The History of the Christian Church in Jedburgh
There has probably been Christian worship in Jedburgh for nearly 1500 years. The Irish missionary saints Ninian and Columba were spreading the Christian message in Scotland from the 5th century. In 635 a disciple of Columba of Iona, St Aidan, was asked by the King of Northumbria, Oswald, to promote Christianity in his kingdom. Meantime, he was the third prior of the Northumbrian abbey of Old Melrose, on the Tweed, 12 miles north of Jedburgh. It was here that St Cuthbert was trained by St Boisil. It is believed that it is Boisil’s sarcophagus that resides in Jedburgh Abbey museum, along with carved crosses in the Northumbrian style.
In 845 Bishop Ecred of Lindisfarne refers to two communities on the Jedwater. Thus Jedburgh was part of the powerful Northumbrian church which reached all across southern Scotland.
In 1138 King David I of Scotland along with Bishop John of Glasgow founded a priory which was elevated to an abbey in 1154. Augustinian (Black) Canons were brought from Beauvais in France to create a religious community. This was not an enclosed community. Rather the members were both monks and priests. The western end of the nave was the parish church.
Jedburgh continued as an important institution in the religious and political life of Scotland. However, its geographical position on the road north in to Scotland meant that it was frequently attacked by invading English armies and suffered considerable structural damage. By the time of the Scottish Reformation in 1560 the convent had dwindled to a few canons who remained in the conventual buildings until their deaths or they removed elsewhere.
The new reformed church, at first Episcopalian and then Presbyterian, used the abbey church, first under the tower and then in the west of the nave.
In the meantime, the Established Church of Scotland had suffered a number of schisms and secessions. In the 18th Century, as a result of the passing of the Patronage Act of 1713 many resented the interference of the Crown or local landowners in the life and independence of the
Church. In 1738 many members of the Established Church withdrew and formed a new congregation called an Associate (or Secession Church) to be called Blackfriars.
In addition, another secession occurred in 1757 when the Congregation was not allowed to call a minister of their choice. They called Thomas Boston, son of the famous minister of that name. Half of the congregation left the church and formed the Relief Church and built a meeting house.
It would become known as the Boston Church.
In 1843 came the Great Disruption of the Established Church of Scotland.
In Jedburgh the Minister of the Parish Church in the Abbey left his charge with many of his congregation and formed a “Free Church”. It was loaned various premises at first and eventually a new church was built called the Abbey (Free) Church. It was a church which particularly promoted Christian Mission.
After a time of schisms and secessions, over the years the various churches gradually came back together: the Secession and Relief Churches in 1847 became the United Presbyterian Church. The people of these churches were of a Covenanting tradition and recalled how their ancestors had resisted Kings and prelates in the past, had been persecuted for their faith and had worshipped often in secret and in the open air. The congregations of Boston and Blackfriars Churches finally came together in 1919 and later chose to worship in the Blackfriars building from 1930, closing the Boston Church.
In 1900 the Free Church and the United Presbyterian churches came together as the United Free Church of Scotand. In 1929 all the previous free and secession churches reunited with the Church of Scotland. In Jedburgh they came together as Trinity Church, a name which reflected the coming together of three denominations. This meant that there were two Church of Scotland congregations in Jedburgh. This continued until 2007 when the two churches united as Jedburgh Old and Trinity.
All the churches in Jedburgh work together and in harmony, sharing ecumenical services, youth work and special celebrations.
Church of St John the Evangelist (Scottish Episcopal Church) consecrated in 1843.
The Church of Immaculate Conception (St Mary’s RC Church) consecrated in 1937.