The Red Church at Bridgend

Scottish Episcopalians have had a worshipping presence here on Islay for over 130 years. This presence became more focussed following the building and dedication of their St Columba Church at Bridgend and named after the Iona-based saint and missionary who was largely responsible for bringing Christianity to Scotland. The moving force behind the building of the Glen Road church was Canon C T Wakefield, Rector of St Kiaran’s in Campbeltown, and the building was consecrated for worship in 1888. It has always been known locally as ‘the red church’. Be assured, this title has not overt political connotations but arose through the colour of the roofing tiles used in the construction.

Until 1931, St Columba was the main centre for Episcopalian worship, work and witness on the island. Sadly, it then began a period of decline, the building was little used and it began to structurally deteriorate. During this time the congregation began to worship in the Mission Church of the Good Shepherd in Shore Street, Bowmore. By the early 1960s new blood began to show renewed interest in the St Columba Church, repairs and improvements were carried out and worship resumed in the premises in 1962. Continue reading....

The Bowmore church became little used, it passed into the ownership of the local authority, became the Claddich Centre and provided premises for a number of local organisations. The building is now in private hands and is currently being converted into a catering establishment.

Among the 1962/63 improvements carried out at the Bridgend church was the provision of a porch and organ chamber. Commander JRC Montgomery of Kinnabus was responsible for the installation of an Italian green marble altar and the window above the altar. This was designed by George Kirk, Glasgow, and depicts the Kildalton Cross. The lectern, designed and created by Jack Holdsworth, Bowmore, is in memory of Canon Kenneth N MacKenzie, Diocesan Itinerant Priest, and the main carpet, complete with Kildalton Cross and other Celtic imagery, was handmade and gifted by Commander Montgomery’s Oa-based son Hengist. In more recent years further improvements have been carried out at the Episcopal church which now also accommodates the worshipping requirements of the local Roman Catholic community.

More information can be found on the Islay churches page on Islay Info.

This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.

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