history of St Silas
St Silas was founded in 1864 as an independent Anglican congregation. The church was planted in the rapidly developing West End of Glasgow by members of St Jude's English Episcopal Church in St Vincent St. St Jude's was one of a group of English Episcopal Churches in Scotland. Since 1843 these congregations had operated independently of the Scottish Episcopal Church, using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (the Church of England prayer book) rather than the Scorrish Prayer Book, and with a Protestant view of the Holy Communion service.
The founders of St Silas included Sir George Burns, one of the founders of the Cunard Company, William Burnley, who owned much of the land on which the sea-side resort of Dunoon was then being developed, and Sir Archibald Campbell of Blythswood. These men provided much of the £7000 needed to buy the land and build the church, and they became the first Trustees of the church.
Later in the 1860’s, St Silas established a mission church in Hayburn St in Partick. The work of this mission grew, and a further mission hall was built in Ardery St, Partick, in 1910. These mission centres ran Sunday Schools which at their peak were attended by over 400 children. Numbers declined during and after the second world war, and the mission closed in 1951, the remaining members transferring to St Silas.
From its foundation until the end of the nineteenth century, St Silas maintained its distinctively bible-based, evangelical ministry, independent of the Scottish Bishops. In 1906, an arrangement was reached with the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway which brought St Silas into communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church. Under this arrangement, the Bishop licensed the Rector of St Silas and carried out confirmations. The church maintained its independent constitution and its freedom to worship as previously.
For over a century, all services were conducted using the 1662 Prayer Book. For most of that time, this liturgy was regarded as central to the maintenance of the church’s distinctive evangelical doctrine. However, in the 1970’s the church decided that liturgies in modern English were also needed. This was a decision with significant financial consequences, since it involved relinquishing a significant source of income, the Blythswood bequest.
In 1986, St Silas joined the Scottish Episcopal Church as a “Private Chapel”, and this is its current status. Although not a full member of the Episcopal Church, the congregation is represented at Diocesan Synod and takes part in the wider life of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway, while retaining much independence in worship and governance.