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Looking Back

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Looking Back

May 1972

The Kirk in Rome by Tom Harris

Drawing by Gordon Davies

This year, 1972, marks the 110th anniversary of the beginning of St Andrew’s Church in Rome. For over a century, it has served English-speaking Christians, ministers, residents and travellers who have sought comfort and inspiration in God’s house.

It was on the 17th December, 1861, that the Rev. Dr Stewart of Leghorn wrote to the Colonial Committee of the Free Church of Scotland, requesting that a permanent minister be assigned to Rome. Two months later, the Rev William Loughton left for Rome to start the church there.

The congregation began its regular worship in a rented house at 18 Trinita dei Monti – the room held thirty-five.

 At that time, holding Protestant services within the city walls of Rome was illegal. At length, as the result of extreme pressure, and the threat of arrest and imprisonment, the pastor, Dr James Lewis, moved the church to an hotel room outside the wall.

It was not until 1871 that a properly built church, in the Via Flaminia, was used for the first time – just four months after the city of Rome had been freed from Vatican control.

Dr Lewis, who died shortly after the completion of this church, was succeeded by a number of distinguished ministers serving for short periods.

Then Dr.J. Gordon Gray was appointed permanent minister in January 1881. He appealed for funds for a new site, and then in July of the same year the present site was purchased. In January 1885, the church was opened for worship.

Many Changes

The post-war period brought many changes. More and more tourists visited Rome. The F.A.O. moved its headquarters to the City in 1951, and business firms from English-speaking countries became established. The group of regular worshippers took on a truly international flavour.

It was agreed in 1956, to embark on a policy of expansion and development to meet the changing situation. The building and the sanctuary were completely renovated, H.M. The Queen Mother attending the service of dedication on 23rd April, 1959.

The present pastor, The Rev.A.J. Maclean, began his ministry in Rome in 1956. He has seen many changes and much progress. The Woman’s Guild has provided a strong bond, the Deacon’s Court now numbers sixteen and in1970 the Kirk Session was reinstituted. The Sunday School serves the younger generation some nine months of the year.

The Scottish Church in Rome is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of the modern world – political upheaval, demonstrations, youthful revolt, rising prices, falling moral and a crushing traffic problem.

To the tourist, Rome is a city of awe-inspiring historical sites, sunny climate and bewildering streets and alleys. To the English-speaking foreign resident it can be enchanting and frustrating, friendly and cold, all at the same time.

The 110 years of the life of St Andrew’s has spanned a period of tremendous release of human energy and skill. But one thing remains the same. When Christian people move from their familiar home to a foreign land, they sooner or later seek out their church. Such seekers of the Lord are warmly welcomed each Sunday at 7 Via XX Settembre.

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