A breakaway congregation could soon return to Larbert if its plan to build a new church is given the go ahead.
Grace Church has announced its intention to create a new place of worship and a “community facility” on the site of the old Bellsdyke Hospital in McIntyre Avenue, Kinnaird Village.
The church is led by former Larbert Old Parish minister Reverend Andrew Randall who, along with 13 Kirk Session elders, quit the Church of Scotland in June 2013 after its General Assembly moved towards the formal acceptance of ministers in same-sex relationships, instead joining the reformed International Presbyterian Church. Since 2013, Grace Church parishioners have met in Carrongrange School, Stenhousemuir.
The proposal and talk of Kinnaird Primary School pupils using the church’s facilities have proved contentious among some Kinnaird Village residents angered by the idea of the site becoming home to a congregation which, they claim, preaches “unwanted” views. To add to objectors’ dismay, an original masterplan identified the land as a prime spot for a restaurant or pub.
Gary Wilson (38) has written to Grace Church to formally object to the move and set up a No Grace Church in Kinnaird Facebook page following discussions with other disgruntled residents.
He said: “Kinnaird is a large community comprising many young families and what this group stands for clearly conflicts with the way I am sure the vast majority of our children are being brought up. We’re crying out for amenities, which the construction of an unwanted church will deny us.”
However, Grace Church has flatly denied claims it is homophobic.
Rev. Randall said: “Grace Church is a diverse and growing congregation of around 200 local people. We are surprised and saddened that a campaign against our plans has been mounted by one individual who does not know us, has never met us and made no attempt to speak with us before initiating his campaign.
“He has made grossly inaccurate accusations about who we are and what we believe. The message we stand for is one of love for all people, and we welcome everyone without exception.”
While a planning application has not been made, the church says missives were concluded in October and designs of the £2 million building will be submitted within months.
Rev. Randall, who confirmed parishioners will fund the project, said: “We are excited to be siting our new church in this part of Larbert, where many of our congregation already live. The new building will include a games hall, cafe area and a number of meeting rooms along with a worship/sanctuary area.”
An NHS Forth Valley spokeswoman said: “A property agent is currently involved in discussions with a church organisation over the sale of a small plot of land on the former Bellsdyke site. Discussions on the sale of this plot have not yet concluded and remain subject to a number of conditions.”
A council spokeswoman said: “All headteachers are encouraged to explore opportunities to use community facilities to deliver the curriculum.”