There have been many places of worship in the Glen since it was first settled. The stone circles at Colmellie are said to be a site where the Druids held their religious ceremonies. St. Drostan, said by James Landreth in his book "A Grampian Diary", to be a nephew of St. Columba, came, in either the sixth or eighth century, or was maybe an adherent of St. Ninian, according to whom you believe, to bring Christianity to the area, and though some say that the place names such as Droustie's Inn and Droustie's Meadow commemorate him, others say that Droustie comes from the Gaelic drobh, a drove of cattle and 'sty' from the old Scots for a path.
Whatever is true, there is no doubt that St. Drostan was a powerful evangelist in the Glen. When he died his converts carried his body over the hills to the church at Aberdour of which he was patron. Lochlee is mentioned in Raymonds (Ragmans) Roll in 1287 and in 1384 it appears as a chapel in Glenesk. Sir Andrew Jolly was curate of Lochlee in 1558, and in 1563 George Hay, reader, received £13:6s:8d. in payment of his yearly service. Some time after 1587 Thomas Fullerton M.A. had charge of Edzell, Dunlappie, Lethnot, Navar and Lochlee. About 1618 Lochlee and Lethnot parishes were united and remained so until 1723.
The ruined church at Lochlee was probably built no earlier than 1645, as at that date the previous church was burnt to the ground by the Marquis of Montrose and his soldiers who had taken refuge in Glenesk. Part of an earlier building has been found, built into the east wall of the Church. Mr. John Scott, minister at Lochlee and Mr. David Rose, clergyman to the Episcopalians who worshipped at the Church on the Rowan during the time of the 1745 rebellion were bitterly opposed to each other.
Mr. Scott is supposed to have informed against Lord Balnamoon who had been hiding in the Glen after Culloden and also to have been instrumental in having Mr. Rose apprehended and imprisoned aboard a frigate that was lying off Montrose. He also tried to have the wearing of Highland dress prohibited, as an extract from the Lochlee Parish Register shows - "1748. December 24; This day read an order prohibiting the wearing that part of the highland dress called the plaid, filibeg, or little kilt, after the 25th current." He did not live very long after this, as he was thrown from his horse and killed when he was passing the ruins of the Episcopal chapel on the Rowan on 23rd January, 1749.
Among those buried in the old churchyard is Alexander Ross, poet and schoolmaster at Lochlee, who died on 26th May, 1784, aged eighty five. He wrote a great many poems, such as "The rock and the wee pickle tow", "Woo'd and married an' a", but he is probably best known for the long narrative poem "Helenore". He was also for many years Session Clerk and Precentor and he had great difficulty in keeping accurate baptismal records, as few of the parishioners were keen to pay the dues for enrolling their children. There was often confusion among strangers to the Glen when Mr. John Scott was succeeded as minister by Mr. Alexander Ross, who was minister from 1749 until 1773.
With both the minister and the schoolteacher having the same name, many people thought that the minister was the famous poet. Mr. John Pirie was the next minister and he compiled the Statistical Account of Lochlee in 1792. He was minister when the church was moved from the foot of the loch to its present position, and continued until 1806, when Mr. David Inglis succeeded him. Mr. Inglis had come from Glamis where he was school master and was succeeded in 1837 by his son Robert who went to Edzell in 1841.
There are no details in the Parish register or Session Minutes as to who designed and built the present Lochlee Church. It was erected in 1803 along with the Manse, now the House of Mark, using stones salvaged from the ruined buildings around Invermark Castle. The church was altered and enlarged in 1828, when new windows were installed. The first burial in the new churchyard was Mr. Inglis's mother, who died in 1808.
Another burial is that of a young man from Aberdeen who perished in the snow in 1810. Two brothers also perished tragically in 1820 while gathering their father's sheep in Glenmark. Archibald Whyte, aged 18 and David Whyte, aged 27 died when Archibald slipped while leaping the River Mark at a precipitous spot called Gripdyke and David jumped in after him in a vain rescue bid. The place is now called the Shepherds Leap in their memory. The inscription on their tombstone is in Latin and was composed by their brother John, who was minister at Lethnot until his death in 1853.
The churchyard has been enlarged on various occasions, once early in this century, when the minister tried to tidy things up and put all the gravestones in a neat row. It was then found to be difficult to inter people in their chosen plot as it might already be occupied! One of the most famous preachers to visit Glenesk was Dr. Thomas Guthrie who was born in Brechin in 1803. He was a friend of Fox Maule, Earl of Dahousie and, for many years, rented from him the house at Inchgrundle and the fishing on Lochlee. He preached many sermons; both in Lochlee Church and outdoors, and his services were attended by locals as well as by the Earl and his visitors to Invermark Lodge.
Dr. Guthrie was one of the leading figures of the Disruption in 1843 when he resigned from his charge in Edinburgh and continued to preach wherever he could. In 1845 he was given the task, by the Free Church, of raising funds to erect manses in the country areas where many of the ministers and their families were in great distress. Within a year he had raised the sum of £116,000. He was also a tireless worker for the Ragged School movement which he helped to establish. This was intended to give poor children a free basic education, food and clothing and some training in an effort to fit them for work, as well as Bible study. The beautiful stained glass windows in the Maule Memorial Church commemorate both the Hon. Fox Maule, Earl of Dalhousie and Dr. Thomas Guthrie.
They were restored in the early 1990's with money raised in the Glen and from friends of the Glen. The Maule Memorial Church was built as a result of the Disruption, when ministers left the established Church as a protest against the system of Patronage. Lord Panmure, father of the Hon. Fox Maule, was not in sympathy with the congregation and refused them land on which to build a Free Church. Mr. David Inglis, tenant of the Baillies, received permission to build a shepherd's house at Burnfoot and added on an extra room where services could be held. The first minister of the Free Church was Rev. Andrew McIlwraith, who was called in 1847.
When the Hon. Fox Maule succeeded his father in 1852, he gave land on which a Church and manse were to be built. The architect for Maule Memorial was Mr. Hay of Liverpool and the building was carried out by Robert Dinnie, father of strongman Donald, who constructed many of the Glen's landmarks. The bell was a gift from George Thomson, shipbuilder from Glasgow, to his friend Mr. McIlwraith, whose name is engraved on it. Lochlee & Maule Memorial were joined, in the early 1930's, with Mr. McAlistair as minister, living at the Maule Memorial manse.
Services were held regularly in both churches until 1997 when it was decided that there would be one service a month held in Maule Memorial Church. Services are still occasionally held in Lochlee Church.