The first official mention of local interest in Christian Science in Glasgow was in 1900, when the name of Mr Richard I Cochrane appeared in the Christian Science Journal advertising his practitioner’s office at 47 Waddell Street, Glasgow, S.S. Mondays to Fridays. Mr Cochrane was a businessman with his business in Glasgow and his home in Edinburgh.
Two sisters - Misses Mary and Jessie Richmond heard of Christian Science when on a visit to London to attend the funeral of Queen Victoria. After returning to Glasgow, they took up the study of Christian Science and proved for themselves its healing power. (See testimony in the Christian Science Sentinel of 8 August 1908)
Captain John George Heugh, R.N., Commander of Clyde Forces, brought home a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy to his sick wife, who was then healed by Christian Science. In 1905 Mrs Heugh’s name appeared in the Christian Science Journal as practitioner.
In December 1903 the above mentioned students started meeting regularly on Sundays in Captain Heugh’s home at 9 Kelvingrove Street, Glasgow, to read the Lesson Sermon together.
Other seekers for Truth, who had heard of Christian Science from widely differing sources, joined them and after six months time it was found desirable to find more suitable accommodation.
A small hall in the City - the Masonic Hall, 100 West Regent Street - was rented and a public service was held every Sunday morning from the beginning of August 1904.
At the first service the congregation consisted of eighteen persons, six of whom were from First Church of Christ, Scientist, Edinburgh. In addition to the first four students already mentioned, the following names have been found in the records: Mr Duncan Sinclair, Miss Ellen Graham; Miss Jane T Irvine; Mrs E M Chick; Mr A A Dick; Mrs A Dick; Miss Erna Schurmann, who was the niece of Captain Heugh, and Mr Neilson. Mrs E M Chick went to Dunblane and lost contact with the church.
It is interesting to note how many of those early pioneers became practitioners. Mr Duncan Sinclair also became a Teacher of Christian Science in 1916. He also served the Cause in Boston for 10 years as Associate Editor and 8 years as Editor of the Christian Science Periodicals. For his writings he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from an American University, (See testimony in the Christian Science Sentinel of 3 September 1910.) He was also President of The Mother Church in 1930 and taught the Normal Class in December 1931.
Mr Robert Ramsay, who was Chief Surgeon in Glasgow Royal Infirmary before taking up Christian Science, became a practitioner in 1915, and later in 1936 a Teacher of Christian Science. He was appointed to the Board of Lectureship in the 1940s. In the booklet “Christian Science, Its Legal Status - A Defence of Human Rights” by Judge Clifford P Smith, p.98, there is a testimony by Mr Ramsay.
In February 1905 a Sunday School was started for the children.
On 6 November 1905 a Reading Room was opened at Cockburn Buildings, 141 Bath Street, Glasgow.
On 27 November 1905 the first lecture on Christian Science in Glasgow was given by Mr Bicknell Young in the Masonic Hall, 100 West Regent Street. The Chairman on this occasion was Admiral Dunlop.
On 31 December 1905 the first Thanksgiving Service was held.
Healing work was going on in Glasgow and increasing numbers attended the services. It was evident that the time had come to organise a Church in the City, and so after the necessary arrangements were made, First Church of Christ, Scientist Glasgow was organised on 1 March 1906, and recognised as a Branch of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Suitable accommodation for the Church services was obtained at Cockburn Buildings, 141 Bath Street, adjoining the Reading Room.
God prospered the little church and in October 1908 it moved to the mid-hall of St Andrews Halls, then situated in Berkeley Street.
At the Glasgow Exhibition of 1911 held in Kelvingrove Park, the Christian Science Movement had a Stand, where authorised Christian Science literature and periodicals were attractively displayed.
Again growing needs demanded a further move and in May 1912 the church became a tenant in the building originally known as the Queen’s Rooms, Clifton Street.
This building was erected in 1858, by philanthropist David Bell of Blackhall as a public Assembly Hall. The architect was Mr Charles Wilson, M.Q.R. The exterior has some interesting architectural features, including a frieze (which can still be seen) by a well-known Glasgow sculptor, J Mossman. The building, being a fine example of Victorian architecture, is on the list of Historical Buildings in the City of Glasgow.
In 1918 the members decided to purchase the property. A grant was received from the Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy to assist them to do this, and later a further grant was received from the same source to help in defraying the expense of altering, improving and redecorating the building.
All financial liabilities having been met, with the exception of the above grant, a Dedication Service was held on Sunday, 6 March 1921.
A pipe organ was installed and used for the first time at the service on Sunday, 27 June 1926.
In March 1927, twenty five members of the church resigned to form Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Glasgow in the south side of the City.
Each year seemed to see some new, progressive development in the activities of the Church. A resolution was passed at a Members’ Meeting in May 1928 “that the church embark upon a scheme of internal reconstruction of the present church building.” A Church Reconstruction Fund was started for this purpose, collections being taken monthly and later, quarterly.
