The Presbytery Planning Working group is moving through all the Kirk Sessions explaining the state of play with planning. Leaflets are being distributed. The attached paper explains what they are doing. Congregations are encouraged to share the information below.
The Bible is full of stories of travelling, travelling either because of persecution or God’s calling. Abraham was called to leave his home country, Moses led the people towards the Promised Land and Jesus’ ministry was a nomadic one as he met and mingled with many people throughout Galilea, Samaria and Judea. Moving for very valid reasons and purposes which could not have been met if they had stayed in one place.
Well, the Church of Scotland is on the move, journeying towards different expressions of church to meet the changing needs of the community.
Why do we have to move?
In Lochaber we have been fortunate to have had the support of Ministers, Readers and lay people involved in our Sunday worship for many years but many are reaching the age of retirement and the status quo cannot continue without further decline (even the band Status Quo retired!).
We have to have the courage to really look at why we do what we do – is because we are used to it? is that a valid reason for staying still? or does God want us to step out?
As with all journeys, you have to leave one place to be able to arrive in another. It is a wrench, there is confusion and hurt but there is also excitement and anticipation.
But which direction? Where do we start?
What is our purpose?
The Church of Scotland has a commitment to ‘bring the ordinances of religion to the people in every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry’. This includes the preaching and teaching of the Word in a service where all are gathered together, as well as mission and evangelism in our communities. Caring for the spiritual welfare of young and old in the parishes.
Who or what is the Church of Scotland with responsibility for this pledge?
We all are. Not the General Assembly, not Presbytery, not Kirk Sessions but all who have made their own commitment to membership of the church.
This is where we start, with a purpose in mind and the commitment of all in the church.
The Church is based on biblical teachings and we read in Galatians 5;25 ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit’
We have tarried too long in one place and, guided by the Spirit, we must step out.
The Elders and Ministers in the Kirk Sessions are being asked to let their congregations know that it is not going to be possible in the future to maintain the present structure of parish ministry. We must develop new ways of meeting our commitment. There is a tendency to leave things to the ‘professionals’ but we are all committed to spreading the Good News of the Gospel, exploring every opportunity which arises and supporting the whole process with prayer. We need new energy for this and more ways of doing mission.
How do we do this? We need to start with the facts.
There are 15 congregations in Lochaber divided into 8 charges.
The allocation of 8 ministers for Lochaber a number of years ago was made when there were 1000 minsters who could fill these posts.
Since that time, a number of ministers have retired. In spite of the retirement age being raised voluntarily to 75 from 65 and also active recruitment drives, the current number of ministers is around 800.
It is estimated that this will fall to 600 in the next few years and even if 1000 ministers could be found, the church could not afford to pay them.
So it can be easily seen that the current shortfall of 200 ministers will rise to 400 in the not too distant future.
So, we have 2 challenges; we must fulfil our present commitment to mission and evangelism with those who are in the church now and, secondly we need to face the issue for those charges which go into vacancy – where will the ministers come from to answer the Call to their charge?
Reduction in Church Attendance
In Lochaber church membership has reduced in the last 5 years from 1172 to 1012 but, of course, membership is not attendance.
In Lochaber Messy Church has become popular and is family worship. Attempts have been made to standardise the recording of attendance so that it can be entered into annual statistics but it is likely that we do not have a clear picture of numbers.
In all our churches attendance has decreased over the last few years.
How can we face the future?
Our Presbytery covers a huge geographical area with many obstacles for travelling from cost, single track roads to weather conditions and cancelled ferries. This is the down side – the upside is that is that we are brothers and sisters in Christ with the same aim – to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
We are a small Presbytery in terms of population and in spite of our geographical size, we are the church family.
For many years we have been financially supported by the wealthier churches – 14 out of our 15 congregations are helped financially with their ministry costs – now is the time for us to share our resources with our neighbours.
2 Corinthians 8: 2 -4
In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.
What do we do, how can we move forward?
Kirk Sessions have been asked to nominate a representative from each parish to join the planning group to formulate a plan for the future.
The charges have been divided up into 3 groups;
1 Duncansburgh Mackintosh l/w Kilmonivaig; Kilmallie; Glengarry l/w Fort Augustus
2 Nether Lochaber l/w Kinlochleven; Duror l/w St Munda’s
3 Acharacle l/w Ardnamurchan; Ardgour and Kingairloch l/w Morvern l/w Strontian; N. W Lochaber
Each group is asked to explore areas in which they can support each other so that a plan for meeting our commitment in their area can be devised.
Where are we now?
The Planning Group have visited most of the Kirk Sessions and hope to have visited all by the beginning of August to explain the situation and the proposed process.
Presbytery agreed that Kirk Sessions should be instructed to appoint a representative to join the Planning Team to discuss their area. Once all Kirk Sessions have been visited, the next round of meetings involving the representatives will begin.
If you would like further information or would like to make constructive comments please contact;