The Reverend Dr. James Maitland was an influential figure in the early years of Livingston New Town. In January 1966, he was inducted as the Church of Scotland minister for the Livingston Ecumenical Experiment, in a joint ceremony with the Rev. Brian Hardy of the Episcopal Church. This bold venture was an expression of unity between the churches, and helped to foster a sense of community among the first residents of the New Town in the 1960s and 1970s. The churches shared their pastoral duties, buildings and resources, and even held joint services for their growing congregation. The Episcopal Church, the Church of Scotland and the Congregational Church were the founding churches of the Experiment, with the Methodists joining in 1968.
The Archive Service holds a collection of the Rev. Dr. James Maitland’s private records, which includes collected papers, diaries, newspaper cuttings, reports and minutes. They provide an insight into the pivotal role that the Rev. Maitland played in church and community life. He was an active figure in the development of community forums, which gave voice to the concerns of local residents and helped people to share their experiences of adapting to their new environment.
One of the crowning achievements of the Ecumenical Experiment was the building of the Lanthorn, in Dedridge, which was officially opened in 1977. This represented a further step towards unity, because the design of the building allowed Roman Catholic services to take part in the same premises as those of the other denominations.
The Centre was built by Lothian Region Council, West Lothian District Council and Livingston Development Corporation along with the churches of the Ecumenical Experiment. In his pamphlet, Living Stones, James Maitland wrote of the spirit of cooperation that created the Lanthorn, which he described as ‘a place where people could meet easily and naturally and begin to find what life in community can really mean.’
The papers also record James Maitland’s ideas on the importance of compassion and care for those marginalised by society, and the role of church unity in the creation of community. Many of these ideas were expressed in his book “New Beginnings: Breaking Through to Unity”, published in 1998, and the Archive contains some of its early drafts. The Rev. Dr. James Maitland left a significant legacy to the Livingston community, which can be explored in his own words through this absorbing collection.