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Only 11 of the 31 church buildings will remain. “We are facing a crisis in the church […] the Kirk needs mission and outreach”, Reverend Ian Murray says.
The Church of Scotland plans to close two thirds of its churches in Shetland in the next three years, as it attempts to secure a more “sustainable” future.
Only eleven of the thirty-one Church of Scotland church buildings will remain operational on Shetland. Congregations affected will be able to appeal the closure decisions.
The plans have come into force in response to a growing national deficit, a shortage of numbers and reducing congregation numbers, which has become “unaffordable”.
Some of the buildings, which include churches on some of the most remote outer islands such as Fair Isle, Foula and Out Skerries, have been open since the 18th Century and used by generations of the same families.
“MORE BUILDINGS THAT THEY NEED”
“The Presbytery has a legacy of many more church buildings than they need, and has faced some difficult choices on which buildings should be retained and which should be let go”, Church of Scotland said in a statement.
They explained that “at the heart of our decision making is the desire to see a sustainable future for the Church of Scotland, its mission and pastoral care for the whole of Shetland”.
“These are both challenging but exciting times in Shetland as we explore a new model of ministry, which may, in future years, provide an example to the national church”, the statement added.
“A NEW MODEL OF MINISTRY”
The Church of Scotland expects to “work with our congregations as we move towards a new model of ministry […] Shetland is leading the way”.
That new model of ministry will result in a single parish, that will serve the more than 100 islands, 15 of which are inhabited, that belong to Shetland.
Additionally, Shetland's Presbytery, the local organising body of the church, could also be dissolved, with a new joint Presbytery for Aberdeen and Shetland proposed.
LESS CHURCH STAFF
According to newly-installed transition minister, the Reverend Frances Henderson, the Church of Scotland is not able to fill vacant positions across the 31 churches, so that it proposed that 13 local parishes will merge into one.
It will also maintain only a handful of church staff in the region, four ministry development staff, including a newly-appointed youth worker.
“We are going to be travelling a lot, but we will go where the need is. With funerals, for example, when the call comes in we will work out who is available, where they are, and send them out”, Henderson pointed out.
The Reverend Ian Murray, Shetland Assessor Minister for the Church of Scotland, said the closures were the result of the church's financial challenges “nationally and locally”.
“We are facing a crisis in the church, and we've got to trim back, the Kirk need mission and outreach as opposed to spending further money in the maintenance of buildings”, he added.