St Peter’s Kirk in Orkney has been saved by the local community with the help of Historic Churches Scotland.
The church, in South Ronaldsay, was at risk of falling into disrepair.
In an attempt to save it, locals formed The Friends of St Peter’s, a registered charity set up to support the upkeep of the church.
The group formed a partnership with Historic Churches Scotland, and together they made an appeal to the general trustees of the Church of Scotland to acquire St Peter’s for £1.
They were successful, meaning that both the future of the building and public access to it have been secured.
St Peter’s Kirk is held in high esteem among locals in South Ronaldsay and its interior hasn’t changed much since the early 1800s.
It contains one of the few remaining examples of a central communion pew in Scotland. Its strategically placed central pulpit also enables the congregation to see and hear the Minister well.
Executive director at Historic Churches Scotland, Victoria Collison-Owen, spoke of the church’s importance.
She explained: “Stepping into St Peter’s is like travelling back in time to experience church-going over two centuries ago.
“This is a building of immense importance to Scotland, but even more so to the local community.”
The Friends of St Peter’s
As well as funding its maintenance, The Friends of St Peter’s group has also been facilitating religious and secular events in the church.
The large graveyard that surrounds the church is frequently visited by locals and visitors alike, a ritual that was felt important to maintain.
Fiona Lawtie, charity trustee, is one local who has personal connections to the church.
She said: “I got involved with the project as it is very close to my heart.
“My parents and grandparents are buried in the kirkyard and my father, the late Reverend Picken who was minister of the Parish in the early seventies, instilled in me a deep conviction that the building was of national importance and should be preserved.”
The charity regularly host fundraising events to help with the upkeep of the building and have an upcoming prize draw and tabletop sale on December 5.
The future of St Peter’s
Current plans are to use St Peter’s Kirk as a place to share the history of the church and the local area.
Though it will only be used for occasional services, it is hoped that is can also be used for events and cultural activities.
Ms Collison-Owen is happy to see the church live on.
She said: “St Peter’s South Ronaldsay is the most extraordinary and captivating building, it’s a unique historic treasure, and exactly the type of church that we were established to care for back in 1996.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Friends of St Peter’s to preserve and protect something so special.”