The Church of Scotland has pulled in a retired minister from Perth to help look after a crisis-hit congregation in the Hebrides.
The Rev Colin Caskie, interim moderator of the Presbytery of Uist, travels 230 miles from his home to Harris once every couple of months to join worshippers at Tarbert Church which was recently torn apart by the gay clergy row.
Ninety-four people left the congregation last month and have joined the Free Church, calling themselves North Harris Free Church, while 131 decided to stay.
Mr Caskie, understood to be the convener of the fabric committee within the Presbytery of Perth, occasionally preaches at Tarbert on Sundays and stays in a bed and breakfast during his visits.
His travel and accommodation costs are covered by the Kirk’s head office at 121 George Street, Edinburgh.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said Mr Caskie, who used to lead a church in Rhu near Helensburgh, had a supervision and governance role and the day-to-day running of the congregation was handled by the kirk session.
“Most of the congregation decided to stay, including deacons and elders,” he added.
“The congregation is running itself but church law requires you to have a interim moderator.
“Mr Caskie only needs to go to Tarbert once every couple of months and in the course of being there he might take a Sunday service.”
The spokesman said the congregation would soon be making arrangements to try to recruit a new minister.
Scotland’s national church currently has no full-time minister in Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Wester Ross and part of Sutherland.
The gay clergy debate, triggered by the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009, led to two west Highland ministers quitting the Kirk last month.
Last Sunday the Rev David Macleod, who led the Kirk’s Lochcarron, Applecross and Torridon parish, and the Rev Roddy MacRae, formally of the Glenelg and Kintail congregations, were welcomed in the Free Church – now home to 10 ex-Kirk ministers.
The pair decided to quit over what they described as the continuing drift from the teachings of the Bible – a claim strongly rejected by the Rev George Whyte, acting principal clerk to the Kirk’s General Assembly.
He said the Kirk was “dismayed” by the continued splitting of the Presbyterian family which “diminished the witness of the whole Church”.