Highland Parish Church faces closure under new plan

Campbeltown's Highland Parish Church faces closure.
Campbeltown's Highland Parish Church faces closure.

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Campbeltown’s Highland Parish Church is one of 21 Church of Scotland buildings across Argyll under threat of closure.

The Church of Scotland is forming a mission plan to solve a plague of problems including fewer followers and ministers, too little money and too many properties.

It lists 21 buildings in the Argyll Presbytery ‘designated for potential closure at some point during the five-year lifespan of an approved plan’.

In addition to the Highland Parish, they are: Bellanoch Church, Crinan; Lochgilphead Church; Kilmore Church near Oban; Tiree Church, Heylipol; Ardfern Church, Craignish; Lismore Church (St Moluag’s); Crianlarich Church; Bridge of Orchy Church; Kilchrenan Church; Dalavich Church; High Kirk Church, Dunoon; Kilfinan Church; Colintraive Church; Rothesay’s Trinity Church and small hall; Rothesay’s external large hall; Daliburgh Church on South Uist; Kilmeny Church; Portnahaven Church; Port Ellen’s Columba Hall and Dervaig Hall on Mull.

A further six buildings have been listed in the Lochaber Presbytery: Fort William Kilmallie Caol; Fort William Kilmallie Corpach; Scout Hut; Strontian Parish Church; Mallaig St Columba’s Church and Arisaig Parish Church.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: ‘The Church of Scotland is going through a significant time of change against a backdrop of declining numbers of people training for the ministry, falling membership, a reduction in financial contributions and a surplus of buildings.

‘Lochaber, Argyll and Lochcarron-Skye presbyteries, like all presbyteries, are currently working on draft mission plans which include a consideration of church property assets to help determine how best to resource mission at local level.

‘Presbytery Mission Plans are like road maps for a realistic new era of 21st century mission, to ensure the church is fit-for-purpose to help congregations share resources and focus on outreach opportunities and new ways of nurturing disciples.

‘This is work in progress and no final decisions have been made.

‘Mission plans must be prepared by all Church of Scotland presbyteries and ultimately approved by the Faith Nurture Forum and the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland by December 31 2022 and will be subject to a review on an annual basis.’

Both Campbeltown’s Church of Scotland kirks are currently without ministers following the retirement of Reverend William Crossan from Lorne and Lowland Parish Church in May and South Kintyre Team Ministry Reverends Steve and Christine Fulcher, who led worship at the Highland Parish, moving from the area in June.

An Argyll Presbytery spokesperson told the Courier: ‘The current proposals would see the number of ministries within Argyll Presbytery reduced from a current allocation of 31.8 ministries to 18. However, in practice, the presbytery has not had 31.8 ministries as it has been operating with between 50 and 60 per cent vacancies for a number of years.

‘As with most Church of Scotland presbyteries, recruitment has been suspended until the local mission plan has been completed.

‘The Argyll Presbytery Plan is expected to be ready by mid-August and more details will be available then. An interim moderator has been appointed for both Highland Parish Church and Lorne and Lowland Parish Church.

‘Campbeltown Highland is also linked with Southend and Saddell and Carradale, so there will be a variety of people leading worship across the four churches.’