Reformed churches on the move
The remarkable mobility of Calvinism has long been noted by religious historians. Soon after its emergence in Geneva, the new confession attracted followers not only in numerous neighbouring territories, but also other Continents. The roots of the Groote Kerk in Cape Town (left) reach back to the establishment of a Dutch staging and supply post at the south-western tip of Africa by Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. Conditions here were very different from its European home base. Immediately adjacent to the former churchyard was the slave lodge (the white building to the left of the church, where the East India Company VOC kept hundreds of unfree labourers under lock and key), while individual slaves were auctioned on a spot under the trees in the foreground.
A very different kind of mobility, however, marks the story of the Old West Kirk at Greenock near Glasgow (pic on the right). When the local inhabitants petitioned laird John Shaw for permission to have their own place of worship, one of Scotland’s first post-Reformation churches was built here in 1591. In the 1920s, however, the expansion of a nearby shipyard led to its dismantling and stone-by-stone reconstruction a short distance away on today’s Esplanade. The image shows Shaw’s personal staircase and family crest on the side wall.