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Old High Church: Inverness Presbytery service will formally close historic building tomorrow night after centuries of worship

The Old High Church will formally close as a place of worship. Picture by Sandy McCook
The Old High Church will formally close as a place of worship. Picture by Sandy McCook

The landmark Old High Church in Inverness will formally close as a place of worship tomorrow night with a special service.

The historic building which has been part of the city landscape for centuries held its last regular service on January 30.

Inverness Presbytery is now hosting a final event to give thanks for the use of the property on the banks of the River Ness over many years.

Church link to Cameron and Queen’s Own Highlanders

The service will be led by Presbytery moderator Issy Freudenthal.

Interim moderator Rev Scott Polwarth will be preaching and a reading will be given by former elder Ross Martin.

The Old High has a long association with the Cameron and Queen’s Own Highlanders and veterans are expected to attend.

Also joining the congregation will be representatives from Highland Council.

The church hosts the annual Kirking of the Council service, a tradition dating back more than 400 years.

The church has been part of the Inverness landscape for centuries

This enables the Kirk to bless the work of elected members and officials and for Highland Council to recognise the contribution of the Christian community to Inverness.

Inverness Presbytery hopes that the service can be moved to another Church of Scotland building in the city.

The Old High is one of a number of churches facing closure due to declining numbers of worshippers.

Last year the congregation voted 179-71 to close the building and retain the joint charge of St Stephen’s as it was not viable to both.

The joint kirk session and Inverness Presbytery also voted to shut the Old High.

Loss of church ‘painful’

The decision has been passed to the Kirk’s General Trustees who own the building.

Inverness Presbytery clerk, Rev Trevor Hunt, said: “It is always painful to close a church building but the kirk session of the charge decided that they would go in this direction and took the matter to the congregation who voted.

“A clear majority were in favour of closing the church, the decision was brought to the presbytery which approved the closure and the general trustees raised no objection.”

It is hoped the Old High could be taken over and used as an arts, music or heritage venue in future, maintaining access for the public.

The Church of Scotland says the general trustees are always happy to explore ways in which church buildings of a historical nature might have a life beyond ecclesiastical use.

Discussions are being held around the future of the organ and military memorabilia inside the church.

This includes entering into discussions with community bodies and heritage organisations.

Under charity law, the general trustees and the Kirk Session have a duty to attempt to obtain best value for any building which they sell.

Discussions are also ongoing around the future of the organ and military memorabilia inside the church.

St Michael’s Mount, where the church stands, is where St Columba reputedly brought Christianity to the Highlands in 565 AD.

No decision on Kirking of council

The current building dates from 1772 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city.

The last annual Kirking of the Council parade and church service, due to be held in September 2021, was cancelled for the second year running due to Covid.

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “No decisions have been made yet as to the future location of the Kirking of the Council.

“It would be a matter for the councillors elected in May to decide in due course following consultation with local church leaders.”

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