Reprieve for churches

the six Berwickshire churches facing possible closure have been given a temporary reprieve as Duns Presbytery responds to over 200 letters and emails received after congregations were consulted about the proposals.

Instead of going ahead with closing the doors on Whitsome, Paxton, Leitholm, Burnmouth, Westruther and Longformacus and ceasing Sunday services at Fogo and Ladykirk which would only be used for weddings, christenings and funerals, the Presbytery will now set up a Building Task Group. The group will work with local congregations to review all churches within the Presbytery in three years time - with the exception of the churches deemed essential, which include Berwick, Coldingham, Coldstream, Duns, Eyemouth and Greenlaw.

Rev Bob Higham, of Duns Presbytery said: “Several church buildings are of great historical importance: Ayton, Coldingham, Cranshaws, Edrom, Fogo, Greenlaw and Ladykirk are ‘A’ listed by Historic Scotland.

“One of the challenges facing churches is to explore means of maintaining them through help from architectural heritage bodies or government. Legerwood church with its Norman arch has particular historical significance and the congregation was urged to approach Historic Scotland for ‘A’ listing.”

Duns Presbytery currently has nine charges with regular services being held in 27 church buildings and two village halls and Rev Higham went on to explain that staffing and financial constraints mean that the number of full-time ministers will have to go down from nine to seven.

“The introduction of non-stipeniary ordained local ministers will help in charges comprising linkages,” added Rev Higham. “Already there have been several enquiries about this new opportunity for ministry.”

After taking population densities and geographical spread into consideration, the Presbytery have come up with the revised plans for linkages that will reduce the number of ministers from nine to seven.

These are:

•Ayton and Burnmouth with Grantshouse and Houndwood and Reston, where there will be four places of worship and one full-time minister;

•Berwick-upon-Tweed, St Andrews Wallace Green and Lowick with Foulden and Mordington, which will have three places of worship and one full-time minister;

•Bonkyl and Preston with Duns with Edrom, Allanton with Langton and Lammermuir, six places of worship with one full-time minister and one ordained local minister;

•Chirnside with Hutton and Fishwick and Paxton with Fogo and Swinton with Ladykirk and Whitsome, seven places of worship with one full-time minister and one auxiliary or ordained local minister;

•Coldingham and St Abbs with Eyemouth, two places of worship and one full-time minister;

•Coldstream with Eccles and Leitholm, three places of worship and one full-time minister;

•Gordon St Michael with Greenlaw with Legerwood and Westruther, four places of worship with one full-time minister and one ordained local minister.

“The Presbytery plan, when approved by the Ministries Council in Edinburgh, will take shape over the next few years as ministers retire,” explained Rev Higham.

“As soon as possible applications will then be sought for the three current vacancies and representatives of those congregations involved in those linkages will be part of the committees to be formed to find new ministers.

“The whole process of implementation of the plan should encourage greater lay participation in leading worship and greater awareness of maintenance and insurance costs of buildings.

“Duns Presbytery is grateful to all involved in the consultations and for all the responses to these and to the draft Presbytery plan. These have all been helpful in formulating the final plan as a basis for the Presbytery’s future work.”