St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk – Iconic place of worship in Colombo | Sunday Observer

St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk – Iconic place of worship in Colombo

A little piece of Scotland in tropical Sri Lanka – that is St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk, the church built by homesick Scotsmen who came to Ceylon (Sri Lanka’s Colonial name) when the island was under British rule. These Scotsmen worked in the tea plantations and in government service, were business men and served in the Armed Forces among many other professions.

Many of these Scotsmen were Presbyterians. Thus, they wanted their own church with its unique characteristics. These churches were very much like the Dutch Reformed Churches, in appearance.

St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk is now located at 73, Galle Road, Colpetty (Kollupitiya) in the heart of Colombo. It is just past the railway bridge and next to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.

The original St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk was on Prince Street, Fort and the foundation was laid on February 26, 1841 and on August 21, 1842 the new church began its services formally. It was the first Presbyterian Church in Colombo. This was during the reign of Queen Victoria in England.

The end of the 19 century and the beginning of the 20 century saw many of the Scottish congregation leave the country and go back home to Scotland. As the congregation lessened and as Fort became more and more commercialised it became hard to maintain the church. So, a decision was taken to relocate the church to its present premises at Colpetty and in 1906 St . Andrew Scots Kirk moved to its new premises. The chaplain was the Rev. Alexander Dunn.

The congregation of St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk grew but when Ceylon (Sri Lanka) gained independence from the British in 1948 many of the British and Scottish planters as well those of other professions went home and the congregation dwindled.

In the late 1960s the then chaplain, Rev. Andrew Bailie, opened the church to Sri Lankans and congregations swelled .

The St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk now belongs to the International Presbytery and is only one of three churches of the International Presbytery outside Europe. It is also a member of the Presbytery of Lanka. St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk is inter denominational, meaning people from different denominations or churches can worship here. It is a church where people of different Christian faiths can intermarry and will also bless a marriage with a non Christian. It is a very popular church for weddings, and has a beautiful choir.

The architecture of this beautiful church is typically Scottish in character, but has also Gothic features. According to pictorial records the original church had some resemblance to old castles. The church at Colpetty is a little more modern .

The exterior structure of the church is of wood and stone and the floor of the church is shaped like a cross. Many of the stained glass windows were imported at the time of building the church. One stained glass window is dedicated to Lankans who died fighting in World War I. The pews are of teak and well polished. Golden plaques can be found around the church and are dedicated to Scottish people or someone connected to the church. There is also a mention of Donald Ferguson, a Co-Editor of The Observer who died in England in 1911.

Queen Elizabeth the II of England, personally visited the church in 1953.

The church does much charity work both in Colombo and the outstations.