Lutheran Presence in East Kilbride

Some of the 50 young people, members of the string orchestra in a Lutheran School in Bremen, Germany who toured Scotland recently.

The History of St Columba Evangelical Lutheran Church


During October 1957 Pastor Norman Heintz conducted a survey of the Glasgow area to assess the possibility of beginning a mission is the Glasgow area. Two possibilities were identified: a 2-acre site on Carmunnock Road on the 34,000 inhabitant Castlemilk estate, and an existing building in the Gorbals District. On February 13th 1958 Pastor Floyd Bosch (Pastor of St Timothy's Sunderland) travelled to Glasgow to hold a Service for Lutherans there.


The oldest letter in the files is one dated 30th April 1962, where Pastor Warren Fanning ordered copies of the East Kilbride News to be sent to him in Cardiff, so that he could familiarise himself with what was going on here then.

In 1962 the "British Lutheran" published an article about mission possibilities in Scotland, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, or perhaps a New Town. The East Kilbride Development Corporation agreed to a Lutheran Church being built in the East Kilbride area. A comment from the architect's department was, "You won't have any trouble with our people - if you build in that style and to that finish!" The ELCE Executive Council decided to go for East Kilbride, and called Pastor Warren Fanning to launch the mission.

In May the ELCE Executive Council agreed to purchase a house in the town and on 10th July 1962 Pastor Fanning invited people to Lutheran services and informed them that the ELCE was, under God's direction, planning to open a mission in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, with 3 outreach centres in different parts of the town.

On 28th August Pastor Fanning moved into the town and, finding the cost of hiring school rooms to be £5 per hour, and not being willing or able to afford this, on September 27th he hired a hall in the YMCA. He also hired a sound projector to show the 'Martin Luther' film and placed adverts in the local newspaper and on buses, and so the Lord's work began. The "numbers" were encouraging with a 'full house' most nights.

A house for a Lutheran Pastor in East Kilbride was ready for occupation in the 2nd week in September 1962, and Pastor Warren Fanning and his family moved in. On October 28th the Lutheran Mission was launched with a Christian Film Festival. 32,500 handbills were delivered in a month to advertise the films, which were shown in 18 different venues. On Sunday, November 25th 1962, Pastor Fanning conducted the first Lutheran Service in the East Kilbride Village YMCA Hall, and Pastor "Ted" Pearce preached the Sermon. Twenty seven people attended, ten from Sunderland and London, and seventeen from the local area. Lutherans from Sunderland came for the first four Services to help the local people learn the Liturgy and Hymns.

Sunday School was begun with two children in September, and in two months attendance had increased to 24.

In February 1963 Pastor Fanning began the LEGS programme, a four point programme consisting of Learning (catechesis), Exerting (service), Glorifying (worship), and Socialising (fellowship). In March the first adult confirmation group was begun with eight members. In May 1963 the first Delegate to Synod was Mr John Mackay. In September the Mission held its first Harvest Festival, and at Christmas the first children's Christmas Service was held.

On September 10th 1963 Pastor Fanning wrote to the local council asking for land on which to erect a Lutheran church building.

During October 1963 the second Christian Film Festival was conducted. 20,000 handbills were delivered. The film showings were organised with the help of three men from the congregation, John Mackay, Alex Sloan and Mr Cunningham. 325 young people and 70 adults came to see the films. As part of their 90th Anniversary celebrations, First Lutheran Church of Omaha, Nebraska, USA, adopted the Sunday School of East Kilbride. They provided a 35mm Film Projector, five Children's Hymnals, and provided Sunday School lesson materials. Tape recordings were exchanged to link the two Sunday Schools. By December there were 78 children enrolled in the Sunday School, and eleven people enrolled in the three instruction classes.

The first baptism, on March 3rd 1964, was that of 7-year-old Linda Rose, recovering in hospital after a serious operation. The first adult confirmation was that of John and Margaret Mackay in September 1964, after 18 months of catechesis.

Pastor Fanning calculated the costs involved in erecting a hall: £1745, and the money was found; a church site having been acquired in the Westwood District of East Kilbride. In February 1965 the mission moved from the YMCA Hall to the Westwood Hill site, where a Portakabin had been purchased and erected at a cost of £1745. Residents in the neighbourhood was introduced to the new church with a four-week Christian Film Festival. The films drew 808 people.

In March 1966 Ross & Nancy McRobb were confirmed.

"The Lord's Treasury" shows church offerings for 1966 of £262.1.5d which went up in 1967 by a huge amount, to £439.14.6d, while the Sunday School offerings were £34.13.9d in 1966 and £36.3.6d in 1967. St Columba was able to remit £81.19.7d to ELCE in 1967.

