Angus Presbytery has agreed the dissolution of Brechin Cathedral in a night of high emotion for the congregation of the debt-ridden 800-year-old kirk.
The decision comes just weeks after the first event was held in the milestone anniversary of the burgh’s oldest building, leading to bitter accusations members had been “thrown out and left to their own devices” by the move.
The cathedral faces crippling debts close to £170,000 and has been at the centre of talks stretching back years aimed at finding a future for the landmark and its congregation.
In an unusual move, the Church of Scotland’s General Trustees have already approved the sale of the Cathedral manse to pay off the outstanding debt.
In 2018, Presbytery discussions led to a vote in favour of a merger of the Cathedral and Brechin’s Gardner Memorial Church – but the future of the buildings remained the sticking point.
The dissolution decision will now also consign the merger plan to the history books, but the minister who has led the efforts to find a resolution said the situation had left worshippers in both churches at “a standstill”.
The Rev. Karen Fenwick of Forfar’s Lowson Memorial, who convened the committee which brought the dissolution motion, said: “No-one is denying Brechin Cathedral has a wealth of history, and that history can be told.”
But she said every avenue had been exhausted in attempts to overcome the desperate financial situation.
The presbytery has expressed the view that there is little hope of the cathedral congregation meeting its financial obligations in the 800th anniversary year.
The hope remains that the buildings may be transferred to a community group and used a visitor site with occasional worship.
Arbroath minister the Rev. Martin Fair, Moderator-elect of the Kirk’s General Assembly told the Presbytery meeting: “The implication is that the older the building, the more important it is.
“That would be important if this was a meeting of Historic Scotland or some such body.”
He said the church was concerned with keeping a “lively, worshipping congregation”, which appeared more realistic for a united Brechin congregation without the burden of such a historic building.
The meeting heard the cathedral membership stands at 428, but attendance numbers are currently much lower.
A further meeting will be held in March to consider progress towards the dissolution, but tearful members leaving the meeting in Forfar’s St Margaret’s Church were angry about the outcome.
Cathedral elder Archie Milne, who has spoken of the kirk’s association with three kings and historic connections with luminaries including Charles Rennie Mackintosh, said: “We can do nothing, they had their mind made up and they have pulled the strings.
“We’re being thrown out and left to our own devices.
“No-one in the rest of Angus has a building with this history and the just haven’t picked up the point that the cathedral is Brechin, it is not just a church,” he said.