After the Restoration work was completed in 2007, Blast Off! (the children’s group) listened and collected stories about the project, and about what St Michael’s means to its congregation. This is what they found out …..
What is so special to you about St Michael's?
The warm welcome from the congregation
The feeling of belonging
St Michael’s was built between 1881 and 1883. It is made of material that won’t last forever, unless they are looked after. That’s why the restoration project was started, in order to make the church strong and attractive for the future.
St Michael’s was the first church in the presbytery to have a condition report. We needed a million pounds – that was about 1990. There was terrible despair. Then we had a Wish Meeting on a freezing night in February. We knew the church was not going to fall down, so we put our own priorities first. They were: 1. Heating in the halls. 2. Toilets (there was only ONE downstairs). 3. Heating in the church. Painting came further down and we never believed we could get as far as stonework. But by breaking it down into manageable chunks of work we began to see that we could do it. One elder said, “It’s not given on a plate; we have to struggle.” And we did and had fun too and grew together.
To raise money for the Restoration, we used to sell things at local markets. But, that was really hard work because you were always moving stuff from one place to another. So, after a while we negotiated the use of local shops for the period in between leases. We had 5 altogether; although not all at once! People all around about in the area would give us things to sell, as well as what people in the church contributed. We changed the windows every Saturday, and once we’d been there for a while, people would come into the shop especially to ask after the health of other folk that they knew that we would know about. It became a real community outlet. The Yummies went carol singing around the parish where we knocked on doors collecting money for the restoration. We would be dressed as snowmen, Christmas crackers or victorian carol singers. People came out of their houses to listen and watch us. We were not sure whether the money was given to us because of our appearance, singing or the flame torches that the men carried. It was always a cold evening but soup was ready for us back at the church.
It is very skilled work to repair a building like St Michael’s properly. The workmen used traditional hand tools, and had to make sure that the bits of stone and the lead on the roof all fit together perfectly.The restoration has made the building beautiful inside. The lighting shows off the craftsmanship of wood and stone. The light through the stained glass is pleasing to the eye. Adding to the beauty are details like the pulpit and altar falls, the inner doors, the lighting in the side aisles, the warm-coloured carpet, banners etc. It’s hard to remember what it was like before the restoration started but it looks lovely now.
Can you think of a special memory about St Michael's?
“St Michael’s is somewhere I’ve always felt secure in, and wherever I am in the world, it is always comforting to know St Michael’s is still there and that I can come back when I am in Edinburgh.”
“St Michael’s is the only place where I get to meet and speak to people of all ages, from toddlers to those in their 90s. My life would be much poorer without all these friendships.”
“Coming back from a 5 week holiday in Australia and feeling like I was ‘coming home to family’ on the first Sunday back in the church.”
“I was in the Sunday School at St Michael’s. It met at 2.30 on a Sunday afternoon. We all went to church as a family in the morning, then went home for lunch – we all lived close by in those days – and came back in the afternoon for Sunday School. The girls met in groups in the church itself and the boys met in the 2 halls. Of course you got a lot of bible education at the school as well back then. Most of the Sunday School teachers were day school teachers as well.”
“I remember the unveiling and dedication of the war memorial. I was 8 years old; it was on 12th November 1922, and I was in the balcony of St Michael’s with my friends. I remember watching the Minister and the elders processing during the service. They came down the aisle – all men of course, and all dressed in black. I remember hanging over the balcony looking down and watching the black shapes pass by underneath me as they went out into the vestibule to dedicate the memorial.”
“A Christmas Day at St Michael’s. There were just a few people in the church, but there was a huge amount of warmth and love between us.”
“There was one time around Christmas, when 3 of us were in St Michael’s by ourselves. At that time, my friend and I had never been up the Tower. The lad with us had a key, so up we went and sang carols from the roof-top. I don’t know if anyone could hear us from the ground, but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
“The biggest laugh was watching six men put up scaffolding in the session room prior to us painting the room! I think it was caught on video …”
“I have always been very grateful to St. Michael’s and the people there, because that was where I learnt that Jesus is my friend, and I have a Heavenly Father who cares for me. He has helped me greatly, and has guided me well all through my life.”
“I like coming to meet all my friends and enjoying worshipping God together.”
“Our daughter and her cousin were baptised on the Sunday immediately before Christmas. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers, a Christmas tree, lights and an advent wreath. The children from Sunday school acted out a nativity play and the baptism came at the end of the play, so there were 2 babies that year!”
“One special day for me was the Sunday that I became a member of St Michael’s – not long before I left the country for a year! The day was special, even though I’d always felt part of the church, it was important to me to confirm to myself and God how I felt and gave me a sense of belonging even when I was far away.”
What are your hopes for the future of St Michael's?
“That the hard work and commitment of past generations may continue for many years and for future generations.”
“That it continues to provide support for those who attend and the local community.”
“That there will always be a welcome in our church for everyone.”
“I pray that the people of St Michael’s will continue to tell others about the love of Jesus, his forgiveness, and how he is able to help everyone.”
“I hope St Michael’s will remain a beautiful place to worship, to contemplate, to listen to beautiful music, and also be a lively, friendly place for a variety of people in the church, parish or city; a place where folk can do things – music, art, charity, outreach, discussion – that in some way make a positive difference to people’s lives – in the church, in the parish or in the wider world.”