Changes on the way for Falkirk churches

Erskine Parish Church
Erskine Parish Church

Working together has helped churches across the district plan for the future.

With falling rolls, fewer entering the ministry and a need to save money, the Church of Scotland ruled that the number of ministers should be reduced nationally from 1200 to 1000.

Falkirk Presbytery is one of the last in the country to produce its plan which will see the loss of six full-time positions.

Last month, it agreed to adopt a 10-year plan which will see congregations linked and parish boundaries redrawn.

However, the issue surrounding churches in the Central Falkirk area has still to be determined.

Rev. Stuart Sharp, of Camelon Parish Church, headed the presbytery planning committee, which consulted with congregations for over 18 months. The plan was eventually agreed on at a lengthy meeting last month.

He said: “We were faced with the challenge of reducing the number of posts by six. Such a move is always hard. There is a lot of history surrounding each church with generations of people being married there and family connections.

“We have tried not to be directive and rather than impose change on congregations work with them to come up with solutions.

“One of the key areas we looked at was taking churches to the people, rather than expecting people to come to the church.”

He said with a huge new housing development in Larbert there was a need to have a church in this area. This will be achieved by linking the congregations of Larbert West and Stenhouse and Carron with the eventual aim of a new church in the North of Larbert.

Airth and Bothkennar and Carronshore would also eventually become a single charge with one minister.

It was agreed to keep the existing congregations in Grangemouth but review the parish boundaries to give more balanced numbers.

Denny Westpark which is vacant will be allowed to call a new minister, although there will eventually be one less post in this area.

It was agreed that when there is next a vacancy in Slamannan it will be served by a locum or ordained local ministry.

Bainsford and St James will either link or become a union, working closer with Grahamston United.

Discussions on Falkirk Old and St Modan’s, St Andrew’s West, Erskine and Camelon are still ongoing and Erskine will remain vacant until agreement is reached on where Falkirk Central can reduce from six to four posts.

Mr Sharp said it was important to understand that any changes would not be implemented overnight, rather when a minister moved to another charge or retired.

He added: “In the main, it was an amicable outcome when presbytery met. Of course, everyone is not happy. No-one wants to plan for reduction, it would be much better planning for growth.

“Some congregations will be feeling this more painful than others, but there was no blood on the carpet.”

The presbytery plan now goes forward to the Church of Scotland’s national committee later this month when it should be rubber-stamped.

Mr Sharp said: “But this is not an end point, rather it’s giving us balance to move forward and bring congregations to work together.”