Galashiels kirks may link up after minister moves

St Pauls Church Galashiels.
St Pauls Church Galashiels.

THE departure of a Church of Scotland minister in Galashiels could pave the way for the linkage of the town’s three congregations.

That scenario, driven by a falling numbers of worshippers and the high cost of maintaining buildings, was considered at a recent meeting of the Presbytery of Melrose and Peebles which is committed to cutting its charges – full time positions held by ministers – by one by 2014.

After the meeting, presbytery press officer Graeme Donald, referred to the decision of the Rev Morag Dawson of Trinity, linked with Caddonfoot, to take up a new charge in Dumfriesshire where she was inducted this week.

“This may provide the presbytery’s parish appraisal team with the opportunity to review to congregations in the Galashiels area as their remit prescribes,” said Mr Donald.

That remit became clear last year after TheSouthern reported fears, expressed in the Trinity newsletter, that one of the three churches in the town would be closed.

The Rev Alistair Bennett, then chairman of the appraisals committee, admitted the closure of a Galashiels kirk was one of a range of options after the decision by the General Assembly to cut its full-time equivalent ministers by 100 across Scotland by 2014 to address a £5.7million deficit in the Kirk’s stipendiary fund.

Mr Donald said last week that an exploration of the future for the Galashiels congregations had been remitted to the presbytery’s business committee with particular reference to the classification of buildings.

He stated: “The Kirk Sessions of both Old Parish and St Pauls [in Scott Crescent] and St Johns [Langlee] have been made aware recently of the possible linking of their congregations.

“Earlier this year a meeting was held with representation from the three Galashiels churches when concerns about the overall decline in the number and age profile of those worshipping regularly and the ability to maintain all the buildings was intimated.

“The meeting was undecided as to the future classification of all the buildings and it may be that the translation of the Rev Dawson will cause the matter to be re-opened earlier than envisaged.”

TheSouthern understands that one of the options if the three Galashiels congregations are combined would be to link Caddonfoot with Stow.