. It was refurbished in 2010 after we received an unexpected large legacy. This enabled us to include modern lighting and a better audio-visual system. Currently, we are extending Wi‑Fi into the sanctuary which will permit us to stream services if it is decided to do so. In the refurbishment project and in the earlier Centenary Halls project we were mindful that the church is more than its buildings, however good they are, and so made donations to outside projects to further the church’s work at home and abroad.
Our halls fall into three groups:
The Main Hall served as the church from when Greenbank was established in 1900 until the present church was built in 1927. The Lower Hall, the Pentland Room and the Church Office date from 1900 too.
The Upper Hall was added in 1958. Insulation is poor and heating inefficient there. Its improvement is part of our longer term Eco-congregation plans.
In 2001, we added the Centenary Hall, the Hermitage Room and the Braid Room in such a way that the premises are completely integrated.
We have a well equipped kitchen which can cater for large groups of people, a servery for Sunday coffee and two other serveries.
Our halls are in heavy use by our own organisations for Christian education and social activities, and by a range of organisations, including nine sections of the Scout and Guide movements. The Centenary Hall is used during the working day by Greenbank Pre-School, and the Lower Hall by a Community Playgroup.
Right: Braid Room
The Manse is at 112 Greenbank Crescent, approximately 750m from the church. It is a traditional Edinburgh detached bungalow, built about 1935. It has a single garage. It is on a corner site with a spacious garden.
All fabric, fixtures, fittings and services have been regularly maintained to a good standard. The Manse is double-glazed, with gas-fired central heating.
The manse is in the catchment area for South Morningside Primary and Boroughmuir High School.
In addition to the Manse, the church and the halls, we own and rent out a traditional main door flat close to the church with a lounge, kitchen/diner and two bedrooms.
Here is the Church of Scotland census data on the charge.
Our Facebook address is: