Church celebrates new roof and old story

Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge

Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge

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A CITY centre church is celebrating the completion of a £340,000 heritage and renovation project which has given it a new roof and created a permanent exhibition of its history.

Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge will hold a thanksgiving service tomorrow ahead of special afternoon event to launch the interactive heritage display and a video telling the story of the congregation.

The church received grants totalling £170,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Historic Environment Scotland towards the project and raised the same amount from the congregation.

The work on the roof saw all the slates replaced and a layer of insulation added to assist with energy conservation.

The exhibition in the church foyer, to be unveiled tomorrow, details the church’s architectural, cultural and theological heritage.

Augustine, which is part of the UK-wide United Reformed Church, traces its origins to 1802 and its first home was a “dark, dingy, comfortless” building on the site where the National Museum of Scotland now stands in Chambers Street.

It moved to its current site in 1861 to make way for the museum. The new building was part of a drive to redevelop the Cowgate area, which was then a deprived neighbourhood ravaged by disease.

Augustine, which was originally a Congregational church, has a radical tradition and was rooted in a movement for social change.

Christian Aid and global debt campaign Jubilee Scotland are both based in the building, which is also used regularly by a wide variety of political and campaigning groups. A total of 50,000 people have passed through the doors in the last year.

Augustine’s minister the Rev Fiona Bennett said: “The launch of our project marks the beginning of a new branch in the life of Augustine United Church, grown from the roots of our heritage.

“Since our beginnings Augustine has been a community of people who have worked to express God’s love and hope in the midst of the world they were part of. Our new heritage project, shares this story and invites members and visitors alike to discover that hope and love still alive and transforming our lives and world today.”

When it was built the church’s three-tiered tower led to it being compared to a wedding cake or “bridescake”.

And a bridescake will be cut tomorrow as part of the church’s day of celebrations. The thanksgiving service, led by Ms Bennett, is at 11am. And in the afternoon, there will be singing from the gallery by the Edinburgh Royal Choral Union, as well as and Advent Cabaret performed by people from the church and groups who use the building,

The church is also selling off the original roof slates for a bargain of £10 or 3 for £25.

And there will be guided tours, telling the continuing story of the congregation, the building and the surrounding culture of the Old Town from its beginnings in the early 19th century to today.

The church will be offering guided tours again on Monday December 5, 10am-4pm, as part of Advent Open Doors.

Lucy Casot, head of HLF Scotland, said: “Scotland’s historic and diverse places of worship are so often at the heart of our communities. Thanks to National Lottery players HLF funds urgent structural repairs and also improved facilities and visitor information. Augustine United Church is an excellent example of how HLF can help conserve a much loved building so it can continue to serve its local community.’”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com