More than a third of the Dundee’s churches are without a minister, as a nationwide Church of Scotland staff shortage spreads to the city.
One city church has been without a minister for more than two years, and in that time has yet to receive a single application for its vacant post.
Ten of the 29 charges in the Presbytery of Dundee are currently without a minister, and the Church of Scotland are currently working with the Presbytery on programmes to try and alleviate the problem.
Changes to workload and a retirements due to length of service are among the reasons cited for vacancies are left unfilled.
St Andrew’s Parish Church, which holds the annual Kirkin’ of the Trades, has been without a minister since November, after Rev Dr Janet Foggie moved on to a new position at Stirling University.
The Kirk has invited members of the congregation to take services where appropriate in some instances, in parishes where no minister is available. It is not known whether this has occurred in any of Dundee’s churches.
Reverend James Wilson, Dundee Presbytery Clerk, said: “Dundee Presbytery is particularly concerned by the number of positions currently unfilled across the Church of Scotland and together with the Church nationally, is exploring ways in which we can better use the number of ministers available to serve the number of congregations required to provide worship and service to the local communities.
“Dundee Presbytery has been largely protected from this longstanding gap until now. Several ministers have retired and two have recently moved to new positions.
“Small changes can have a big impact and change itself increases workload. Of the 29 charges in the Presbytery of Dundee, 10 do not have a serving minister.
“Of those 10, two are not scheduled to have a minister of their own, four are in negotiations to readjust, one is awaiting the outcome of those negotiations and three are currently actively seeking a minister – one of which has had no applicants in the last two years.”
The convener of the Church of Scotland’s Ministries Council, Rev Neil Glover, said: “For the past few years, we have been aware of the large number of our ministers who are due to retire in the next 10 to 15 years.
“Part of our response has been to launch our Tomorrow’s Calling campaign to raise the profile of parish ministry and encourage those who feel called to serve the Church to come forward. We have been delighted with the response so far, but it will take time for these new ministers to be ready to serve congregations.
“In the meantime, we have listened to our members who want to take a more active role in the life of our congregations, and are enabling them to lead worship and take services where appropriate with adequate training and support.”
Reverend Robert Calvert, who leads the congregation at the Steeple Church in the city centre, believes the Church of Scotland is supporting ministers who want to reshape how the Kirk is seen in the community.
A series of initiatives at The Steeple, including a cafe church event on a Monday and a “messy” service – involving arts and crafts and more informal discussions between the congregation and ministers – have been introduced since Reverend Calvert’s arrival.
“The Presbytery and the Church of Scotland are supportive to the changing needs. They have given us the freedom on how each church can support itself,” he said.
“Different churches have different requirements, we have a way of operating which works for The Steeple, but that way might not work for other churches in the city.
“The Church of Scotland has encouraged us to take the risk, and the general trustees of the Kirk has made money available to us and encouraged us to take the risk.”