The first 50 years

The Baptist Church in Wishaw began with the vision of 3 Baptist families originally from Glasgow with a burden to form a congregation in Wishaw where they then lived. A room was hired in the Public School in Pather Street, Wishaw and in April of 1871 regular services were started.

Thomas B McFarlane, Thomas Lambie and Thomas Fisher and their wives were the pioneer congregation, and having contacted the recently formed Baptist Union of Scotland (1869), were granted the pastoral leadership of the Rev. J Munro Campbell. On the 8th March, 1872 Wishaw Baptist Church was formerly constituted with 27 members.

The following year, owing to the failing health of Mr. Campbell the Rev. James Stockdale of Molden, Yorkshire was called. The church moved location to more suitable accommodation in the Good Templar’s Hall where they remained until a purpose built building was erected in 1875 in Belhaven Terrace. The accommodation was for 270, cost £900 and opened debt free.

In October of 1875 Mr Stockdale resigned and he was followed on the 16th April by the Rev. George Whittet whose ministry lasted for 41 years. The membership when he came was 46, rose to 120 in two years and reached 400 a few years later.

Mr Whittet’s ministry was not confined to the church - he organised kitchen meetings and visited the surrounding districts. Such was the Lord’s work through his endeavours, the Baptist fellowships at Motherwell, Hamilton, Carluke and Shotts were formed from members of Wishaw Baptist. For years he preached at Motherwell and Carluke on Sundays as well as at Wishaw.

During Mr Whittet’s long and fruitful ministry several young people went to train for the ministry and other members went into training for overseas work. Most notable were:

  • John Taylor Stark, who after returning severely wounded from the First World War trained for the Baptist Ministry and went on to serve at Shotts, Pathhead (Kirkcaldy) and a very fruitful ministry at Victoria Place, Paisley. He was President of the Baptist Union of Scotland in 1944-45. Mrs Stark was President of the National Women’s Auxilliary from 1939-40.
  • Earlier, the Rev. James Russell Watson went to China and founded a medical school in 1885 at Yidu, Shandong province. After 60 years with no opening in China for the BMS, it was a surprise not only for a delegation to be invited to China (including the then Pastor’s wife Cindy Mackenzie) in 2010, but to find the Medical College today boasts some 1400 students. Cindy was asked to unveil a bronze bust of Rev. Watson commemorating the school’s 125 years and the regard with which Rev. Watson is held in China.

In the year 1908-09, Mr Whittet was elected as President of the Baptist Union of Scotland. Mrs Whittet was a most valuable helper to her husband and endeared herself to the fellowship and the community. She served as President of the local branch of the British Women’s Temperance Association for a number of years. Mr. Whittet’s memory and that of his wife were long remembered and there is a memorial plaque in recognition of his ministry to the right side of the pulpit area at the front of the sanctuary. At the close of his ministry the membership was 312.

Mr. Whittet’s successor was the Rev. John Dick in 1917 who “exercised a vigorous ministry for four years”. No fewer than 213 members were added to the fellowship at this time – 112 by baptism. During Mr. Dick’s time £2,000 was raised for church extension purposes.

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