3. Church of the Holy Rude

The Church and its Origins

The Church of the Holy Rude was founded in 1129 as the Parish Church of Stirling and built on the Castle rock. In the 19th century, the centre of population drifted downhill into the new suburbs, where many new churches were built. Several of these have since combined, as reflected in the composite names of current congregations. Now in 2009, the Presbytery of Stirling is creating a new linkage between two of the city centre’s congregations, namely the Viewfield Erskine Church and the Holy Rude.

The Church of the Holy Rude dates back to the 15th century and is the second oldest building after the castle and is noted for holding the coronation of the infant King James VI in 1567 when John Knox preached the sermon. Clustered round the Holy Rude are the historic buildings of Old Stirling. Responsibility for these is split between Stirling Council and Historic Scotland, both of whom run energetic tourism initiatives. Stirling Castle currently attracts around 400,000 visits each year, and some 25,000 of these summer visitors call into the Holy Rude which is specially kept open by Welcome Ministry volunteers.

Congregation and its Development

The congregation of 226 members and 5 adherents is small, loyal and generous. The parish has some Victorian suburbs as well as substantial Council housing. The congregation is also gathered from surrounding areas and there is potential for attracting more incomers to the traditional and historic ambience of the Holy Rude.

The seating in the main church is completely flexible, as there are no fixed pews. Consequently, the church provides the third largest public hall in Stirling city, after the Council owned Albert Halls and the Great Hall in the castle. This follows from its original role as the Parish Kirk of Old Stirling, where the public gathered for all big occasions. The Kirk Session and congregation are working to restore this ethos, where the people of Stirling will feel that the church belongs to them, and have opened the church to community Fayres as well as to concerts, organ recitals and National Remembrance services.

Fayre, 28 October 2006

There are also small rooms below the main church (namely: vestry, session room, choir room, children’s room, small kitchen, toilets and boiler room). When these are not sufficient, a booking may be made of Cowane’s Hospital, immediately opposite the Church’s South Porch.

An induction loop system is installed for the benefit of users of hearing-aids, together with a modern public address system. The Church acts as a blazing beacon literally at night when floodlighting is given to the building by Scottish Power.


Holy Communion is celebrated at various times of the year.

Special Services are held annually. In the past year the Church has been increasingly used by the Armed Services e.g. Poppy Scotland launched their appeal from Stirling Castle in 2008 and there was a Service in the Church with approximately 450 in attendance. Other special services:-

Kirkin’ of the Council – usually May or June
Remembrance Sunday – November
Service of Lessons and Carols – December
Christmas Eve – Watchnight – approximately 250 attended this year.

Health and Healing Services

An important outreach within the church is our Healing Ministry with short services of intercessory prayer for the sick and others who have requested our support in this special way. These are held on the third Sunday of each month within the St. Andrews Chapel, following morning service, and four liturgies have been prepared for inclusion on rotation at these services. Within the St. Andrews Chapel, Prayer Cards are available to members and visitors who wish to leave names for upholding at these services. Visitors, during the summer months, use this facility widely and in any one month, there can be over 100 names upheld.

Geography and Near Neighbours

Stirling Council has ultimate responsibility for adjacent land which includes the large area of four cemeteries behind Holy Rude. This has recently attracted some £1.7 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Stirling Council, Historic Scotland and Scottish National Heritage in a project to restore the historic cemeteries back to their former glory. The historic buildings of Old Stirling at the ‘Top of the Town’ include Stirling Castle and Argyll’s Lodging, owned by Historic Scotland. There is also the Tolbooth, used as a venue for musical performances of all kinds, the Old Town Jail and Cowane’s Hospital, the headquarters of Cowane’s Trust, all run by Stirling Council. Cowane’s Trust owns a lot of property including Cowane’s Hospital and the bowling green. These are the Church of the Holy Rude’s nearest neighbours and affect the car parking in the immediate approach to the church.


There is scope for the congregation to carry forward all the community links with local authorities, the Chaplaincy of Stirling High School, of Stirling Guildry and Armed Services.

The minister of the Holy Rude is ex officio, a Trustee of the Cowane’s Trust and the only Trustee who is not a Councillor elected to Stirling Council. The Trust’s responsibilities (include a Housing Association) are considerable.

Other Major Events

A wide variety of national and local organisations request use of the church both for special services and for other forms of meetings of a one-off kind.

A number of TV recordings have been carried out in the church in the last year alone e.g.

Scotland’s History, Scotland’s Music, and Phil Cunningham’s Grace Notes.

Ministry of Music

Music has always played an important part in worship at the Church of the Holy Rude. The Choir is directed by the present professional organist, giving an Introit and two anthems each Sunday. The Choir’s repertoire extends from the 15th to the 21st century.

The organ (4 manual, installed in 1939) is Scotland’s largest organ and has been totally restored (1992/1994) by the original builders, Rushworth and Dreaper. It is an important example of late British Romantic organ building, and it is beyond doubt one of the finest Romantic organs in the country. Many eminent organists are delighted to accept invitations to play the organ at recitals during the summer which are organised by our Organist and Choir Master.

Visiting choirs and orchestra give concerts throughout the year. These include Cappella Nova, Stirling City Choir and Rosenethe Singers, as well as groups from Wales, Germany, The United States and elsewhere.

Ministry of Welcome

Visitors from all parts of the globe are welcomed to Holy Rude by a team of volunteers, 5 hours a day, 7 days a week from Easter to the end of September.

In 2008, an estimated 26,000 visitors came to Holy Rude and our Visitor’s Book was signed by people from 84 different countries. A short history of the church. which is available in 59 different translations, is provided for visitors.

A small shop sells discrete gifts, most of which are made by one of the elders. A CD of Dr. John Kitchen, Edinburgh playing the Rushworth and Dreaper organ is also available for sale.

It will be seen from the above information that life in the Holy Rude is not restricted to a Sunday activity. Congregation and community require a caring, committed Minister interested in all aspects of pastoral care and worship.

Bell Ringing

There is a peal of bells and the Bell Tower Organiser has a team of volunteers to ring at the Church. They practice on a Friday evening and the organiser also looks after the many requests received from other ringing teams to perform at the Church. The peal is a major attraction in Scotland to bell ringers.

The ‘Mary Bell’ is on display at the back of the church.

Forward Together

A weekly Order of Service, with printed intimations, is provided each Sunday and a Newsletter is compiled quarterly with information given by the congregation.


The church of the Holy Rude is constituted as a Church of Scotland Quod Omnia congregation under the 1688 Act of Settlement when the Church of Scotland was set up. 11 women and 17 men are elected Elders in the Kirk Session, with which Rev. Moira Herkes BD is associated.

4. Way Forward

Led by the Interim Moderator, Rev. Colin McIntosh, both churches have come together in a nominating committee of 13, seven from Viewfield and six from Holy Rude. The committee will oversee the process to attract a minister and then communicate with both congregations. Consensus is the overriding principle given the needs of both churches.

We see the synergy of an established heritage with a local parish. The physical proximity is helpful to the process of integration and we have started on the road of joint working in a constructive way.

Holy Rude seeks a minister to lead worship and congregational duties in addition to national and civic occasions.

Viewfield is looking for a minister to lead on worship, pastoral care, fellowship and service.

Both congregations need a minister to give strong, effective leadership, who is enthusiastic and forward looking and whose preaching of God’s word is relevant, challenging and practical