In May 1967 Pastor Fanning accepted the Call to St Timothy's congregation in Sunderland, where he was installed on 28 May 1967. Mr Evan Koch, a ministerial student from Australia, who was doing part of his studies at Westfield House, was assigned to a summer curacy in East Kilbride to cover the pastoral vacancy during June, July and August.

Pastor Arnold Rakow, having served 12 years as Pastor of St Andrews at Ruislip, was called to be the next pastor of the Lutheran Mission in East Kilbride which had 41 adults and 24 children in regular fellowship. He arrived with his wife Norma and three sons, Paul, James and Timothy just before the start of the school term in August, and was installed on September 10th 1967. An active youth ministry was conducted, with a Junior Youth and a Senior Youth section. A weekly men's fellowship evening was held, with an hour of darts and table tennis, followed by an hour of Bible study/discussion on religious, moral and social issues. The annual Burns Supper, organised by the Men's fellowship, and the food prepared by the ladies, was always a grand social event. From the men's fellowship, a membership instruction class developed, attended by three couples. At the end of the course, two of the couples, Alex & Chris Sloan and Bob & Ann Turner, were confirmed. Following the confirmation, a series of meetings was held to organise the mission into a congregation and draft a Constitution.


On March 4th 1970, the congregation chose the name Saint Columba, and on April 17th the organisational meeting was held to adopt the Constitution to be submitted to the ELCE Synod in September, and to elect the first Church Council: John Mackay as Chairman and Elder, Ross McRobb as Vice Chairman, Alex Sloan as Secretary, and Bob Turner as Treasurer. Ross and Alex were also given responsibility for property care and maintenance, and the entire Church Council was made responsible for Congregational life, stewardship and mission. On Sunday, April 19th 1970, Pastor Pearce installed Pastor Arnold Rakow as the first pastor of St Columba Lutheran Church.

In order to get the Lutheran Church better known in the community and to facilitate its mission outreach, Pastor Rakow got involved in local community life. He was appointed as chaplain to Canberra Primary School, where he conducted weekly visits, taking two religious education classes on each visit, and conducting worship assemblies at Harvest, Christmas, Easter, and end of term. As a result, several children enrolled in the Sunday School, and a few families started attending Worship Services. A community Mother-and-Toddler Group, "Teddy Tots", was started up in the church, run by Mrs Helga McLean, which proved to be a very popular community service. Pastor Rakow also became active in the Parent-Teacher's Association of Duncanrig Secondary School, and was elected for a term as Chairman of the Association.

In June 1971 the church hut was given a thorough face-lift by a group of keen volunteers from the Men's fellowship and Senior Youth Club, wielding their paint brushes.

The Polish Lutheran Congregation of Glasgow held their monthly Worship Services in the St Columba Church hut, and Pastor Rakow was invited to give an English sermon for the benefit of the English-speaking spouses and youth. Pastor Rakow was also invited to conduct catechesis for a few of the Polish Youth, and on December 17th 1972 a bilingual Confirmation Service was held. On May 19th 1974 members of St Columba participated in the 25th Anniversary Service of the Polish Lutheran Congregation in Glasgow.

St Columba congregation had its first wedding, that of Lillian Mackay, in the summer of 1973. Since the temporary church hut was not registered for marriages, the congregation borrowed the local Episcopal Church for the wedding. The congregation's first youth confirmation, on May 26th 1974, included Paul & James Rakow and Margaret & John Sloan. On Pentecost Sunday 1975 Pastor Rakow accepted the Call to Christ Lutheran Church, Petts Wood, and held his Farewell Service on the last Sunday of July.

On 16th May 1975 Pastor Rakow intimated to the membership his "call" to Petts Wood. After a year of vacancy, Pastor Karl Fry was installed as the next pastor on August 1st 1976; sixty people attended the Service. On October 31st that same year Nathan Ludwig Fry, son of Pastor Karl and his wife Marcia, was baptized at St Columba. Pastor Fry was Father Christmas at the "Teddy Tots" Christmas party in 1976.

In early 1977 St Columba applied for a CEF loan to build a permanent church building. The new church building progressed during the summer of 1979. Learning the lesson from the serious vandalism at the Lutheran Church in Sheffield, the congregation decided to have non-breakable glass in the church windows, and no windows on the car park side of the church. Pastor Fry officiated in the first kilted wedding in the summer of 1979. The wedding was held in the Westwood Baptist Church, because the new church was not yet ready.

On October 6th 1979 the new church was dedicated.


In the summer of 1981, Pastor Karl Fry accepted a call to become pastor of Our Saviour, Fareham.

