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Friday February 11 2022

Looking Back: Bound for Grand Bahama

A story from February 1968 about a Motherwell minister leaving for a new church in the Bahamas

by Harry Donaldson

LAWSON Brown is a Motherwell man who was minister of Anderson Church in Partick. It was his first charge and he went to it in 1960 after spells in business and national service.

Anderson Church stands in a sidestreet between Dumbarton Road and the river, in the midst of an area which is becoming a wilderness of desolation. The tenements had served their day anyway and now the bulldozers are moving in. The old cars are beginning to lie around in the expanding puddles in the open spaces where the houses used to be, and it won’t be long before nobody will recognise the place as Partick at all, with all the warm homeliness of the life it once had and so many soft-voiced folk from the Uists among its people.

Anderson Church has made its witness across a century and a quarter, nourished the fellowship and proclaimed the Gospel; but its people have always been moving out, though – to be honest – the numbers on the roll are maintained and the givings are still generous.

But Lawson Brown’s days of climbing stairs in Partick are now at an end. The Overseas Council has appointed him to be minister of First Presbyterian Church at Freeport in the Bahamas.

Freeport is in the island of Grand Bahama, only sixty miles off the warm coast of Florida. It is within so easy range of the tourists and the many weekenders from the United States.

A new town has grown up at Freeport with tremendous promise as a holiday resort. Not long ago it was bush and scrub and the flat lands had little that was attractive. But now there are large hotels of the luxury sort, and handsome houses and impressive shopping centres. The beaches are marvellous and the golf courses beyond compare. The place is booming and the development will go on.

Growing Numbers

There is a Church of Scotland charge in Nassau, capital city of the Bahamas, a hundred and twenty miles away on another island. Its minister and Session have been keeping an eye on the growing opportunity in Freeport.

The minister, James Jack (belongs to Paisley and served in Auchterarder and Lochwinnoch) went across two years ago to look at things in Freeport; and went back again to take a service held in a cinema studio with thirty-six people present. Each month he went across the numbers were larger. The Kirk Session in Nassau have paid the air passage and the accommodation and have paid the fee for filling the Nassau pulpit in their own minister’s absence. The studio held fifty only and they began to talk about a church.

Affluence and Tourism

And now they’re getting it – and Lawson Brown as its minister. The Freeport people formed a limited company to raise funds and import building material. They have a site – at a cost of five dollars a year! The roads are made and there is light and water on tap. The luxury flats and the dream houses are all round and now the church folk are gathering the money to put up such a building as will fit in to these posh surroundings.

The money is coming in too; soon they will have what is required. Now they have their minister also. He started out this month to meet his new congregation: a challenging and exciting opportunity. Outreach into affluence and tourism – the Church is there too.

Following the Rev Lawson Brown’s death in 2015, an obituary in the Scotsman stated that he had ‘guided the [Freeport] church through its first years with resolve. The church and a church hall were built and the congregation grew under his stewardship’. He returned to Scotland in 1971, first to Paisley Lylesland and then in 1980 to St Andrews: St Leonard’s linked with Cameron, where he stayed until retirement in 1997.

The two Bahamian congregations left the Church of Scotland in 2009 after the General Assembly voted to let go of the Church’s overseas mission charges. They are now part of a US denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

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