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Community / Public meetings to be held to keep communities up to date on church closures

The church in Gulberwick has been earmarked for closure. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

A NUMBER of public meetings are set to be held this year to discuss Church of Scotland’s plans to close two thirds of its kirks in Shetland.

The church aims to inform communities about the process around the closure of their local kirk, and what options there could be for the building going forward.

In 2018 the Church of Scotland confirmed it would close 20 of its 31 buildings in Shetland in a bid to become more sustainable amid reducing congregation numbers and a shortage of ministers.

The first meeting will take place at Sand Church in Sandsting on 12 March from 7pm.

The next will be at the Sullom and Gunnister Public Hall on 18 March from 7pm to talk about the Sullom Church.

On 2 April from 7.05pm there will be meeting at the Symbister Public Hall to discuss the Brough Church in Whalsay.

More meetings, which are focusing on the buildings earmarked for closure within the next three years, will be held later in the year.

The events, which are open to all, will be attended by representatives from Shetland Islands Council’s community planning and development team, who will advise on the community’s options for the future use of buildings.

Transition minister for the Shetland parish Rev Dr Fran Henderson said: “We understand that there’s a lot of community concern about what’s going to happen to our church buildings when they are sold.

“We’re having these meetings well in advance of their closure, so that we can give information to the community about the process, and answer any questions they have. We also want to provide help and guidance about what their options are.

“We want to be totally open about the process so that everyone feels that they are fully informed, and decisions can be made on that basis.”

In some areas of Shetland there has been desire to keep their local church in community ownership.

The church, meanwhile, also embarked on a local restructure which has seen Shetland Church of Scotland become a united parish with a single kirk session.

The united parish will ultimately be served by a team of three ministers of word and sacrament and three ministries development staff, including a children and youth worker, a parish development worker and an administrator/treasurer.

Work towards the formation of the new united Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, which was formally agreed in November 2018, is ongoing. The new presbytery is due to be established in June 2020.