A Free Church of Scotland minister is considering leaving his post in the wake of the contentious vote to break the church’s 100-year tradition of only singing unaccompanied psalms.
The Rev Kenneth Stewart, 45, appeared to be in tears after taking the service on Sunday. He said it could be his last.
He has told his congregation at Dowanvale Free at Partick in Glasgow that he plans to stand down as a minister in the denomination.
The church is the former Partick Highland on Dowanhill Street, surrounded by tenements, many occupied by an exiled Hebridean population.
Mr Stewart may leave the Free Church for a different Presbyterian denomination.
The church’s governing body voted by a majority of 14 at the weekend to permit individual congregations to choose to move away from the strict tradition of singing only unaccompanied psalms.
Some 200 ministers and elders voted 98 to 84 for the change at a historic plenary assembly of the denomination in Edinburgh – the first since the denomination was created in 1843 when it split from the Church of Scotland. It is understood 30 members at the session recorded their dissent over the decision.
On Sunday Mr Stewart told worshippers: “It seems clear to me, that in spite of a lifelong adherence to the Free Church and a lifelong commitment to it, I can no longer continue in it, at least not in office.”
He said it would be his “greatest grief to leave” Dowanvale and he has now taken a month’s leave to consider what to do.
Mr Stewart said the ditching of psalms-only broke Free Church ministers’s vows made to God when they were first ordained.
Mr Stewart said: “Even the church has no right to alter the meaning of my vows without my consent.”
A Free Church statement of the vote said congregations can continue with psalm-only singing if they wish. Mr Stewart comes from Grimsay, North Uist, while his wife Anna is from Lewis. He has served in Scalpay, Canada and Stornoway before being minister at Dowanvale for the past decade.