The presence of Scots in London goes back to the early 17th century when the Crowns of England and Scotland were united. The opening of Crown Court Church in Covent Garden in 1719 provided a suitable place of worship for a growing congregation. Our sister congregation of Crown Court continues a lively witness on the same site to this day.
But there was a time in the mid-19th century when a far-sighted decision had been taken to build a new Kirk. Thus was born St. Columba’s on its strategic corner in Pont Street.
The new congregation in its fine original building of 1884 flourished under the pioneering ministry of Revd Donald MacLeod of Jedburgh He was succeeded at the turn of the century by Revd Archibald Fleming, whose 40 years at Pont Street brought him to prominence both on account of his preaching, broadcasting and literary gifts and for the wonderful welfare work provided during World War One which saw hospitality provided for nearly 50,000 Scottish troops.
Then disaster struck on the night of 10 May 1941. An incendiary bomb dropped from an enemy aircraft destroyed the whole building in a matter of hours, to the stunned bewilderment of the congregation who turned up for service the next morning. For more than a decade the large congregation continued to operate using the facilities of Imperial College (Jehangir Hall) for Sunday services. The spirit of the congregation during the dark days of World War II was sustained by the wise leadership of the Reverend Robert FV Scott. From the morning of the blitz, when a lady parishioner had pressed her purse into his hands, saying, “Take this. We must rebuild. More will follow.” until the proud day in 1955, when the splendid new St. Columba’s was finally dedicated.
A century of work and worship at Pont Street was celebrated on 21 March 1984 when HM the Queen graciously visited St. Columba’s and unveiled a plaque commemorating the centenary 1884-1984. This happy occasion coincided appropriately with the year of office of the minister of the time, Revd Dr. Fraser McLuskey, as Moderator of the General Assembly. His successor Revd John McIndoe also served as Moderator.
Revd Barry Dunsmore became minister at St Columba’s in 2000 and the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the new church was marked during his tenure with a special service. We were delighted to welcome HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh to celebrate the 60th anniversary in 2015.
With our current minister Revd Angus MacLeod, St. Columba’s continues its vigorous life of worship, prayer and outreach, its very presence in Pont Street being testimony to the truth of the Burning Bush, the emblem of the Church of Scotland:
Nec tamen consumebatur.
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.”