Callanish Free Church recently marked its 50th anniversary with a celebration in the Community Hall. Although the actual anniversary was in 2021, the constraints of Covid meant that any celebration to mark the event was postponed until this year.
The community was invited to join with the congregation for a buffet and celebration cake. Psalm singing and prayers of thanksgiving took place.
Rev Malcolm Macdonald, minister, gave a brief history of the Callanish congregation and the two eldest members of the congregation, Mrs Agnes Maclennan and Mrs Chrissie Maciver cut the anniversary cake.
The evening was very well attended and joining the congregation were the Rev Kenny I Macleod (Stornoway) and his sister Mairi Macaulay (Inverness); their father, the late Rev Norman Macleod, was the first minister of the congregation. Rev. Kenny I. regaled the gathering with stories of his father’s time in Callanish. Kenny I. and Mairi both came to faith whilst in Callanish and Mairi gave a word of personal testimony.
Cards were received and read out from Rev Neil and Dolina Shaw (Rev Shaw being Rev Macleod’s successor in Callanish) and from Rev Roddy and Chrisanne Morrison, who had been members of the congregation latterly for a number of years, until ill health prevented them attending.
Elder Malcolm Mackay spoke appreciatively of his experience as a neighbour of the manse and his knowledge of all the resident ministers from the early eighties, during Rev Norman Macleod’s ministry, until the present. Elder Iain Maciver gave a vote of thanks for the evening, which then concluded with a Gaelic and English Psalm singing and prayer.
The congregation celebrated its past and its present and looking ahead with hopeful anticipation to times of further blessing.
The Free Church Congregation of Callanish was affiliated with Carloway from as far back as 1844. Following a request from the congregation in 1971, the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland agreed to the Callanish side of the Carloway Congregation forming a separate congregation. A spiritual revival in the Callanish Congregation in the 1960s, which saw eight couples and a number of other individuals profess faith, gave the Congregation added impetus, strengthening their case to become a separate entity. Elders and Deacons were elected, and a new manse built, ready for the first minister of the new church.
Rev. Norman Macleod was inducted in 1973. He and his family – his wife Mary and daughter Mairi – settled in the new manse. Their son Kenny I. Macleod, who has recently retired as Assistant Minister in Stornoway, was then doing teacher training in Glasgow but was back and fore as he could and later joined his parents and sister in Callanish when he secured a teaching post in Aird, Point. The Macleods spent fifteen happy years in Callanish until Rev Macleod retired in 1988 and moved to Stornoway.
Rev Neil Shaw took up the role of minister at Callanish Free Church in 1988. At the time of his induction, Jayne and Norman, were University Students in Edinburgh. The congregation bade a sad farewell to Neil and his wife, Dolina, in 1999 when they left to retire to Conon Bridge, where they still reside.
The ministers and their families become a big part of the community and it is always a sad parting when they leave.
Rev Malcom MacDonald, a native of Shawbost, and his wife Margaret, also from Shawbost, came to Callanish in February 2001 along with their young family, Angus and Ann, leaving their previous charge of Pairc Free Church.
There are now few left in the congregation from the 1960’s revival, but the bond formed then remained with them through the years, and we believe those who have passed on are now singing the praises of the Lord in Heaven. Others have been added to the membership of the congregation over the years, and the prayer of the congregation is that the Lord would grant another spiritual revival, where many more would be added to the membership to strengthen the Church here on earth, in dark and difficult times in an uncertain world.