After a year of vacancy, Pastor Jonathan Naumann was installed as the next pastor on the first Sunday in October 1982. In the summer of 1985 St Columba purchased a television for the purpose of showing Christian videos. The video recorder and the videos were borrowed on a donation basis from the supplier. In the summer of 1987 the Concordia Deaconess Conference gave St Columba 32 New International Version Bibles. In 1987 Pastor Naumann accepted the call to serve as pastor of St Andrews, Ruislip, and made his Farewell to St Columba at the end of the year.

After 20 months' vacancy, Pastor Craig Tufts, a graduate of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, arrived. He was ordained and installed as pastor of St Columba on August 20th 1989.


In December 1991 Pastor Tufts accepted a call to serve St Timothy's, Sunderland, which he had also been serving as vacancy pastor.

In April 1992 Pastor John Fraser from St David, Cardiff, accepted the call to become pastor of St Columba. He was installed on August 8th. On October 16th, Mrs Evelyn Fraser was diagnosed to have cancer, and died on December 9th 1992. The Funeral Service was conducted on December 15th by Pastors Brammeier, Rakow and Tufts, with Pastor Naumann as organist. Pastor and Mrs Fraser had come to England from Australia, and their two sons, Michael and Keith, were born during their first pastorate in Ruislip. Evelyn had been very active in the life of the church, as organist, Sunday School teacher, in the Lutheran Women's League of Great Britain, and the ELCE Worship Committee. The new ELCE Hymnal Supplement, 758+, was dedicated to Evelyn in recognition of all her help with compiling the Hymnal.

Throughout his pastorate at St Columba, Pastor Fraser faithfully tracked down former members and scattered Lutheran throughout Scotland and carried out his ministry to the diaspora by mail, to provide Bible studies, Sunday School lessons, and devotional materials for them and their families. He also travelled regularly throughout Scotland to give pastoral care to the scattered Lutherans and to administer the Holy Communion to them.

The 21st century

After his retirement in 2001, John Fraser continued, as Pastor Emeritus, to serve the congregation and conduct his ministry by mail to the Lutherans scattered around Scotland.

Pastor Fraser was assisted in 2002 by Rob Kraft, a Curate from the USA, and Pastors Smicht, Debeau and Korchok. When Pastor Korchok moved on, Pastor Fraser returned to semi-active ministry. For a time he was also assisted by Canadian Curate Joe Das who had studied at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St Catharines in Ontario. He served his vicarage/curacy at St Columba during the academic year of 2004-05.

Even after Pastor Fraser developed cancer, he faithfully continued his ministry, until he sadly died on January 31st 2005. His Funeral was conducted on February 4th by Pastors Joel Humann and Reg Quirk, with Dr Tom Winger as organist.

Following Pastor Fraser's death and Joe Das's return to Canada, where he now pastors a Lutheran Church, the church was served by David McNally as Pastor-in-Training while he completed a Colloquy programme he began in 2004 through Westfield House Lutheran Seminary in Cambridge, supervised first by Revd Dr Winger and then by Revd Brian Mosseman. On its successful completion, David was inducted as (part-time non-stipendiary) pastor of St Columba during the final session of the 2007 annual Synod which St Columba hosted that year. David retired in August 2010 but continues to serve the congregation by taking one Service each month and officiating at baptisms, weddings and funerals as required, under the direction of Vacancy Pastor Revd George Samiec, who is also the ELCE’s Vice Chairman and Editor of the British Lutheran magazine. In recent times the church has sadly seen the deaths of long-standing members, Mrs Nancy McRobb, widow of Ross; Mrs Christina Sloan, widow of Alex; and Pawel Sliwka. David, as Pastor Emeritus, officiated at the funerals of these three members, who will be sadly missed, although we trust they are now in a better place, with the Lord. In April 2013 John Sloan, elder, who had served as Council Chairman for a number of years, was succeeded by Margaret Steel, widow of founding member and elder, Lindsay, and mother of Linda White who presently serves as LWLGB President.

Today and the Future

'Church' is not just about clergy and who fills the pulpit, because the Lord gives us all ministries of some kind, and the records show solid evidence of "commitment" by many elders and members, godly men and women, some of whom are now with the Lord. Our present leadership team is Vacancy Pastor Rev'd George Samiec, Chairman Mrs Margaret Steel, Secretary Anne Turner, Treasurer Mrs Azania Aitken, Ladies Guild President Mrs Linda White, and Elder Dan Priester.

The church aims to be an asset to the local community, a place to worship God and find inner peace and friendship, and is not just a "club" which meets on a regular basis; St Columba is the East Kilbride branch of the Kingdom of God Unlimited, prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.

We are small in number, with sometimes only 10 at Sunday worship, but we are in 'Faith Business' and if we use the time, talents and energy God has given us wisely, I am sure He will continue to bless us and meet our needs as individuals and as a congregation, and help us to draw more to the Cross.

Inside the church hall in 2008
We like members and visitors to stay for tea and a chat after our services- there is no need to rush away!