Historic service to mark "exciting" new church partnership

An historic service to celebrate a new partnership of churches in Aberdeen and Shetland is being streamed live online this weekend.

The Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland brings the oversight of all churches on the islands and in the city together under a single management structure.

The move is part of wider proposals to reduce the number of presbyteries across the country and the size of the church estate to enable the Kirk to spread the Good News in a more efficient, practical and sustainable way.

Rev Hutton Steel
Rev Hutton Steel is the Moderator of the new Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland.

The service is being streamed live on the new Presbytery’s Facebook page on Sunday at 11am and on Ferryhill Parish Church in Aberdeen’s YouTube channel due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which means people cannot gather in person.

It will feature a virtual choir and orchestra leading “Hail Thee, Festival Day”, “O Breath of Life” and a video message from Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly.

The service falls on Pentecost which marks the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles which led to the creation of the Christian church after the Ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven.

The Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland , made up of ministers, elders and deacons, will officially be established on Monday.

Positive reorganisation

Rev Hutton Steel, the new Moderator of the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, said: “The merging of the two presbyteries is a natural progression to the strong ties which exist between the city and the islands.

“The Church is moving forward with this positive reorganisation of our structures to enable us to serve the people in new and exciting ways, whilst at the same time preserving the best of our traditions.”

Mr Hutton is the minister of High Hilton Church in Aberdeen and is currently the Moderator of the Presbytery of Aberdeen.

Andrew John Williamson, Moderator of the Presbytery of Shetland, said: “We have mixed feelings because it is an end of an era.

“But we need a bigger group to handle the business and we are very glad that Aberdeen is willing to join with us to create a joint presbytery.

“We are happy that we can come together and hope that it will be a successful merger.”

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair
Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair

Dr Fair described the service as a “very special occasion” and said he was sorry that people cannot gather in person to celebrate.

“It is my pleasure and privilege to bring you the greetings of the General Assembly and wish you well on your way,” he added.

“Presbytery reform is desirable and necessary and restructure is key to the wellbeing and future development of the Kirk.

“Go in the strength, the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Reformation

Commissioners at the 2019 General Assembly decided that the number of presbyteries should be reduced from 45 to around 12 as part of a three-year Radical Action Plan.

The presbyteries of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and St Andrews will unite to become the Presbytery of Fife and Dumbarton and Greenock and Paisley Presbyteries are to merge to become the Presbytery of Clyde.

In his message to members of the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, Dr Fair said: “I want to congratulate you that you were willing to make the move.

“As you begin this new adventure I would like you to send back reports and messages to those of us who will follow in your wake.

“It will be a great encouragement to us to know that you are ahead and you are willing to share all that you discover as you step into this new territory.”

The Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland plan to hold a service at a later date when members of the united Presbyteries can meet together in person to celebrate.