The Rev Charles Wood

Charles Joseph Wood is, in more ways than one, the ‘Father’ of the Scottish Guild of Servers.  In the last half of the nineteenth century, while there were individual servers and no doubt some groups of servers in Scotland, the only society to include servers among its members was the Guild of St Alban, a society for laymen founded in 1851.  The first society, purely for servers was the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary (GSS) which was formed in England on 3rd December 1898.  At that time Charles Wood was a very small boy learning to sing in the choir of a church in an unfashionable part of London.  He was however, in his own words, “very soon initiated into the art of serving as an altar-boy,” and even had, “a dim recollection of being taken to my first meting of a Guild Chapter and being admitted to the Guild of Servants of the Sanctuary at the ripe age of ten”.  This was in 1901, which made him among the original members of the GSS.

n 1908 Charles Wood moved to Glasgow and eventually formed a branch of the GSS at his local church, St Bride’s, Hyndland. Branches were formed in other churches in the area and on 14th December 1920 the Council of the GSS formally registered its first Scottish Chapter of St Mungo. A few other Scottish Chapters appeared in the years that followed, but by 1928 the number of servers in Scotland had increased and there was a growing desire to have an independent and distinctively Scottish Guild.

St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

After some prolonged negotiations, the Foundation Meeting of the Scottish Guild of Servers was held in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, on the Eve of Pentecost, 18th May 1929, and the first Annual General Meeting took place in December of the same year. The decision to form the Scottish Guild of Servers proved fully justified over the next few years and membership increased rapidly, although many servers continued to have dual membership with the GSS.

The years 1934 and 1935 were of great importance in the development of the Guild. The GSS, through Charles Pitt, a Member of the Council, approached the Scottish Guild with a view to reconciliation. This led to a long period of negotiation. Finally it was agreed that the GSS would recognize the SGS as the official Guild for servers in Scotland. The agreement meant that the GSS would have no chapters in Scotland nor the SGS in England. There was to be an exchange of membership in the case of servers transferring from one country to the other. These proposals were approved at the AGM of the Scottish Guild on 25th May 1935 and a formal agreement was concluded with the GSS in 1946. In 1939 a similar agreement had been made with the Order of St Vincent of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Memorial at St Margaret’s, Whiting Bay

After his retirement as an industrial manager, Charles Wood was ordained to the priesthood in 1954, serving as a curate in Glasgow and then as Priest-in-Charge of St Ebba’s, Eyemouth. In 1966, with his wife Elsie, he retired to live on the Isle of Arran where, almost immediately, he set up a House Church in his home. This was the beginning of the present church on the island, dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland. To mark his ordination, the Council revived the special office of Honorary President so that the Guild could continue to benefit from his guidance. This he continued to do until his death on 6th February 1983.

Some years later, the Guild was the major contributor to a memorial window to Charles and Elsie in St Margaret’s, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran, which was dedicated by the Bishop of Argyll and The Isles on 9th April 1997.