Worshippers in Aberdeen and Shetland will begin a new era with increased services on weekdays and ministers presiding over several churches.
In a move that forms part of wider proposals to reduce the number of presbyteries across the country, the newly-formed Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland approved a 10-year plan for churches across the two communities.
The plans were unanimously accepted by an online meeting of more than 120 church members on Saturday.
Senior figures in the church believe the changes will improve minister recruitment, as well as increase “through the week” worship, rather than Sunday-only.
Reverend Scott Rennie, convener of the Presbytery’s planning and deployment committee and minister of Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen, said the plans represented an overdue “renewal” of the church.
“Worshippers will probably experience more ministers, rather than just their own,” he said.
“I think one of the barriers to recruiting ministers has been that one person has had to take on all parish duties themselves, whereas this will better spread the load.
“It’s about using a wider variety of people, all with their own different gifts.
“It’s important to make sure the Church of Scotland remains a national church, with a commitment to every parish in the country and the city, so that whether it’s for a funeral or whatever the need, you can call on a minster.
“People should know that the church is here for them.”
He added: “There will still be the traditional patterns for those that prefer, but it’s about rethinking how to best serve worshippers all over the city.
“I think it’s also important to recognise the need for some people to be able to worship through the week, rather than just on a Sunday, and that is something that online worship has facilitated.
“There are a lot of opportunities online, and lockdown has made us accelerate how we think about things.
“Some congregations have actually been better subscribed online than they were before lockdown.
“We’ve known for a while that we needed to offer more variety, and this is the first big step in that direction.
“I think it’s a very exciting period for the church.”
It is anticipated that the plans will be ratified by the Church of Scotland nationally in the near future.
In Shetland, 19 churches are due to close within the next two years.