St. Columba’s has a long tradition of involvement in our central city area. The founding mission of St. Columba’s in the mid-19th century was to serve the poor in the area and to provide schooling. More recently, with our nearby ecumenical partners, Greyfriars Kirk and Augustine United Church, we support with money and volunteering the major Grassmarket Community Project, which continues the work of the Grassmarket Mission, and aims to nurture self-worth and offer encouragement to those on the fringes of society.

One of the main joint ventures of the three churches of the ecumenical partnership is the weekly offering of soup, sandwiches, and hospitality, something we call Parish Meals. We also provide a safe space for reflection and worship for the wider community monthly at Nitekirk which meets in the worship space of our three churches in rotation.

St. Columba’s maintains a special relationship with Castlecliff Hostel, our close neighbours on Johnston Terrace. Castlecliff provides transitional housing for the homeless as they await permanent housing. St. Columba’s remembers the residents with gifts at Christmas and Easter and provides a practical parting gift to residents as they leave the Hostel for their new permanent home.

The congregation raises funds for Christian Aid with an annual Carol Sing in the Farmers’ Market at Christmas, by joining in the annual Forth Bridge Walk and volunteering to help with the Central Edinburgh Book Sale. One member of our congregation sells vegetables from his allotment at church on Sundays and donates the proceeds to Christian Aid. We aspire to be an Eco Congregation and a Fair Trade Church with a stall once a month.

5% of congregational giving is allocated for outreach grants through the Home and Overseas Fund which through the years has supported charities and projects close to the heart of the members our congregation.


To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger — these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.  

Barbara Brown Taylor – ‘An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith’ (2010)