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Community / Pandemic puts first phase of church closures on hold

Bigton Kirk
Bigton kirk.

THE CHURCH of Scotland is looking to sell its kirks earmarked for closure in stages over the next three years – but the coronavirus pandemic has put the first phase on hold.

The Church of Scotland is also keeping open the possibility of community purchase “where there is interest in doing so”.

In 2018 the Church of Scotland announced it would close and sell 20 of its buildings in Shetland, which amounts to around two thirds of its estate in the isles.

It was in response to a growing national deficit and reducing congregation numbers.

Transition minister for Shetland Rev Dr Fran Henderson confirmed that 19 churches are still to be closed and sold.

She said churches in North Roe, Uyeasound and Nesting had already been closed by their congregations prior to 2018’s announcement, while Bressay Church has also been shut and is currently under offer.

“No other buildings have yet been closed and all of them will continue to be used as Covid-19 allows and properly maintained until they are sold,” Henderson said.

“The intention is to work through the closure and sale of the other 19 buildings in three phases over a three year period, keeping open the possibility of community purchase where there is interest in doing so.

“The first phase includes eight buildings but the Covid-19 lockdown has meant that there has been a delay to this plan.

“We have also had to cancel for the time being a programme of community consultations that we had planned. However, with restrictions beginning to be lifted, the hope is that we will be able to move forward soon.”

Lunna Kirk. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Among the churches initially earmarked for closure were Cunningsburgh, Hillswick, Tingwall, Weisdale and Voe.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson, meanwhile, confirmed to Shetland News in March that the historic Lunna Kirk will also be put up for sale.

“Until such times as the building is formally closed, we will continue to use the church according to its usual patterns of worship,” they said.

The Lunna Kirk is the oldest church still in use in Shetland.