Our History

Our church is named after Dunfermline's  Saint Margaret,stained glass window of St Margaret

...the Saxon princess, born in Hungary, sister of the heir to the English throne, who while fleeing William the Conqueror's Norman French invasion of 1066 found refuge in the fortress of King Malcolm Canmore - our city of Dunfermline.

She became his loving and beloved wife, Queen of Scotland, mother of future Scottish Kings, and turned that fortress into a centre of Christian work and worship. How?

Inspired and enabled through her strong faith in God, she was humble and steadfast in Prayer, and her love of reading and studying the Bible was legendary – her husband King Malcolm famously discovering that her clandestine excursions to a quiet cave near the royal Tower were to meet, not a rival in love, but the Lord in Prayer! Malcolm arranged for her precious Bible to be stolen away from her bedside while she slept, only to surprise her the next day with its return, covered in jewels!

But God’s Word itself was so precious to Margaret that it inspired her to a lifetime of championing religious, educational and cultural innovation. It fuelled an energetic evangelism: she used her intellect, position and influence to promote Christian teaching and values. To encourage pilgrimage to St Andrew’s Cathedral, she established the ferry crossing over the River Forth – legend has it that it was in the same spot that her ship was blown ashore when seeking refuge from the Norman invasion. (Even today, almost a thousand years later, the newest Forth crossing is called “The Queensferry Bridge”!)

In Dunfermline, she established a religious community which provided Christian teaching, care for the poor and sick and hospitality for Pilgrims. The church Margaret founded would be rebuilt after her death by her sons, principally King David I, to become Dunfermline Abbey. 

 

So how did our Dunfermline St Margaret’s Church of Scotland come about?

Read on…

In 1560, during the Reformation, the splendour of Dunfermline Abbey was attacked by Protestants angry at the corruption of the Catholic Church and it fell into virtual ruin.  A modest Church of Scotland building housed the new Protestant congregation, but by the early 18th century the Church of Scotland was in trouble too. Many of its members were voicing dissent at the system of Patronage, whereby congregations could not choose their own Ministers, but had to accept what worldly powers, in the form of local landowners or persons of importance, decided for them. In 1733, this resulted in a “Secession”, or breaking away from the Church of Scotland, by individuals and even whole congregations, in a movement which became the United Presbyterian Church.

 In 1737, the Minister of the Abbey Church, Rev Ralph Erskine, left the Church of Scotland and the Abbey, along with many of his Kirk session, members and adherents. They raised a public subscription to build a new church for their gifted and revered preacher.  Queen Anne Street United Secession Church (later to become Erskine Church) grew even after his death, and by 1825 it was the largest dissenting congregation in the town, with over twelve hundred members. At this point, however, the larger issue of choosing a Minister became more personal, and differences of opinion split the congregation. Passions ran high and eventually about five hundred members walked out and obtained Presbytery approval to form a new congregation.

What would they call their new Secession church? As a community of Dunfermline Christians, they chose the name, “St Margaret’s.”

Saint Margaret's in East Port

Click on this link to view a short history of the church in these years by W.M. MacKay