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Major church closure plans for district

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By Fiona Reid
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Major church closure plans for district

FOURTEEN churches in Annandale and two church halls are set to close over the next year in the face of falling congregations and a shortage of ministers.

The doors could be shut at Dornock as early as the end of this month, followed by St Mungo at the end of December.

Ewes is earmarked to close in December 2023, while Brydekirk is down for 2025 – but it’s hoped they could both become part of local trusts.

Meanwhile, the congregation of Gretna Old, Gretna St Andrews, Half Morton and Kirkpatrick Fleming have decided to reduce the number of buildings from five to one – and this week were choosing which of the Gretna churches to retain.

The local closure plan follows in-depth studies and consultations by Annandale and Eskdale Presbytery, looking at each building’s safety, security, accessibility, facilities, flexibility and maintenance costs.

The Church of Scotland General Assembly asked them to “ensure well-equipped spaces are in the right places and to provide a roadmap to the future”.

Explaining more of the background, a Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The Presbytery of Annandale and Eskdale has approved a mission plan which will determine how limited resources are allocated to congregations over a five-year period.

“No decision was lightly taken and we recognise that the resolution to grasp the nettle against a backdrop of falling membership, income and ministers is a very difficult situation for many people.

“But unfortunately change is necessary in order to deliver sustainable and realistic new expressions of ministry and effectively serve the people in our communities and deliver Jesus’ call to mission and discipleship.

“Each congregation must be financially viable and missionally active and all buildings have to be fit for purpose to achieve the Church’s primary purpose.”

He also revealed that the presbytery has been instructed to reduce staffing levels, which means ministry posts locally will be cut from 14.6 presently to 8.5.

The spokesman added: “Under the mission plan, four new groupings have been created and will share resources as they seek to encourage new expressions of ministry and community outreach work.

“The mission plan will be reviewed on an annual basis.”

Elsewhere in Annandale, Dryfesdale Church in Lockerbie, above, is expected to shut in September 2023 as it requires significant investment. Worship services will instead be held in a church hall in future.

The churches of Kirkpatrick Juxta, Applegarth, Hutton and Corrie, and Dalton and Hightae have been given provisional closure dates of December 2023, although it’s hoped they could all be taken into trust locally, along with Kirkpatrick Juxta and Dalton and Hightae Halls.

In addition, Wamphray Church will eventually be disposed of but the details are still under discussion.

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