Presbytery reform continues as three new presbyteries formed
Published on 19 January 2023 5 minutes read
In a fitting start to the new year, three brand new presbyteries: the Presbytery of Lothian and Borders, the Presbytery of the North East and Northern Isles, and the Presbytery of Perth were established on Sunday 1 January.
The formation of the new presbyteries represents more successful progress made in streamlining the Church of Scotland's presbytery structures to ensure the Church is lean and fit for growth.
"I welcome the formation of our latest new presbyteries as we continue on our journey of reform as directed by the General Assembly of 2019," Rev Fiona Smith, the Church of Scotland's Principal Clerk, said.
"This work has been a major undertaking for the Church and has brought many challenges both for individuals and for our congregations, Kirk sessions and presbytery committees. But there have been joys and new beginnings to celebrate too.
"I know much prayerful consideration has guided us on this path which will see us find new ways of working together, often across much larger areas, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
"I wish every blessing to those in the new presbyteries as they work together to reshape and renew the life and mission of the Church."
The Presbytery of Perth
The newly formed Presbytery of Perth unites the former presbyteries of Angus, Dundee, Dunkeld and Meigle, Perth and Stirling.
Rev Dr John Ferguson, the Presbytery Clerk for Perth, said:
"The Presbytery of Perth met for the first time on 10 January online, with 268 people attending. At the meeting, the Rev Donna Hays was elected as Moderator and I took the oath as Presbytery Clerk.
"In terms of geography, the new Presbytery is one of the largest in Scotland. One of the main priorities for us will be the creation of a new mission plan which will see some major readjustments in regard to staffing and buildings across the area. The new Presbytery will also be looking at employing more full-time staff such as a buildings officer.
"However, the top priority will be mission and ensuring that the work of the Church and the sharing of the Gospel continues to have an impact on communities across the Presbytery."
The first in-person meeting of the new Presbytery of Perth will be in March, when members will begin the process of getting to know each other better. The meeting will have the Rev Dr Doug Gay as its guest speaker, a prominent Scottish theologian and a radical thinker about the future of the Church of Scotland.
The Presbytery of Lothian and Borders
The Presbytery of Lothian and Borders unites the former presbyteries of Duns, Jedburgh, Lothian and Melrose and Peebles.
"This merger gives the four former presbyteries a chance to reshape themselves for challenges facing the Church today," Rev Norman Smith, Presbytery Clerk for Lothian and Borders, said.
"When all the mission plans are approved and implemented, the fundamental task of the local church to call people to faith in Jesus and to foster the faith of those who follow Him will still be there.
"Lothian and Borders Presbytery aims to be a supportive body where congregations can inspire each other and where people can use their gifts to grow God's Kingdom.
"We have so much to teach and learn from each other. A new Presbytery is a chance to refocus on mission and make the institutional Church work for the local."
Lothian and Borders Presbytery's inaugural meeting will be held at St John's and King's Park Church, Dalkeith, on Saturday 21 January.
The Presbytery of the North East and Northern Isles
The Presbytery of the North East and Northern Isles unites the former presbyteries of Aberdeen and Shetland, Buchan, Gordon, Kincardine and Deeside, Moray and Orkney.
At their inaugural meeting on 10 January, Rev Stella Campbell, the Moderator of the Presbytery of the North East and Northern Isles, said:
"God calls Abraham to leave his settled life and become nomadic. God has plans for him and his family: to bless him and through him to bless all the peoples on earth. Abraham gives up a lot in exchange for a promise. He doesn't know the destination or the details of how God is going to bless other peoples through him. He has to take it all on trust...
"In many ways as we step out tonight as a new presbytery we are all leaving behind something that is familiar to us. For some of us, the comfort of a presbytery that we have known really well and that has helped shape us in our ministry and service. For some of us, the roles we have served. And for all of us, a routine and way of doing things that is recognisable.
"There will be those among us who look forward to a new structure and there will be those whose stomachs churn at the thought of starting something new. In this moment we do not fully know what the new presbytery will be like. We thank those who have worked in advance to develop the structure and set out the parameters to enable us to meet, to fill the committees and to determine our first steps.
"But our new presbytery will only start to breathe when we start to engage with it and play our part in shaping its success in the months ahead. Today, we step out in faith."
Presbytery reform progress
The creation of the three new presbyteries was formally agreed by the General Assembly in May 2022, following the 2019 General Assembly's call to reduce the 43 presbyteries in Scotland to around 12.
The first new presbytery, the Presbytery of Aberdeen and Shetland, was formed on 1 June 2020. Following this, Clyde Presbytery, Fife Presbytery, Edinburgh and West Lothian Presbytery, Forth Valley and Clydesdale Presbytery and the Presbytery of the South West were all created.
The upcoming 2023 General Assembly in May will consider uniting the presbyteries of Argyll, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Inverness, Abernethy, Lochaber, Locharron-Skye, Uist and Lewis into the Presbytery of Highlands and Hebrides. If approved, the new presbytery will commence in January 2024.