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Church of Scotland reveal plans to close up to 20 Aberdeenshire kirks

Strathdon Parish Church is one of the churches facing closure

Picture by Kenny Elrick     05/09/2021
Strathdon Parish Church is one of the churches facing closure Picture by Kenny Elrick 05/09/2021

Nearly half of the churches in Gordon could be shut in the next five years as part of a radical shake-up of Aberdeenshire’s presbytery.

Huntly Carnie Glass Parish Church, Midmar Church, and Monymusk Church are among the 20 churches the Gordon Presbytery of the Church of Scotland is looking to close.

It has already been decided that Udny Green will close prior to the “Mission plan” going out for public consultation.

The shake-up is a response to falling income and shrinking congregations, and the Church of Scotland hopes it will maximise limited resources while adapting to modern needs.

Which churches are at risk?

Of the 45 church buildings within Gordon, members are being asked to consider the closure of around half over a five-year period.

Churches at risk are:

  • Lumsden Church and hall
  • Towie Church
  • Strathdon Church
  • Cushnie Church
  • Tough Church
  • Blairdaff Church
  • Midmar Church
  • Monymusk Church
  • Barthol Chapel Church
  • Methlick Stables
  • Huntly Cairnie Glass Parish Church and hall
  • Hall at Inverurie West Church
  • New Hall at Inverurie St Andrews Church
  • Fintray Church
  • Daviot Church and its annex
  • Hall at Meldrum Church
  • Bourtie Church

Members of the presbytery will be asked for their views on the proposals before a final decision is made.

‘Difficult to hear but change is necessary’

A review group said it appreciated that some of the changes proposed will be difficult to hear for some people but change is necessary in order to deliver sustainable and realistic new expressions of ministry and church.

Rev Stella Campbell, the review group’s convener, said: “The area covered by Gordon Presbytery consists of a dynamic and diverse mix of rural and semi-urban communities which are ever-changing.

“We are at the beginning of a process to determine how limited resources should be allocated to congregations over the lifetime of the draft mission plan which is five years.

“It is our hope that this plan enables and encourages collaboration and team working across our presbytery in such a way that sustainable forms of ministry are developed.

“One of the purposes of each group is to ensure that each congregation, minister, or team of local leaders is not doing everything in isolation.

“We hope that as congregations work together, they will find the shared opportunities and resources needed for innovative mission and discipleship.”

Cushnie Church of Scotland. Picture: Kenny Elrick

Minister numbers drop

Minister numbers across the country have also fallen in recent years. In Gordon, the number of minister and development staff have dropped by about half, from 31.4 to just 16.

At last year’s General Assembly, a plan was laid out agreeing that the number of full-time ministers in Scotland would be reduced to 600.

As part of the proposals, nine Mission and Ministry Groups would be set up to serve congregations. These will be made up of full-time word and sacrament ministers, development staff and ordained local ministers.

The consultation will last two months. A final decision must be agreed by December 31 – and any church buildings that do close will be available for a community group to buy.

Rev Campbell added: “We know change will not be easy but we will be in it together.

“This is an opportunity to refocus our efforts and prepare for ministry in the years ahead and some of these changes may have been needed for some time.

“We are confident that in this plan we offer a considered, effective and robust structure for ministry.”

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