Bill Hewitt’s Last Day at Westburn

On Sunday 4th March 2012, having been minister of Greenock Westburn (and the former St. Luke’s) for a period of 18 years, the Very Rev. William C. Hewitt took his leave of his congregation to take up a position with the Interim Ministry of the Church of Scotland.

Having been closed for six months, to allow ceiling repairs and redecoration to be carried out, the Sanctuary was once again open for Morning Worship.

Nearly 300 members and friends gathered to attend this very special Service. A magnificent new pulpit fall had been gifted anonymously by a member of the congregation and was dedicated.  During the intimations, Bill drew attention to the newly decorated ceiling and walls, thanking all concerned in the work over a period of eight months and with the final cleanup over the past week. Congratulation were made to George Murray who has served as an Elder for 61 years. As the Service commenced, together with Prayers, the main items were:-

Hymn 63        All people on earth do dwell.

Hymn 425      The Saviour died, but rose again.

Bible Readings        Joshua 1: 1 – 9

Luke 24:  13 – 34


Hymn 662      Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts

Narrative of the Institution and Communion

Hymn 519      Love Divine, all loves excelling

Dismissal & Blessing with the Congregation repeating:-

Send us out now to prepare your way, to work for your Kingdom and to do all that we can to bring the day of your coming nearer.

A retiring Offering was uplifted on behalf of our South African Charities


After the Service, a buffet lunch was served in the church halls. This had been provided by members of the congregation, served by the Social Committee with the assistance of our youth organisations.

Returning to the Sanctuary for presentations, the Session Clerk Mr Stuart Robertson introduced:-

Rev Ian Johnston (Minister of Greenock Lyle Kirk) who spoke of his memories of his time in Greenock where Bill was a neighbour, moderator, mentor and colleague, recognising the work that Bill had put in to the proposed five churches covenant. He spoke of their work together as school chaplains and in the community. During all of his work, Bill was fully supported by his wife Moira. The prayers of the Lyle Kirk were with Bill and Moira as they move forward to their new challenge

Rev Douglas Hamilton (Formally of Westburn & St. George’s North) Having retired from Westburn, Douglas now serves as a Locum in Oakshaw Trinity Paisley. He spoke of their time working together, the five churches covenant which had led to the union forming Greenock Westburn.  He was sure that, with the experience and skills possessed by Bill, he was an ideal person to move to the Interim Ministry

Rev Russell Smith (St. Clement’s Parish Church Dingwall) said that it was a privilege and pleasure to be present today. Bill and Moira came to Dingwall in October last year and had made a huge impression on the congregation. He presented Bill with a photograph and book. He gave best wishes to Bill and our congregation as we start a new chapter of our lives.


Beth Pyles (McDowell County West Virginia) sent an e-mail which was read by Patricia Robertson. It contained her thoughts of the wonderful ten months spent in Greenock as part of her Internship with Princeton University.

All of you know the good preacher, the kind visitor, the tireless administrator, the wonderful husband and father (and now grandfather), the distinguished Moderator Emeritus, the fun-loving, guitar-playing, scratch golfer that Bill is. I thought I might share with you some things you may not know.

Bill isn’t just a good preacher; he’s a preacher seminarians take notes from.  I still have notes I wrote from his sermons and they have guided my own understanding of the Gospel throughout the years.  Trust me, that is no small thing.

A thoughtful father, Bill spent virtually every lunch with Neil during school, feeling it was important that they have that time together.

Bill is savvy to the ways of royalty.  I was able to accompany him to a reception at which Princess Anne would be in attendance.  En route, I had a moment of panic when I realized that I was actually going to be ‘presented’ to a real, living princess and had absolutely no idea what I was to do.  No worries – Bill guided me safely through with nary an American gaff.


And because I was curious, Bill let me accompany him to the ballot box for national election, explaining the very different ballot to me, along with the various parties and what they stand for.  Having me as an intern was a bit more than a typical Scottish student seminarian; and I am so glad  Bill was the one who guided me through the experience, holding nothing off limits and trusting me far more than I no doubt deserved, forgiving me my mistakes and missteps and applauding my successes.

I sat in on many meetings among Bill and the other ministers during the time of the proposed union.  All of them welcomed me as a colleague.  But moderating and navigating those difficult waters showed Bill at his best: intent on going forward, clear-eyed to the vision, but always open to the needs and visions of the others.  It is a great gift, one I, frankly, envy.

A salute to Bill would not be complete, however, without an equal nod to Moira.

Her good humor and sense of fun, her wonderful table, her warm welcome (along with Stuart) when I first arrived, her grace and class and her absolute refusal to take herself or any of the rest of us too seriously in the journey of life, are precious, wonderful things about any human being and without Moira at his side, Bill Hewitt would be the poorer.

I know that you all wish them Godspeed in this new phase of their journey; and I know that you will miss them.


Stuart Roberton (Session Clerk of Greenock Westburn) spoke of the past 18 years of Bill’s ministry saying:-

It is very difficult to tell the story of 18 years of ministry, especially when the ministry is that of Bill Hewitt, together with the fact that the national church has changed and changed so much during that time, but change is something that Bill Hewitt is prepared to meet and normally meet head on.

