So, we are called the Greyfriars Charteris Centre.  But why?



The Greyfriars Charteris Centre is part of the mission outreach of Greyfriars Kirk – a worshipping congregation of the Church of Scotland in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town where a church has stood since 1620.  Worship takes place during the week as well as on Sundays in English and Gaelic plus monthly alternative forms of worship.  The Kirk is a major venue for the arts and a very popular tourist destination.  It was also behind the creation of the Grassmarket Community Project where it supports some of our most vulnerable citizens.


Minister, Rev Dr Richard Frazer, says “The Greyfriars operation – all these different things that we do – is like a tree.  There are different branches of it: the arts work, the community work, the heritage activity.  All of it is fed like the tree - by the sap that rises through it.  What feeds us is this worshipping community; this sense of Christian commitment to serving our community; to being a parish church that meets all the diverse people that come about our parish. …  When you engage with people who are in the margins and on the fringes of society you learn so much.  You can give a lot but what you get in return is far greater because you begin to learn from people – those who have really experienced disadvantage and alienation from society – what really matters in life. … The church has got to earn its right to be heard.  We do that not by exercising power and authority over society but rather by being a presence – a presence that is hospitable, welcoming, relevant and meaningful, providing opportunities for people both to explore their spirituality and to create social change by building a community that is all important.”


Having the Greyfriars name in our name embeds us within these thoughts.  Through our community focused activity we will enable the mission outreach to be extended in a very practical way, by connecting communities of all kinds: location, people, faith, need, interest, aspiration and many more.



Charteris refers to theologian The Very Rev. Professor Archibald Charteris (1835 - 1908) who was a pioneer in establishing the diaconal ministry. He left his birth place in Moffat at 14 years old to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he later worked as a professor of biblical criticism.  In 1879, he established Life and Work – the magazine of the Church of Scotland.  It was inspired by his work on the Church of Scotland's Committee of Christian Life & Work, which he initiated and led.  Hugely committed to Church causes, in 1887 he founded the Woman's Guild and ‘restored’ the Diaconate, in order to harness the energies of women in the Church. He formed the Diaconate from his experience of similar orders in protestant churches in Europe, where he travelled widely, and in stating that he was restoring the order, Charteris made it clear he was alluding to its New Testament origins.  It has held a special place both within the Church and in the communities of Scotland at large and followed Charteris’ desire for this to be part of the mainstream of the Church’s life and work, not just as a concession to women’s aspirations.  (Although originally an office for women, the Diaconate has been open to both men and women since 1988).  In 1892, Charteris was elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.  Part of the Pleasance was designated as a sphere of practical mission work for trainee deaconesses and the St Ninians Training Centre (part of our premises) was built in 1891. This work took on a new dimension in 1895 with the appointment of a minister and the setting up of St Ninians Mission in what is now the St Ninians Hall, and was greatly extended with the opened in 1912 of a new church under the name of Charteris Memorial Church.


General Secretary of the Church of Scotland Guild, Iain Whyte, said “Archibald Charteris was a man of vision and determination who displayed great skills of leadership and organisation. His achievement in convincing the General Assembly of the need to recognise the place of women in the Church and to harness their skills and abilities has contributed to the shaping of the Church of Scotland over 127 years. The Woman’s Guild, now the Guild, the Diaconate and, indeed, the whole Church are eternally grateful for what he made possible”.


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Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirk

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The Very Rev Archibald H Charteris

The Very Rev Professor

Archibald H. Charteris

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