An article written for the FIEC website.
In 1914 almost a fifth of the world’s shipping fleet had been built on the River Clyde. The term ‘Clydebuilt’ was synonymous with quality and the mark of the preeminent shipbuilders of the time. In Glasgow the banks of the river were lined with dockyards employing tens of thousands – it was here the Lusitania, The Queen Mary, The Queen Elizabeth, the QE2 and 30,000 other ships were built in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Yoker in the west of Glasgow was one of the communities that grew to accommodate the vast army of workers drawn to the Clyde, creating a great new mission field for the gospel. Seeing this need was James Crawford, a local man with a burden for the factory workers and their families. Thus in February 1914, along with James Wood, another man with the same concern, ‘Yoker Mission Hall’ was opened (becoming Yoker Evangelical Church in 1979).
Throughout the following century, through two World Wars (the hall surviving a direct hit during the Clydebank Blitz), economic depressions and upturns, three buildings, and the many social changes, the fellowship at Yoker has been a constant witness for Christ in the area. From the very start the church committed itself to a strong programme of outreach activities including Open Airs, Tea Meetings, visits from evangelists and community events.
In 2011 Robbie Brown became its current pastor and continues to share the vision and burden of reaching the community of Yoker with the gospel. Today the shipyards are few and the workers along the Clyde number just a few thousand in total. The loss of these industries has left Yoker with high unemployment and social needs (albeit with pockets of affluence). It’s an area where one local school reported that 75% of its children were in lone-parent families. Robbie’s heart is for YEC to be as mission focused in 2014 as it was in 1914 – holding out the unchangeable truths of the gospel in words and actions that can connect with the Yoker of the 21st century.
One hundred years on outreach now includes a community café, involvement in local schools, carer and toddlers groups, children’s and youth activities, and regular leafleting of the area. Among recent encouragements is the story of one local family whose son attended the church’s ‘Good News Club’. The son started asking his mum questions about the Bible at home and in response she came to the church to find out more. At that point in her life she was struggling with various issues, but through contact with the church she came to faith. In time her partner found himself in a Christian Rehab centre where he also put his trust in Jesus. Robbie has since had the great joy of marrying the couple and seeing them now serving in church. It’s just one example of the many lives and families transformed by the gospel in Yoker over the past century.
YEC has changed hugely since its beginning and doubtless the next hundred years, if the Lord doesn’t return, will bring its own upheavals and transformations. However the church can be certain of two things: Firstly the unchanging need of the inhabitants of Yoker to find peace with God. Secondly, the need of mission-focused gospel churches like YEC to point them to Christ, who alone can make that peace possible.
Humanly, Yoker’s fame is for its great ships and liners, but eternally its fame will surely be the gospel vision and faithfulness of churches like YEC; God’s own ‘lifeboats’ on the Clyde.