PAGHAM UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
The history of our place of worship is well documented in our Church Web Site and the readers who have read the detail, will know it was called ‘St. Ninian’s Presbyterian Church’ when it was originally conceived in 1963. It was subsequently renamed ‘St. Ninian’s United Reformed Church’ in 1972 when the English Presbyterians and the Congregationalists joined together to form the ‘United Reformed Church’. In July 2010 when the Linden Road URC Church in Bognor Regis closed, and the majority of the congregation moved to Pagham to worship, it was decided that a revised name was appropriate to celebrate a new beginning for both congregations who were now worshipping in the same building. Hence, by democratic vote, a decision was made to rename the St Ninian’s United Reformed Church to ‘Pagham United Reformed Church’.
The Church, and particularly the building, known as St Ninian’s since its inception was, and is, very much part of the Pagham village community life. To ensure that there was no identity crisis by the local people it was agreed the sign, identifying the building, would retain the name ST NINIAN’S prominently displayed on the front wall of the church. A new Notice Board showing the revised name of the Church was also erected near the entrance to the Church. It is accepted that many local people and perhaps a few of our own Church goers will naturally continue to refer to the Church as St Ninian’s.
The Church is a significant landmark in the village and with the passage of time the new name of the Church has become fairly well known to the locals, especially those who come to the Table Top Sales or are involved in the activities of the organisations that use the Church building. Many people still refer to the Church as St Ninian’s but visitors to the area normally use the new title. However, both locals and visitors do occasionally ask about the ‘St Ninian’ link with our Church and it is with this in mind it has been decided to publish a few details about St Ninian which may be helpful to all who visit this Church or who browse our Web Site.
In around 385AD, a young soldier aged about 25 was stationed at one of the Roman Camps on Hadrian’s Wall some way to the South. As he paced the great wall on sentry duty, a longing awoke in his heart. More than anything, he wanted to tell the people of Galloway about the Christian faith. But he had little or no education. So he left the Army and set out on a fifteen hundred mile walk all the way back to his home town of Rome.
The journey took him six months and during the trip he was threatened by robbers and roving tribesmen. He spent 12 years in Rome training to be a missionary and learning more about the Christian faith. Then he returned to Scotland and the Galloway that he loved so much.
With the help of a small band of monks and some local craftsmen, he built a tiny chapel on the headland at the Isle of Whithorn. Soon he earned a reputation as a ‘Most Revered and Holy Man of the British Race.
His fame spread far and wide and pilgrims travelled to Whithorn from Ireland and the Isle of Man and from Spain, Italy and France in small boats braving the dangers of the sea to hear the Holy Man preach. So many people arrived at Whithorn that he had no time to pray, so he found a secluded cave on the other side of the peninsula, and took himself off there to be with God in silence. His cave is still there today tucked away under the rocks.
After a few years St Ninian founded a great Monastery at the nearby town of Whithorn and built a church there, a whitewashed stone building that could be seen for miles around by the pilgrims. It was called ‘The Whitehouse’ or, in the language of the time, ‘Whithorn’. Today only the ruins of Ninian’s work remain. But it is a holy place and pilgrims still flock to Whithorn in their hundreds to soak up the atmosphere of prayer and peace.
St Ninian spent his days walking all over Galloway telling people about Christ and working miracles. Without the work of St Ninian the people of Scotland and Galloway would not have learned of the life and teachings of Christ. If he had not preached the message to those long ago Scottish folk maybe there wouldn’t be the churches and kirks in Galloway today.
A place to visit if in Scotland to receive the full joy and quietness that St Ninian found.
A much more detailed history of St Ninian can be found in ‘The Whithorn Trust’ web site. Please click on it for further information:
Like all well researched articles, the findings may blur some of the legendary myths and folklore stories that sometimes are associated with great people but this site provides much background information about St Ninian and is well worth visiting.