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Community / New plan maps out timetable for church closures

Lunna Kirk, Shetland's oldest kirk still in use, is set to close and be sold. Photo: Shetland News

MORE information has been provided about when a number of churches in Shetland will be closed and sold off.

It comes after the Church of Scotland approved a new ten-year plan for Aberdeen and Shetland at the weekend.

The virtual meeting was held on Saturday to discuss the plan after the new presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland was launched earlier this year.

Among the ten-year plan is a rough update on the organisation’s closure of a number of Shetland churches as it looks to make its operations in the isles more efficient.

The churches due to be closed and disposed off in 2020/21 are Weisdale, Sullom, Bigton, Fair Isle, Quarff, Sand and Fetlar.

Rev Hutton Steel.

Yell’s Hamnavoe church is also due to close in 2020/21 but there is a possible community purchase.

In 2021/22 Tingwall, Voe, Hillswick, Dunrossness, Cunningsburgh, Gulberwick, Whalsay and Foula are due to close, as well as the oldest kirk still in use in Shetland at Lunna.

Skerries and Sandness are also set to close in 2021/22 but the Church of Scotland says there are possible community purchases in the offing.

Figures for the churches due to remain in Shetland show that they have a combined congregation of 976, with one third of that located at Lerwick’s St Colmuba’s.

There are also plans for renovation and redevelopment of the Burra church at Bridge End, as well as Scalloway.

The number of full-time equivalent jobs in the ten-year plan across Aberdeen and Shetland is a combined total of 38, which is in effect a reduction of eight from the last round of planning.

Presbytery moderator Rev Hutton Steel said after the weekend’s meeting: “Today’s meeting was a long one and recognised the importance of the Presbytery Plan for all the parish churches and for the future make-up of the Church of Scotland in Aberdeen and Shetland.

“I have to pay tribute to the work of the Presbytery’s planning and deployment committee for two years of hard work in getting us to this point.

“As a Presbytery we must acknowledge that we could not please everyone, but the decisions collectively made today set out a path for us all to follow for the next ten years and builds upon past foundations of the Church to see us into the future.”

Rev Scott Rennie, convener of the Presbytery’s planning and deployment committee, added: “There’s been a huge amount of work, debate, consultation and changes over more than two years of putting together the Presbytery Plan.

“I’m delighted that, at the end of Saturday’s meeting, the Plan was accepted and adopted unanimously by the members of Presbytery. However, we’re not finished.

“In fact, in many ways this is the real start of the work of meeting the national Church’s goals of having well-equipped spaces in the right places. Well-equipped to continue God’s Kingdom on earth, well-equipped to continue the valuable work of churches in supporting and developing the communities they’re very much part of.”

It is anticipated that the presbytery plan will be ratified by the national church via the faith nurture forum in the near future.