The foundation stone of the tower of the present church building was laid on 10th May 1824, by Mr. Burnett, son of Sir Robert Burnett of Crathes; he was assisted by Mr. Farquharson of Finzean, M.P. The ceremony was preceded by a procession and was watched by “an immense concourse of spectators” (Aberdeen Journal,12th May, 1824). This newspaper commented that “the erection of this splendid Church (in a most conspicuous situation) will complete the striking appearance of one of the most picturesque and beautiful districts of this country.” Unfortunately we do not know which particular stone was laid at this ceremony.
The church was opened for divine service on 17th July 1825, when “the Rev. Mr. Gregory preached an eloquent and appropriate sermon from Genesis chapter 28 verses 16 and 17 (Aberdeen Journal,27th July, 1825.
The congregation who worshipped here in 1825 would find several changes in the building today, the most outstanding being the addition to the chancel to the north. In 1825 the pulpit stood in the centre of the original north wall and was reached by a spiral staircase. Galleries extended around the other three sides of the church.
Later (in 1878) the Kirk Session minutes tell us that a "first-class cabinet organ" was purchased for the sum of 125 guineas with a “liberal discount in case of early payment” . It was replaced when our present organ was erected in 1887 by the Wadsworth (Manchester) firm of organbuilders at a cost of £321 10s.
In October, 1842, the Rev. William Anderson, minister of this parish, writing in the New Statistical Account of Scotland (Kincardine) described the church as “a plain substantial building in the Gothic style, sufficiently neat and commodious within, but defective in having the tower too low, and in having neither a vestry nor porches behind.” However, the church was to remain unaltered for over 100 years.
In 1928, under the ministry of Rev. J. W. Anderson, a choice of two schemes for the “Restoration of the Church” was submitted to the congregation. The more extensive of these was chosen and the work carried out during the next two years. This scheme involved taking down most of the north wall of the church, which included the foundation stone of the 1775 Kirk as well as one laid in 1825. An apse and chancel were built to contain the organ, choir seats and communion table. The vestry and choir room were also built. At the same time, the two side galleries were removed and the church was wired for electricity, although this was not installed until 1932. The total cost of these alterations was £4436-14-7; moving and rebuilding the organ accounted for £475 of this total and new furniture for £147-7-6.
The first wedding to take place in the beautifully restored church, on 14th August 1930, was that of Mr. & Mrs. William Hendry, Braeside, Banchory, both of whom were to sing in the choir for 50 years.
The next major change to the building was in 1971. During this year the church was re-wired and re-decorated, and its simple beauty greatly enhanced by the installation of the stained glass window in the chancel. The cost of this window was covered by various bequests to the church.
The ancient stone font which stands in the vestibule of the church probably came from the 1775 church. Beside it is the 1775 foundation stone which had been lost for many years and then found built into the wall surrounding the church. Also in the vestibule is a very old silver plate of unknown origin. The bell from the old kirk, which is dated 1664, is in the watchtower in the churchyard; the bell in the present building is dated 1826.
The wooden font with a silver basin in the chancel was gifted by Margaret, Lady Burnett of Leys, in 1840. The oak communion table was aka donated by Miss Mary Ann Thomson, Migvie, in 1920.
We have no record of the size of the congregation in 1825, but in 1842 the Rev. William Anderson had “an average of 1,000 communicants” (New Statistical Account of Scotland). At the time of the Disruption in 1843, many members left the congregation to establish the Free Church in Banchory, now the West Parish Church. Our congregation was greatly reduced for many years, and in 1873 there were only 638 members. This then rose steadily to 1100 in 1922 and to 1300 at the present time. In 1929 the name of our church was changed from Church of Banchory-Ternan to Banchory Ternan East Parish Church.
During the last 187 years, many excellent people have been minister of this parish. Perhaps the most widely-acclaimed was the rev. George Hutchison; he was a man of outstanding qualities and during the tenure of his ministry here (from1848 until 1894) he became Moderator of the Church of Scotland in 1877.
He was followed at Banchory by the Rev. James Hall, and then in 1920 by the Rev. J. W. Anderson, who retired in 1952.
The following year the congregation was fortunate to secure the services of the Rev. J. G. Grant Fleming. Mr. Grant Fleming had been awarded both the D.S.O. and the M.C. whilst serving as a combatant officer during the First World War. During the Second World War he served as a Chaplin eventually being appointed Deputy Assistant Chaplin General in the Army. He was also mentioned in Despatches and held the Territorial Decoration. Mr. Grant Fleming ministered here until his retirement in 1965.
After a relatively short tenure, the Rev. A. F. Grimstone was succeeded by the Rev. William Nicholson in 1969 who retained the charge until he retired in 1985. For a short period at the end of Mr. Nicholson’s ministry the parish was linked with Durris Parish to enable administrative matters in that parish to be resolved. In 1986 the Rev. Hamish K. Fleming was called to the vacant charge from St. Mark’s Church in Aberdeen and continues as the Parish minister today.
The Kirk Session today comprises 66 elders, of whom 15 are ladies. This is a 50 percent increase since the publication was first prepared for the 150th Anniversary in 1975. the Session has recently adopted the Work Group or Committee system of addressing the core functions of the Kirk Session. Committees work to achieve agreed objectives in following areas – Communications, Education, Mission, Membership, Pastoral matters and Worship. Activities are co-ordinated by a group comprising the convenors of each committee.
The Congregational Board of 24 members (12 elders and 12 members of the congregation) attends to financial, property and other temporal affairs. In 1976 they were responsible for the building of a new Church Hall in the grounds of the Manse immediately to the East of the Church. This accommodation was extended in 1989/90 be the addition of two further halls, named the St, Ternan and St. Nicholas Room. The remainder of the feu forms the car park. The old Hall in Arbeadie Road was sold in 1988 when it was considered unsuitable for the use by the congregation.
Early in 2000 a new Church Office was established in the annex to the hall.
There was a week of congregational activities in June 2000 to mark the 175th anniversary of the church.. The actual anniversary, 17th July, 2000, was marked on Sunday 16th July 2000 by a special morning service when The Very Rev Alan Main TD, MA, BD, STM, PhD, preached. Not only was he a well-known North East Minister and former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but he also served as a Locum Minister at Banchory-Ternan East in the late 1960’s.