Five Church of Scotland congregations in North Ayrshire are a step closer to uniting as a new single congregation.

 

Members of Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church and four congregations in Irvine – Fullarton, Girdle Toll, Mure Relief and St Andrews – agreed to merge to become Irvine Parish Church of Scotland.

 

The decision was taken at meetings held by the individual congregations yesterday and the proposals will now be put to the Presbytery of South West Scotland for final approval.

It will decide the timing of the launch of the new united congregation and the new Kirk Session of Irvine Parish Church – made up of elders from the legacy congregations – will rule which buildings will remain in use in the longer term and which ones will be sold off or let out.

 

This process is expected to be undertaken within the first two years of the life of the new congregation and the proceeds of all sales will be retained by it for appropriate re-investment.

Existing buildings will continue to be used as places of worship in the meantime.

 

It is proposed that the new congregation will be served by a new Team Ministry comprising of Rev Neil Urquhart, currently the minister of Fullarton Parish Church, and Rev Jamie Milliken, minister of Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church, supported by a part-time ministries worker.

Members of Irvine Old Parish Church also took part in the vote and backed the plans to become part of a new single congregation but rejected the Team Ministry proposal.

Discussions on the best way forward will continue and Irvine Old could become part of Irvine Parish Church at a future date.

In a joint statement, Neil and Jamie said: “We look forward to the positive and exciting opportunities that the pulling of resources will bring in uniting five congregations.

“It presents the chance to further grow an outward looking church ready to share the Good News and Love of Christ in down-to-earth ways.

“We will also continue to value Irvine Old’s congregation and members, along with the other local churches, as important partners in God’s care and concern for the town and her people.” It is proposed that the manses of the congregation of Dreghorn and Springside and Irvine Fullarton will be retained to serve the united charge and the other properties will be eventually sold or let out.

 

All decisions on the disposal of property will be subject to approval from various Church governance bodies. Out of the six congregations, only Fullarton Parish Church and Dreghorn and Springside Parish Church currently have full-time ministers which means there will be no job losses under the proposals.

Nationally, the Church of Scotland is going through a monumental period of change as it reconfigures and reshapes for mission and service around fewer buildings and fewer charges. Set against a backdrop of falling membership and dwindling financial resources, it is a critical time as it makes essential changes needed to lay a realistic and sustainable foundation for the future.

 

Last month, Rev David Cameron, convener of the Assembly Trustees, told the General Assembly that it was time for Kirk members to be bold, take risks and lay down burdens and concentrate on reaching people indifferent to the Church. The minister of New Laigh Kirk in Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire said people must envision building a model where communities of faith join together at the heart of new and shared priorities.

Mr Cameron said: “We all have the spiritual imagination to look at things differently, all of us who are grappling with the need to change in order to be more effective in mission, all of us who are willing to move forward, shaped by shared purpose and values and, crucially, with a vision of what the Church could be in Scotland
“A visible light of hope with the Gospel.”