"Bold and innovative" 10-year plan published for Aberdeen churches

Fresh new proposals to ensure that the Church of Scotland grows from strength to strength in Aberdeen have been published.

The authors said the 10-year action plan represented an exciting opportunity to reform the Kirk and reinvigorate the followers of Christ to help them share the Gospel in new, innovative ways.

The Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland plan, which will be put to a vote on October 3, has been revised after listening and responding to the concerns of congregations.

High Hilton Church
Rev Hutton Steel, Moderator of the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland.

It focuses on ensuring the right buildings are in the right places and investing more in people.

The proposals seek to create a sustainable structure to enable people to draw strength from their faith and fellowship and engage in mission work more effectively.

Under the plans drawn up by the Presbytery's planning and deployment committee, nine new area groupings of churches will be created across Aberdeen to pool and share resources.

Bright future

Convener Rev Scott Rennie said: "The Church has a bright future and the groupings will enable congregations to work together in areas of shared mission and objectives while providing continuity in individual congregational relationships.

"They will also provide a foundation for team ministries when the structures for those come along as well as encouraging Kirk Sessions and congregations to consider the new structures necessary for union."

An earlier draft of the proposals set out a list of buildings that were earmarked for closure as soon as possible but the status of most of them has now changed.

Mr Rennie said: "Over many months we visited with lots of Kirk Sessions and listened to representations.

"We have changed the status of many buildings to within the lifetime of the 10-year plan which basically means that rationalisation will only occur when there is a change at that church, if a minister leaves or retires.

"However, if a major structural issue or extensive bill were to arise in one of these, Presbytery would need to move for a more rapid closure and disposal.

"Until then all buildings should be kept wind and watertight."

A new form of Mission

Mr Rennie, minister of Queen's Cross Church, said a community audit/feasibility study will be carried out at Woodside Parish Church within 12 months of the plan being approved.

A similar study will be carried out on Kingswells Parish Church and work will be undertaken to examine the feasibility of a new worship community at Countesswells.

The proposed new Riverside Area group of churches will have responsibility for "undertaking and sustaining a new form of mission" in Garthdee.

The report stated that buildings in Northfield, Mastrick and Summerhill will be disposed of and activities moved to a new site in the area.

It has been agreed that the ecumenical partnership between the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church at the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen city centre should be dissolved.

The Kirk half of the congregation will be invited to unite with Queen's Cross Church but if that is not desirable, it will be dissolved and the General Trustees will take over responsibility of the building.

It could still be used for occasional worship and civic occasions.

Training at local level

Mr Rennie said: "Our vision is a Presbytery which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, encourages and enables our congregations to re-imagine and renew their life and work for mission in the 21st century.

"Mission remains the primary principle for planning and we believe the future can be bright for the Kirk."

Mr Rennie said the committee understood people to be the greatest resource that the Presbytery has.

"We believe that Presbytery must urgently consider how to organise and invest in training of lay people in our churches to share in the leadership and task of mission of ministry and organise such training at local level," said the report.

A total of 13 parishes across Shetland have been brought together in a single parish to ensure that mission, worship and pastoral care can be carried out in the most effective and efficient way.

The 10-year plan sets out the time scale for the disposal of buildings on the islands over the next couple of years.

If accepted in the Autumn, the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland will review the plan annually and a more detailed progress analysis will be undertaken after five years.