His tenure in Greenock was overshadowed for a period of nearly 5 years by the concept of 5 west-end congregations into 1, the vision of Bill Hewitt and John Harvey, who at the time was Interim Minister at Ardgowan Parish. A monumental change, met head on and promoted with the usual enthusiasm, failed at the final hurdle. Residual from that came the Union of St. George’s North and St. Luke’s on 29th November 2006, to form Westburn, with 2 ministers, both here today for different reasons.

He has over the duration of his ministry, managed to combine his “Edinburgh duties” with parish duties, except for a period of 16 months in 2009-2010, when he was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, drawing praise from all quarters for his chairmanship of the assembly during difficult debates and extending along with Mrs Mod, the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ to our fellow Christians in India, South Africa, Israel and many parts of the UK. I was privileged to accompany Mr & Mrs Mod to Belfast as part of the Church of Scotland delegation  to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and watched him move into Moderatorial mode – he managed in what was a 3 day visit to fit in a visit back to Scotland for a meeting.

He has served as Moderator of Greenock Presbytery and first Moderator of Greenock and Paisley Presbytery. He has and still is convening a committee of the National Church and commands a wide knowledge of Church law and procedure, which has over my years as Session Clerk helped to answer many questions.

During his ministry, 3 American Divinity students from Princeton have passed through with Bill Hewitt as mentor, you heard from Beth earlier, many candidates for ministry within the Church of Scotland have also experienced the Hewitt method and all would testify to the benefits that came from that partnership.

Talking about American divinity students and America in particular, our minister attended the Olympic Games in Atlanta, and every year recently, in early January, he attends a course  in Florida with other Church of Scotland ministers, this I am told has a very rigourous daily timetable from daybreak to dusk, where intense concentration is required at all times with lengthy debate and ongoing discussion, important decisions have to be made on a variety of issues, dress, club selection, swing and the run of the green.

Although busy with church matters he has managed to integrate himself within the local community, past Presses of the Innerkip Society, past President of The Mother Club, a renowned Burns speaker, he delivers a formidable Immortal Memory. Chaplaincy appointments at the local primary and secondary schools, Girls’ Brigade and a connection with Ardgowan Hospice help to fill an already busy schedule.

Every minister needs the support and understanding of his family and in this case especially his wife – Moira. Moira the numero uno – Bill that means No 1. Moira the organiser, Moira the arranger, Moira on certain occasions the single parent, Moira the problem solver. There is a famous saying that can be heard most Sundays in the vestry between services, Stuart “I’ve phoned the manse Moira will bring it to church.”

The Hewitt family are far along the road of setting up their own private health service with soon to be 2 doctors in the family who can refer you to an optician to get your eyes tested, a dietician for eating advice and a pharmacist to attend to your prescription, with a minister who has a diploma in Pastoral Studies on standby.

He has married his only daughter in Westburn, playing dual roles of father of the bride and minister and on the first Sunday in November last year baptised his twin grandsons.

He enthuses for weeks before about the early morning Easter Sunday service at Lyle Hill , arrives with a small card table, bread, guitar, hymn sheets and a smile, only beaten back to the church for bacon rolls by Bob Seggie, who is on his second and sometimes third by the time everyone else arrives.

As I said earlier, change is something that our minister meets head on; change is what has brought us together today, a change to Interim Ministry and a return to Kilmarnock after many years away to be near family both young and old.

I thank him, not only as Session Clerk but also as a member of this congregation for all aspects of his work during his ministry. There have been many high points with some disappointments but we emerge stronger to face the time ahead. To Moira, Rhona and Martin, Neil and the extended family including Callum and Rory every good wish and God’s blessing as another chapter of the Hewitt story begins.

One saying from your induction night 18 years ago – “Stuart, I like to know what’s happening in my church” – sorry to say as from Tuesday that church will not be Westburn.

Can I invite Jack Fraser to come forward and make the presentation, on behalf of the congregation, to the Very Rev W C Hewitt.

Can I invite Senga Currie to come forward and make the presentation, on behalf of the congregation, to Mrs Moira Hewitt.

The Very Rev Bill spoke of his memories of being invited to St. Luke’s. He had left his manse in Elderslie saying to his wife that he was going to refuse and returned home to tell Moira that he had accepted. They were immensely happy at Westburn and felt privileged with many memories of events and people. Throughout his 18 years he had received much support from many people. He mentioned that former St. Mark’s Greenbank minister Alex Chestnut had pointed out that this was a very special day. – the 4th of March.  Both he and the congregation were going to march forth to a different future.

He named and thanked the numerous people who had supported him over the years. There had never been any real conflict.  The five church vision was still possible and we should go forward with vision proclaiming the work of the church.

Both Moira and he appreciated the many gifts and memories which they would take with them in to the future.0

Allan Gallacher (Assistant Session Clerk) closed the day by proposing a vote of thanks to all who had made the day possible..

Bill and Moira left the church amidst rousing handclapping from the congregation

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