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St. Andrews Cathedral

This Cathedral Church, in its beautiful situation beside the River Ness, owes its existence to the vision and energy of one man, Robert Eden, who was elected Bishop of Moray and Ross in l851. He came north from England - he was then Rector of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex - and one of his first tasks was to understand how different was the story of the Church in Scotland from that of the Church of England.

The Reformation in Scotland

The Reformation in Scotland was a far greater upheaval than in England. The dry tinder of discontent against a corrupt Church was ignited by a sermon by John Knox in St John's Kirk, Perth, in 1559. This provoked the smashing of images and the sacking of the monasteries there, and the fire of reform spread quickly throughout the country. In 1560 the Scots Parliament abolished Papal authority in Scotland, forbade the Latin Mass, and adopted a reformed Confession of Faith.

There were varying opinions within the Scottish Church: some favoured moderate reform while others made radical demands. For more than a century Episcopalian and Presbyterian factions struggled for dominance, their relative fortunes generally reflecting the prevailing political climate. Separation came when James VII (or II) fled to France in 1688, and most Episcopalians were unable to swear allegiance to his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William of Orange, to whom Parliament offered the crown. The Established Church adopted a Presbyterian order, and the Scottish Episcopal Church came into separate existence.

Many Episcopalian clergy were forcibly ejected from their churches and manses up and down the land. Some parishes remained loyal to their Episcopalian pastors, and resisted attempts to intrude ministers of known Presbyterian sympathies in their places. Those who refused to take the oaths of allegiance were barred from public life, which included ecclesiastical ministrations.

Penal Laws

After the Jacobite Rising of 1715, more stringent laws were enacted against Episcopalian clergy, and after the failure of the 1745 Rising the government sought to wipe out the Episcopal Church. Soldiers burnt down meeting-houses and parsonages, clergy ordained by Scottish bishops were refused recognition, and ministrations in any house to more than five people was illegal on pain of imprisonment or transportation. These Penal Laws remained in force until 1792, four years after the death of Prince Charles Edward Stewart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie"). During that period the Episcopal Church was reduced, in Sir Walter Scott's memorable phrase, to 'a shadow of a shade'. Bishop Robert Forbes's Journals record visits to his diocese of Ross in 1762 and 1770, when he ministered to large crowds in Strathnairn and on the Black Isle, and preached in Inverness. But with the passage of years numbers declined, and when the clergy of Moray & Ross met to elect a new bishop in 1851, Eden was chosen by 5 votes to 2 ! He came to take charge of a geographically vast diocese which comprised only 10 churches and perhaps 500 members.

When it was opened there was a debt on the building of 6,835. A church cannot be consecrated while any debt is outstanding on the building. Such was the energy of the fund-raisers that the entire debt was extinguished in 5 years, and on 29 September 1874 Bishop Eden consecrated his cathedral church, the fulfilment of his vision and the first new Cathedral to be completed and consecrated in Britain since the Reformation. Again the wider Church was represented, the preachers being the Bishop of Derry (William Alexander, husband of the famous hymn-writer) and the Bishop of Bombay.