Thursday, October 04, 2007

'Through Many Trials' David Brown - XXIII

David Brown's responsibilities in Scotland made foreign travel a luxury he could not often enjoy. The work of the College, the Free Church and the various societies to which he belonged made it difficult to get away. In 1867, however, he was able to take his family on holiday to Switzerland. Even then his work followed him. With Switzerland growing in popularity as a holiday destination, the Continental Committee of the Free Church was looking to provide places of worship for its members who holidayed in Switzerland. Thus they asked Dr. Brown to look for suitable places to establish places of worship for tourists. Brown agreed to this, and so even on the family holiday, he was working!
Some towns he found already had Presbyterian Churches, and he avoided advising setting up rival churches in these. Two places, however, he found to be in need of the Committee's attention, Interlaken and Lucerne. There had indeed been some efforts made at Interlaken, the parish Church of Unterseen had been obtained for services, and one service had actually been held. But Unterseen was quite some way from the hotels, and the time at which the Church was available, midday, was inconvenient. David Brown was thus asked to find a better place of worship.
Since accommodation for the worshippers of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England had already been provided within the walls of Schloss Interlaken (pictured), it was suggested the the Free Church of Scotland might be able to use the Sacristy of the old castle. The room was large enough, but it was rather dark. David Brown thus applied to the Bernese government for permission to open up windows in the sacristy and fit up the room for use by the Free Church at the expense of the Free Church. He informed the government that the doctrine of the Free Church was that of the Heidelberg Catechism, the great symbol of the German-speaking Reformed Churches, and that they were a Presbyterian Church like that of Berne. The government agreed to the application, and then Brown had to oversee the restoration of the sacristy. He had to find an architect, a builder, and ensure that the work was properly carried out. And, of course, he had to obtain funds. As is often the case, there were costs that were not anticipated when the work began, and David Brown went to some of his wealthy Free Church friends to ask for help. It was forthcoming, and in 1868 David Brown spent a great part of the summer as the Free Church minister of Interlaken. It was in the nature of a working vacation for him, and no doubt his children in particular appreciated the months in the picturesque Swiss town.
In Lucerne the Free Church was able to hire the Maria Hilf Church for worship from the local Roman Catholic Church. Hearing that the Pro-Legate of the Pope was in town, Brown approached him to ask him consent to use the Church. The Legate told Dr. Brown that, if he asked leave to use the Maria Hilf, he would refuse. But of course, if Dr. Brown did not ask, the Legate would say nothing on the matter. Brown understood at once what the legate was driving at. While he himself was for peace, his masters in Rome would not allow Protestant 'heretics' to use their building if they were edver told. So no formal request was made, and the Presbyterians used the Maria Hilf for many years until it was felt that the decorations so beloved of Roman Catholics were hardly suitable for Presbyterian worship, and the church hall was used instead.

So David Brown served his countrymen abroad. God willing, next time we shall see him in Aberdeen again.



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