A parting of the ways in Larbert

Rev. John Brown, interim moderator and locum minister
Rev. John Brown, interim moderator and locum minister

Worshippers in Larbert took part in a historic church service as a breakaway congregation met for the first time.

Grace Church is led by the former minister of Larbert Old Parish, the Rev. Andrew Randall.

Along with 13 elders from its Kirk Session, he announced in June he would quit the Church of Scotland following a decision by its General Assembly to move towards the formal acceptance of ministers in same-sex relationships.

When the Grace Church Larbert met in Carrongrange School on Sunday around 200, including 45 children, were in the congregation.

Mr Randall said: “There was a really positive atmosphere and lots of optimism about the future. It was extremely encouraging.”

He added that the majority of those present had attended Larbert Old, although there were visitors from elsewhere, including from other churches, while many messages of support had been received.

However, according to the Church of Scotland, only 53 members from Larbert Old had intimated they were intending to leave.

A spokesman said a poll of the congregation taken by The Presbytery of Falkirk showed 229 people had already replied with less than a quarter saying they would quit. A further 189 have still to reply.

The Rev. John Brown, who has been appointed Interim Moderator by the presbytery, led the service at Larbert Old on Sunday when around 100 attended.

He said all those who had not replied in the next few days would be visited by elders to determine how many were remaining in membership.

From the end of next month, Mr Brown will become interim minister to lead the congregation until a decision on its future is taken.

He said: “There was a real buzz in the church on Sunday and very much a sense that Larbert Old is alive and well and looking to the future.

“Of course, there was sadness at the people who have gone and we wish them every blessing.”

Mr Brown said a lengthy meeting of the Kirk Session prior to the service made plans for the future.

He added: “We will be speaking to elders who have recently resigned to ask them to consider returning.”

The Boys’ Brigade company attached to the church, 2nd Larbert, had 75 boys at its first meeting on Friday, while the Girls’ Brigade groups will meet for the first time on Monday.