The origins of Inverness Greyfriars Free Church of Scotland go back to the founding of the Gaelic Church in Inverness when Donald Fraser was ordained to 'read and catechise in the Gaelic language.'
In December 1640 the worshippers complained that 'the chapel was ruinous and ready to fall.' The failed Jacobite rebellion of 1715 led to the garrisoning of the Highlands with Government troops and each Sunday the Redcoats paraded from their barracks to worship at the Old High Church. At the church door Gaelic speaking soldiers were dismissed and left to hold their own service in the open churchyard. It is said that word reached the king, who, taking pity on his loyal Gaelic troops, provided a sum of money to erect a place of worship for their use.
In 1792 the Church was rebuilt in a brutally plain style, utterly lacking in any architectural distinction. It was, however, famous for its very ornate pulpit, the 'black pulpit,' thought to have been very much older than the Church itself. Legend attributes the construction of the pulpit to a local genius, a young herd boy from Culloden, who designed it to be held together by a single master pin, a secret he took to the grave thus hindering future generations from safely moving it intact. It is thought to have been clumsily removed and lost while being kept in storage.
The Inverness Journal of 5th March 1830 reported a sensation: Ezekiel Caspar Auerbach, a thirty-five year Jew from Warsaw, Poland, had been baptised and received into membership of the Church. Popular curiosity was such that well before the service had commenced, 'the Gaelic Church was crowded to excess, the doors and passages being completely blocked with persons anxious to witness a scene so novel in this part of the country.'
In 1936, the Rev. Ewan MacQueen and his supporters left the Free Presbyterian Church. Nick-named the 'split-Ps', they formed themselves into a congregation but having no building of their own, they worshipped first in the quaintly named 'Catch my Pal' hall in Academy Street and then in the Old High Church. In 1954 the Gaelic Church was offered for sale and the congregation bought it for the sum of £8,500. The building was renamed the MacQueen Memorial Church and remained the congregation's home until 1994.
Ewan MacQueen died in 1949 and was succeeded by Rev. A.D. MacLeod who soon afterwards joined the Church of Scotland. With MacLeod's departure, the congregation faced a crisis. The solution chosen was to ask to be received as a congregation of the Free Church of Scotland. In 1958 a small congregation of about sixty people, considerably in debt, became Greyfriars Free Church.
Rev Donald MacDonald was the first minister of Greyfriars Free Church. As a 48-year-old native of Ness, Isle of Lewis, he was inducted on 18th September 1958. Under his fine preaching and faithful pastoral care the congregation flourished and grew to an extent almost without precedent in the Free Church in the twentieth century. He died in April 1977.
Rev Murdo Alex Macleod commenced his successful and much loved ministry in 1978. Under his influence the congregation continued to grow significantly until it became difficult to obtain a seat for Sunday evening services.
Rev Robert Smith was inducted to the charge in 1986. After a short ministry, during which the congregation grew, Mr Smith resigned.
Rev. Calum Matheson came to Greyfriars in 1991 but his much respected ministry was tragically cut short, when after a period of about eighteen months he was taken ill and suddenly died, leaving a wife and two young children.
Under Calum's leadership, the congregation, relocated from the city centre to Balloan Road, on the south side of the town. In 2005 Calum's son, Gordon, was ordained and inducted as assistant minister in the congregation. Gordon was with us until 2009. He is now minister of Sleat and Strath Free Church on the Island of Skye.
Rev Maurice Roberts was inducted in June 1994 and was minister until 1999.
Rev Dr John Ross was called in May 2002 and inducted on 20th November that year. After a ministry of six years, during which the congregation continued to grow, he left in 2008 to serve the Free Church at Dumisani Theological Institute, South Africa.
John was followed as pastor by Rev Dr Malcolm Maclean, who was inducted in September 2009; his previous congregation was Scalpay Free Church of Scotland in the Western Isles. Mr Maclean is a native of Inverness, and before becoming a minister worked for Christian Focus Publications as its Managing Editor.
In March 2011, Rev. Gavino Fioretti was employed by the congregation as a church worker before becoming assistant minister later in the year. Gavino and his wife Elisabetta served in the congregation for two years, leaving in April 2013 after Gavino accepted a call to become the minister of Leith Free Church. In 2016, Gavino accepted a call to work in a church in Italy.
Since Gavino left, the congregation has had three other church workers. Seonaid MacDonald came to us from London City Mission in 2012. During her time with us, she initiated several activities for women in the church and in the community. Seonaid left in 2014 when she married and moved to live in Skye.
Seonaid was followed by Kathleen MacSween, whose testimony can be read here on the website. She continues to develop current activities for women and initiate new ways of bringing the gospel to the community before leaving us in June 2016.
In May 2015, Donald Stewart joined Greyfriars from London City Mission where he had served for about twenty years. Donald came to Greyfriars as an evangelist working in the areas around the church. Sadly, Donald's time with us was to be short because he passed away suddenly in January 2016. Although his time with us was short, he made a big impression on the congregation and in the community. His testimony can be read here.
In addition to the regular Sunday services, the congregation runs activities for children and teenagers and also engages in regular evangelism of the area in which the church is located.
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