Wick Baptist Church
In 1806, Wick Baptist Church was formed. It all began when a group of people started to worship in a smal attic in an old building in Kirk Lane, which is located just off the High Street in Wick. The fellowship met here for twenty years until they moved to rooms above Bows Baker Shop.
As the Church grew, a new Church building was erected by Mr Robert Craig, a shoemaker and leather merchant who was one of the leading members in the newly formed Baptist Church alongside Mr William Petrie, a ploughmaker, who advanced a sum of £350 on the Church. Unfortunately, the building did not survive the “great 1970’s redevelopment” of the town. This Church was used during the week as a school which was run by Mr George Farquhar, who in his younger days was a soldier and was taken prisoner by the French, where he learned the language thoroughly and so he had many pupils keen to learn. The congregation met here for three services on a Sunday while under the ministry of the Rev. Robert Sowerby and Mr Bailie Waters, a lay Brethren who had acted as pastor for a number of years before Sowerby came to Wick in 1848. He continued to serve as co-pastor until his death.
One hundred years after the Church was established, the well known Caithnessian poet and pastor, Rev. John Horne wrote a brief history of the Wick Baptist Church since it’s foundation in 1806. He gave the names of the men who were early members of the Church and could be traced back to it’s founding. They are now commemorated on a large marble plaque in the entrance hall of the Church. At the time of writing, the original document which he wrote is available to view at the local archive centre in Wick. Mr Horne attended meetings at Wick Baptist Church where his funeral was held from, most likely conducted by the Rev. William Millard. He is interred in the Old Municipal Cemetery along with his wife, sister, two brothers and his parents.
The well known Haldane Brothers, James and Robert were instrumental in the formation of Wick Baptist Church. It was James Haldane’s ministry that God blessed in Caithness from 1797 to 1805. James spent a long time preaching in the Orkney islands and he began his return in August 1797. He found himself passing through Caithness, not intending on staying in the county but as a result of an injury sustained by Mr Aikman, who was his travelling companion, he had to delay their travels. James took advantage of this delay and did not waste anytime, he picked up his Bible and began to preach in surrounding areas. On the 31st of August, he reached the town of Thurso where at the time there was a population of about 25,000 people. He preached his last sermon there on the 24th of September where 4,000 people came to hear the Gospel be proclaimed. James Haldane then moved on to Wick where he was just as successful. He later commented on his time in Caithness as being “the most favoured six weeks of his life”.
In 1921, God began to move in Wick. This was known as the fisherman’s revival. Well known pilgrim preachers had started meetings in the Baptist Church and within a short period of time many people found forgiveness in the Lord. While this was happening, fishermen were working in Yarmouth, they returned to their homeland in Caithness and attended a meeting, it was described as being charged with the Holy Spirit and more people found Christ that evening. During this revival in 1921, just two years into William Millard’s return to Wick, sixteen young people were saved. On the 23rd of November on that same year, fishermen returning from Yarmouth attended a meeting conducted by pilgrim preachers in the Wick Baptist Church, At this meeting Billie Stewart sang the hymn:
“Ho! every one that is thirsty in spirit,
Ho! every one that is weary and sad;
Come to the fountain, there's fulness in Jesus,
All that you're longing for, come and be glad.
'I will pour water on him that is thirsty,
I will pour floods upon the dry ground;
Open your hearts for the gift I am bringing;
While you are seeking Me, I will be found.'”
The Rev. Robert Sowerby was the first person to be inducted as pastor of Wick Baptist Church in 1848 and God didn’t only provide the Church with one person, but two. Mr Bailie Waters had served as an acting minister and he kindly served as co-pastor until his death when Sowerby was called to pastorate.
All morning, afternoon and evening services were attended by a large congregation with the evening service being packed to capacity, what a great sight and encouragement it must have been.
The centenary celebrations were attend by a large crowd at each service. The provost, town council and magistrates occupied all of the front pews, a Rev. Dickie represented his own and other churches and gave his sincere congregatualtions on the Baptist Church reaching its one hundredth year of existence. William Millard was the minister at the time of the one hundredth anniversary, here for his second time serving as pastor. He also served as the minister during the fishermen’s revival of 1921 and most likely witnessed a large number of people giving their hearts to the Lord. Wick Baptist Church was for two years without a minister after pastor Johnston left in 1992. In 1995, prayers were answered and God provided a pastor, Angus Morrison, his induction took place on the 3rd of June 1995. Angus preached for seven years, after leaving he went on to Dundee Central Baptist Church. The church building was cleaned regularly each week by Mrs Rachel Thompson, when she was unable to clean she was covered by Mrs Lizzie Bain.
The Church building in Union Street was in much need of repair and refurbishment. In the year of 1997, while the Church was under the ministry of the Rev. Angus Morrison, the Baptist Church took a leap of faith in purchasing the old premesis of the Wick Central Church in Dempster Street which closed in 1990. Much work was needed to be done on the outside and interior of the building. The sanctuary was downsized making it suitable for the Baptist congregation, a baptismal pool was added along with a large kitchen, male, female and disabled toilets. The surrounding balcony was covered making a large upstairs hall with a lounge, kitchen and toilet along with two storage rooms. A prayer room was created with a partition which can be removed if the congregation ever gets larger. The sloping floor was levelled off and covered with carpet and the pulpit was handmade by a joiner. A sound system was also installed along with several microphones and the Church now has the ability to record meetings. The final service in the Union Street Church took place on the evening of Sunday the 16th of April 1998, it was attended by a large crowd and the last hymn that was sung was “Leaning on The Everlasting Arms”.
The first service in the newly refurbished premesis which was the dedication of the building, was held on the 6th of June 1998 and was conducted by the general secretary of the Baptist Union of Scotland, the Rev. Bill Slack. It opened with the hymn “To God Be the Glory” and a welcome was given by Mr Alan McDowall, who was the secretary at the time. Three years after Angus left the position as pastor, England native Oliver Vellacott and his wife Valerie moved to Caithness to establish a pastoral centre in 2005. They moved to Olrig House in Castletown and often held meetings there. Oliver kindly agreed to step in and serve as acting pastor until the Church found a permanent minister.
Wick Baptist Church is still a large and growing fellowship seeking a new pastor.
A plaque which rests in the Church’s entrance hall marking the opening services of thanksgiving an dedication of the newly refurbished building in Dempster Street.
Wick Baptist Church today.
A hymnal which was published in 1933 and was given to each Sunday school pupil during the 1940’s and 50’s.
The old Baptist church building in Union Street.
The monthly magazine of Wick Baptist Church which stopped running in 2001.
A newspaper article from a 1958 edition of the John O’ Groat Journal.
An article from the Church’s weekly bulletin announcing the Rev. Bill Ferguson’s retirement.