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14 Perth and Kinross church buildings at risk and minister numbers to be slashed in Kirk shake-up

Perth Kinross churches
St Leonard's in the Fields Church is one of 14 at risk of closing. Picture: Mhairi Edwards.

Nearly a third of Perth and Kinross churches could close in the next five years under radical Kirk plans.

And minister numbers will be dramatically hit in a move to reduce staffing by almost 40%.

Perth Presbytery’s shock proposals have emerged as part of a blueprint to shape the Kirk’s future across the region.

It comes in the face of dwindling income and falling congregations.

Perth Kinross Church
St Leonard’s in the Fields Church, Perth. Picture: Mhairi Edwards.

The Church of Scotland says the move is aimed at meeting 21st century needs.

City, town and village kirks are all included in the plan.

Congregations with the greatest potential for “evidence of growth” will be given priority in the transformation programme.

Presbytery members across Perth and Kinross are now being asked for their views on the “work in progress”.

An eight-week consultation is underway.

At risk churches

Of the presbytery’s 45 church buildings, those at risk are:

  • Cleish
  • Arngask
  • Forteviot
  • Forgandenny
  • St Leonard’s in the Fields, Perth
  • two buildings attached to Craigie and Moncrieffe, Perth
  • Kilspindie
  • Rait
  • Collace
  • Trinity Gask
  • two buildings connected to Mid Strathearn Church
  • one building in Crieff.

And the plan includes a commitment to develop the pioneering work of the community minister at Bertha Park in Perth.

It could see the acquisition of a building opposite the new high school by the General Trustees, the Church of Scotland’s property arm.

‘Significant time of change’

The draft plans say some congregations could be united.

Others may be placed under presbytery guardianship.

That means a charge could continue without calling a minister.

St John’s Church in Perth city centre is one such congregation being considered.

It would be allocated resources for ministry, allowing it to focus on worship on Sundays and perhaps during the week.

Forteviot Church may be closed. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

Perth Presbytery’s planning and development committee convener, the Rev. Allan Wilson says it is a “significant time of change”.

“The proposals represent a concerted effort to continue the mission of the Church and nurture green shoots of growth within the limitations set by the General Assembly,” he said.

“It requires increased co-operation between congregations and the sharing of resources across existing parish boundaries.”

Fewer people training for the ministry

Presbyteries across the country have been told they must reduce minister numbers.

Perth Presbytery minister and development staff numbers will reduce from 26 to 16.5 – a 37% fall.

At last May’s General Assembly, a plan was agreed to reduce the number of full-time ministers in Scotland to 600.

Perth Kinross Church
Forteviot Church. Picture: Steve MacDougall.

And a target for the Church to have no more than 60 charges vacant at any one time by the end of 2025 was set.

Declining numbers of people training for the ministry and a reduction in financial contributions are behind the decision.

And falling membership has also been a contributing factor.

‘Effective and robust’ plan

Mr Wilson said reducing the number ministries post was a task “none of us relished”.

“We recognise that they represent real people and real communities within our presbytery,” he said.

“However, not only have we taken seriously the requirement to reduce the number of ministries in Perth and Kinross, we have also taken seriously Jesus’ call to mission and discipleship.

We are confident that in this plan we offer a considered, effective and robust structure for ministry.”

The Rev. Allan Wilson

“This is an opportunity to refocus our efforts and prepare for ministry in the years ahead.

“Some of these changes may have been needed for some time.

“We are confident that in this plan we offer a considered, effective and robust structure for ministry.”

He added the presbytery will consider any proposal to buy a former Perth and Kinross church building and maintain it for community use.

A new plan must be agreed by the end of December this year.

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