Again, in December 1929 the church re-affirmed its intention in a resolution “that a scheme of complete internal reconstruction with the auditorium on the ground floor at an estimated cost of £15,000 be adopted. Definite scheme to be determined later.”
In February 1933, thirty nine members of the church resigned to form Third Church of Christ, Scientist, Glasgow in the west side of the City.
In January 1934, the members re-affirmed their resolve to reconstruct and agreed further that some part of the work be started as early as possible.
At the Empire exhibition in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, the three Churches combined to finance and staff a Christian Science Pavilion incorporating a Rest Room and Reading Room.
In June 1939, due to a fault in the electrical wiring, the roof of the Church building was damaged by fire. Faced with the alternative of repairing the structure or proceeding with the reconstruction, the members decided on the latter course. Complete working drawings were prepared and estimates taken. The process of demolition was carried out. Owing to the outbreak of war and the stringent control of building materials, the reconstruction work was delayed.
From 1939 to 1951 the members continued to hold services in various halls, including the Prince of Wales Hall, Sauchiehall Street; McLellan Galleries, Sauchiehall Street; and the Rankine Hall of The Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders, 39 Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow. During this period it was wonderful how suitable accommodation for the church services was always available.
1940 - 45
The church took part with other Christian Science Churches and Societies in the West of Scotland in maintaining and staffing a Rest Room for the troops, first at Auchingate, Ayrshire and later at 335 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.
Reconstruction work on the church building was commenced in accordance with drawings prepared by Messrs Trussed Steel Concrete Co. Ltd. under the direction of Mr A Graham Glen, ARIBA, Architect. This work included the erection of the main floor of the auditorium.
Although reconstruction work was still in progress, it had reached a point when the members were able to return to the building, using the Sunday School Hall for their services.
In December 1954 plans having been prepared by Mr Glen, Messrs William Lightbody of Glasgow were appointed the principal contractors to complete the work in the main auditorium.
It was with much gratitude that the members held their first service in the new auditorium on Christmas Day, Sunday 25 December 1955.
A new pipe organ was installed and used for the first time at the services on Sunday, 2 May 1958.
The church building was completed with a bright and spacious auditorium, a well furnished Sunday School Hall, Board Room, Offices, Committee Rooms, Creche, Caretaker’s Home, etc. The exterior of the building was restored and treated against the weather.
In June 1969 the members decided to repay to The Mother Church the grants which had been received in 1919 and 1921. The full sum was repaid.
The church building was given a provisional Grade A Listing in the Secretary of State’s List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic interest.
1980 - 87
Due to the increased costs of running and maintaining such a large building the members explored in vain various ways of altering the building to provide premises for church services and activities and to provide space which could be shared with another organisation.
In June 1988 the members decided to dispose of the building and to seek other premises.
In February 1989 an offer for the building was accepted by the members and the building was vacated by December 1989. For some time services were held in the Mitchell Library Building and in the Unitarian Church in Berkeley Street.
The premises at 87 Berkeley Street were purchased in September 1990 and the first services were held there on 1 September 1991.
Initially Church Services were held on the first floor, the ground floor was used for the Reading Room and the Sunday School met in the basement. A number of structural alterations and refurbishments were carried out with the aid of generous donations from members. This resulted in the Church auditorium being situated on the ground floor, the Sunday School on the first floor and the Reading Room in the basement, giving direct access from the street.
In 1977 the members of Second Church decided to disband. Some members joined First Church and some joined Third Church.
At various times between 1989 and 1994 meetings took place between First Church and Third Church to discuss a possible merger of the two branch churches. In November 2004 at a Special Meeting of First Church the members agreed to amend their by-laws to allow, for a six month period, members of Third Church to transfer their membership to First Church. In December 2004 the members of Third Church agreed to disband on 31st January 2005. Many then became members of First Church.
In the years since 1905, for various reasons, the location of the Reading Room has been changed several times. The locations were: 141 Bath Street; 45 Renfield Street; 71 West Nile Street; 75 Buchanan Street; 304 Bath Street; 104 West George Street; 18 Woodlands Road; 1 La Belle Place and 7 North Claremont Street. The current location is at 87 Berkeley Street.
The church is now blessed with all that is required to function properly in the community. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” (Church Manual 18 :11)
This history would be incomplete without an acknowledgement of the staunch and consecrated service to the Cause of Christian Science on the part of all the early members of this church. Their steadfast loyalty to our Leader is a continuing source of inspiration.
The members are mindful of their Leader’s definition of Church as “the structure of Truth and Love” (S & H 583:12), also that “Our proper reason for church edifices is, that in them Christians may worship God, - not that Christians may worship church edifices!” (Miscellany 162 : 21 - 24.)