“SOME THOUGHTFUL people are quite shocked when they come into a church and
find half of it given to a museum about guns,” says Canon John Higgins about St
John’s, Eastriggs, in Glasgow & Galloway diocese. “But
that is what this church is about, and it does open up discussions.”
The church was built in 1915 in the complex of “the biggest munitions
factory in Europe”, where nitroglycerine was pumped through pipes from Annan to
be mixed with gun cotton and packed into shells and torpedoes by women who had
to be stripped of every bit of metal from shoe buttons to hair grips, to reduce
any risk of a spark.
It was dangerous work, and the factory site was huge, to enable each
building to be half a mile from the next, so that an explosion in one would not
ignite the others. Amazingly it was not seriously bombed in World War II, and
its work goes on. And it was for these workers that St John’s was built.
For some years, it had no incumbent, and the congregation dwindled, but now
it is on the up again. The Rector, the Revd Martin Callaghan, has trebled the
congregation, says Canon Higgins who, semi-retired, is an NS assistant priest.
Though the church was well-built, it needs money for refurbishment; so Mr
Callaghan invited a new heritage group to locate the munitions museum in the
nave and aisles, while the congregation worships in the chancel and sanctuary.
There is still room for it to spread into the nave for weddings and funerals.
It is working very well. They are now planning a joint flower festival with
the museum, to take place in July, with flower arrangements based on World War
I songs, like “Roses of Picardy”. And the festival will culminate in a
community-wide “Songs of Praise”.