The Covid pandemic has reinforced the determination of an Inverness congregation to build a new church to accommodate its growing numbers.
Lockdown restrictions have delayed the development of the Inverness St Columba New Charge Church of Scotland which has met in school halls since forming in 2010.
The building is earmarked for a field near the Tesco store in Dores Road where new housing has sprung up, with more planned nearby.
Plans were initially announced in 2017 but have now been relaunched with renewed enthusiasm.
Church minister the Rev Scott McRoberts said: “The pandemic has affected our timescales, but we are certainly determined that the building will go ahead.
“If anything, there is more need than ever for it. Covid has highlighted to us that, as we all sit in our own rooms missing our community, a community building would be much appreciated.
“By this time we had hoped to be near beginning the building, but the pandemic has thrown that a bit. While we have no definite timescale yet, it’s very much our intention to go ahead as soon as we can.
“We are not able to say too much yet about what the design, scale and funding requirements are for the building. Between the coronavirus pandemic and the funding challenges that the Church of Scotland faces nationally, these things are quite uncertain.
“It is frustrating as it does feel there is opportunity. We would love to have that community building there early on in the life of the new housing. It’s easy for new housing to go up and not have a sense of community, or place that gives a heart to it, so we want to there as soon as possible.”
Rev McRoberts added: “We see the new church building as being a catalyst to allow people to have a community base in future. At a time when other churches are closing, this is a statement that the Church is still growing to a point where it’s worth opening one.”
In the meantime, plans include developing a wildflower meadow, installing two dog waste bins and holding an Easter trail in the field.
“We are delighted that the field can be used and we’ll be glad to see people enjoying it for walks and play both before and after our building goes up”, said Rev McRoberts.
The congregation was established following the closure of St Columba High Church in Bank Street after the retirement of then minister the Rev Alastair Younger.
The new church started with just 30 people and before Covid struck up to 100 were taking part in Sunday morning worship, half of them aged 40 or under.
Online worship still attracts more than 50 people and around the same number view services on YouTube.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said in the last decade, 11 new churches have been built across Scotland and plans are being developed for a new multi-purpose worship centre at Aberdeen North Parish Church.
He said: “The Church is committed to ensuring that its buildings are well-equipped spaces in the right places.
“Many congregations across the country have come together over the years to form new unions and that has led to the disposal of properties that no longer serve the mission of the Church.
“The proceeds of sales are often used to upgrade existing buildings or build new worship spaces to best meet the needs of the communities they serve.”