A growing God-given desire seemed to grip the hearts of a number of Christians for an outreach to begin on the new West Pilton estate, and so, a new missionary, W. Bullin, was appointed there in 1981 to visit homes. The work became effective and the West Pilton Christian Centre was opened on the estate in May, 1983. The year before, on 27th November, St. Andrew’s Hall (formerly known as the Market Hall Mission in 1886), on Arthur St., was officially handed over to ECM and opened up for ministry the following year, particularly as a drop-in.
The drop in at St Andrew’s Hall, ECM HQ since 1982.
The next year (1984) ECM bought its present HQ building, 9 Pilrig St., conveniently placed next to St. Andrew’s Hall (now known as the Pilrig Centre). The ECM HQ had begun, in 1832, in 375 High St., after which it moved to 126 High St (1840), and then to 5 St. Andrews Square (1842), followed by a move to 6 York Place(date?). In 1964 the Monthly Visitor Tract Society, which had been founded by David Nasmith, sadly came to an end. ECM was offered the building as its HQ at a low cost, provided it maintained the vision to propagate Christian literature throughout Edinburgh, a task which ECM was delighted to honour. Thus the keys to the building at 122 Thirlestone Rd. were handed over to ECM
The year 1984 was marked by many trials for the missionaries; several had severe health issues, and vandalism on property was especially bad, but by now there were six Mission Halls: Gorgie; The Inch; Niddrie; St. Andrew’s; Dumbiedykes and West Pilton Christian Centre. In that same year, Billy McGillivray was appointed to assist Bill Bullin at the West Pilton Christian Centre.
In 1986 Bill Chalmers saw at least ten come to Christ at the Inch Hall during the There is Hope Campaign. He said:
“Few things can be more exciting than three generations of one family coming to faith in Christ Jesus in a matter of weeks.” (p.13) This campaign was a reminder to ECM of its early pioneering days in which it led the churches in city-wide evangelism; this time David Hill was the pioneer. In this case there were 30 churches involved in the outreach. There were many evangelism items during those weeks, including the use of films like Cross and the Switchblade and Thief in the Night, which captivated large audiences. A team of 15 young Christians from YWAM (Youth With A Mission) also came to help with evangelism, drama and music, and camped in the Inch.
During this year (1986) the Dumbiedykes Mission Hall, because it was not working well, as in former days, because of the changing population, was turned into a Care Shelter for the homeless, and re-named St. Leonard’s Hostel. They could come in and find food and clothing, and during the winter nights a team catered for them in the building. The building was knocked down and the ministry there ceased. This work eventually became the Care Shelter, a project run by Bethany Christian Trust, which organizes many churches to run a rota system for the homeless during the cold winter nights.
In 1988 Operation Outreach was born. The vision behind this was to have six students who would take a year out to come and work alongside the missionaries, whilst also having seminars and training at HQ. This became known as Streetlevel. They would be put up by Christians and would have to be sponsored. In 1990 there were four students doing the programme, but sadly it fizzled out a few years later.
Another exciting ministry opened up: Crossline. When the Exorcist film was shown in the 1970s, many people became anxious about occult things, and a Christian counselling unit was set up in England, called Crossline. This came to incorporate general counselling for people. Ian McNeill was appointed to set up a branch here in Edinburgh at ECM HQ.
Bill Chalmers had an old caravan, which he decided to use for the work amongst the homeless. The idea was to have a mobile unit fitted up with facilities for hot drinks to serve them by Waverley Station throughout the year. And so, he and a team, started up what was called CareCaravan (1991). Bethany Christian Trust joined in with the work, and a van was bought, and the name changed to the CareVan (1996). Many churches in the city now share in this project on a rota basis, and it is jointly run by ECM and Bethany.
In 1996 John Hopper was appointed to reach the workers in the Ports and Lothian Buses, whilst Ken McLean was attached to the Royal Mail. Four years later, to celebrate the millennium, ECM was involved in the Jesus Millennium Project, which involved working with Christians across the city, offering the Jesus Video to hundreds of people, in a city that was becoming increasingly ignorant about the Gospel.
New Age and Paganism
Since the 1960s Edinburgh had witnessed the steady rise of the occult and New Age. Bill McGillivray wrote in 1991:
“There is an increasing number of folk coming for help as a result of supernatural happenings, either to them as individuals, or in their homes. Usually this is brought about by them having been to Spiritualists or being involved in New Age religion or Occult practices.” (Annual Report: 1991: p.9)
In 2004 Paul James-Griffiths transferred from working with London City Mission to join ECM, and was given the broad remit of Streetoutreach.
This included training Christian teams and leading them in outreach at New Age Festivals, and at the huge Pagan Festivals, such as Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn (Halloween), in which as many as 12,000 can gather to celebrate Pagan fertility rites, which would have been recognizable by St. Columba when he came to Scotland in AD 563.
It has also meant outreach to the students at Edinburgh University, which today has become an atheist stronghold. Evangelism takes place through such events as Edinburgh Creation Group. The intention is to seek to dismantle humanistic evolution and replace it with God’s Gospel and values, by using Christian Ph.D. scientists, and others. The old-fashioned “hot drinks on cold days” outreach outside the university library also takes place every week during term-time and students have been converted.
Both Eternity, a Christian outreach chamber music group (led by Isolde James-Griffiths), and the Celtic Tour, a Christian walking tour on the Royal Mile, hosted by “St. Cuthbert” and “John Knox”, seek to bring out our rich Christian heritage through the Arts, and to communicate the Gospel. Outreach during the huge Edinburgh Festival, in conjunction with Shine (an International YWAM outreach) also takes place every August.
Above left: Eternity Music outreach. Since it began on the Royal Mile in 2005 thousands of people have been on the Celtic Tour A tour group near the castle in Ramsay Lane
The Christian Heritage Centre
In 2009 a trial run for a Christian Heritage Centre was attempted, which was a success, so in 2010 it was launched in St Columba’s Free Church near the castle to reach both tourists and locals by informing them about the spiritual history of the Royal Mile and by bringing the Gospel in many different ways (exhibition, DVDs, the Arts, the Celtic Tour, literature etc). In the first full season during the summer months over 10,000 visitors came in and many hundreds heard the Gospel with at least six giving their lives to Christ.
Crowds gather outside the Christian Heritage Centre at St Columba’s Free Church to hear some Korean opera singers followed by a Gospel message.
The Underbelly in the Cowgate
Five hundred years ago the Cowgate was notorious for drinkers. Today the same applies but to this could be added the drugs and night clubs. Paul James-Griffiths pioneered an outreach there in 2008 so that many young people hear the Gospel for the first time every year.
In 2009 the Basics Bank was launched by ECM and led by Bill Chalmers with the intention of giving short-term practical help with food and hygiene basics to struggling people. Since its beginning it has grown rapidly and many opportunities are given for sharing Jesus with those who come in.
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