Cinema goers on the Sabbatarian Isle of Lewis will controversially be able to watch films for the first time on Sundays.
An Lanntair in Stornoway, a major arts venue which also has Lewis’s only public cinema, will open on the last Sunday of the month until March for a trial period.
Managers at the centre, who considered but ruled out opening on Sundays last year, said the trial was part of its efforts to be “equal and inclusive”.
Church leaders, including the Rev James MacIver of Stornoway Free Church, have oppose openings on the Sabbath.
Ellie Fletcher, chief executive of An Lanntair, said the trial would be “respectful”.
She said: “What we are doing is a genuine audience research exercise and not at all trying to challenge, or go against, local traditions.
“Sabbath observance is something very important to the Isle of Lewis and there is a strong history of Sabbath observance here and we are mindful and respectful of that.”
Teas and coffees will be available, but the venue’s bar and restaurant will remain closed.
The Rev MacIver said: “It is a shame that we were not consulted before the decision to open on Sundays. It will put some people off supporting An Lanntair in the future, which is a pity because they do valuable work.
“I understand that they have had a conversation among their own members, but it would be better I think if they were to come to church and debate and make their case.
“Because of the timing of this it will affect attendance at church services.
“I just feel it should not open on Sundays and upset the spirituality of the Sabbath here. I hope they change their minds.”
Mr MacIver said his church – which is about 100 yards from the arts centre – had an average Sunday congregation of around 400, adding: “We are trying to promote the spiritual life of the community and this arts centre opening on Sundays does not help.”
Leisure facilities on the island have traditionally closed on Sundays in observance of the Sabbath, although similar sites elsewhere in the Western Isles are open on Sundays.
Recently a survey overwhelmingly backed allowing golf to be played on Sundays at Stornoway, but it is banned under a historic clause in the lease with community landlord, the Stornoway Trust.
The first Sabbath-busting ferry to Lewis came eight years ago, amid fierce protests.
Supermarkets in Stornoway remain closed on Sundays. Hotels, some restaurants and pubs and a filling station are open.
The first film listed to be shown at An Lanntai is Star Wars: Episode V111 – The Last Jedi on January 28.