1973: The Right Revd George Sessford (Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness) and Fr Martin Reith and other diocese clergy, held a meeting in the studio of Chapelton Farm, the Balloch home of Colonel & Mrs Murray Grant. They discussed the possibility of establishing an Episcopal presence in Balloch, a village that had been expanding since 1969.
1973: Fr Martin Reith began to hold services on the last Sunday of each month in Balloch Primary school. The school heating failed so Mr & Mrs Goodbody invited the group to meet at Balloch Farmhouse and this remained the meeting place for the next 13 years.
1977: Fr Martin left the area. The Barn Church building was left by Will to the CoS with proviso that if they didn’t want it, then it would to be given to the Episcopal church. The Kirk Session of Petty church of Scotland, declined the offer. The Bishop approached 121 George St with an offer to buy the building. George Street, over-ruled Petty church and claimed it themselves. In September 1977 the Barn church was re-opened and dedicated to the Church of Scotland.
1978: Revd Michael Hunt was appointed to St John’s, with St Michael’s, and to the Balloch Mission church which now included Smithton & Culloden. Fr Michael Hunt & Guy Goodbody met with Barn church representatives Rev Peter Taylor & their Session Clerk, to see if the building could be shared, but with little success.
1980: Michael went to Papua New Guinea, Revd Len Black replaced him.
1985: Balloch Community hall became the meeting place of the Mission church for Balloch, Smithton & Culloden. A succession of ministers came and went, as the Mission came under the umbrella of the Cathedral.
1988: 28th February, by recommendation from secretary Mrs Margaret Gill, the local Episcopal Mission church based at Balloch, was renamed as St Mary-in-the-Fields to resurrect the name of the lost chapel in the farmer’s field. In August, The Very Revd Alan Horsley took charge. Sunday worship resumed in the Culloden Library meeting room.
1989: Land was purchased to facilitate the building of the church at Keppoch Road, Culloden. Fr Arthur Sinclair was appointed ‘designated priest’. Law Dunbar-Nasmith were appointed to be the architects.
1991: Alan Horsley departed down south.
1992: Sufficient money was raised to commence building work. 1st phase was begun on 8th September (Nativity of the Virgin Mary), and a service of thanksgiving and dedication was held on the site, led by the Bishop. The building contract was awarded to O’Brien Construction of Dingwall.
1993: 16th May, the new church was dedicated by the Bishop George Sessford. On 1st November the church was linked to St John’s in Inverness, both under Revd Arthur Sinclair.
1997: St Mary’s sold off a portion of surplus land to the local Medical Centre, the building loan to the SEC was now paid off. In this year the Constitution of St Mary’s was changed to allow themselves a say in the appointment of any future priest, along with the Bishop. It was now no longer a Mission church and became an Independent Congregation.
The church under its many names has come along way, but it has been built under the hard work and prayers of many people. The generosity of those who gifted their time in fund-raising; and the many who gave anonymous donations and others who gave bequests in their wills, so that the vision first dreamt in Chapelton Farm became a reality.
2012: Canon Arthur Sinclair retired at Easter, the church is now led by Interim Priests, Revds Carol & Alan Price and the Vestry. Presently a Healing Service of prayer, the laying on of hands, and annointing with consecrated oil ~ is performed during the first Sunday of every month, so don’t wait until its too late.
The future of St Mary-in-the-Fields church was envisaged to look like this sketch below, but it still remains much like a “chapel” so we look forward to the time when the rest of the church will be built. Currently we have seating for upto 60 people of all ages.
During the last two decades, some of the church land has been sold to allow for the expansion of the Culloden Medical Centre, enabling it to serve the wider community with greatly increased health facilities and medical staff.
A further sale of land facilitated the return of the Adopt-A-Child charity into a new purpose built centre, enabling local people to help by safeguarding the livelihoods of little children in Guatemala and Albania. The ‘adopted’ children receive free schooling, medical and dental care, not to mention free food and presents, paid for by local benefactors in our local community. This is done under the auspices of the Christian ‘Living Water Foundation’.
Perhaps, from the further use of the St Mary’s field, this is where the true, health-giving St Mary’s Well now pours forth? The new church of St Mary-in-the-Fields is now more favourably situated to serve at the heart of the 3 communities of Culloden, Smithton and Balloch. Nearby are the local facilities of Culloden Library, Two Medical Centres, the Pharmacy, the Co-op supermarket, Post Office, Social Works Dept. Office, AI Butchers, Police station, the Blacksmith’s Inn, and fast food outlets. We are also on the pathway from the upmarket Culloden House Hotel, where Bonnie Prince Charlie spent the two nights before the Battle of Culloden 1746.