FOR almost a century-and-a-half, generations of Selkirk’s inhabitants have worshipped, been baptised, wed and said goodbye to loved ones within the walls of Selkirk Parish Church.
In its 140 years, the church has also hosted close to 10,000 services of worship, while its hall has been used for everything from art exhibitions, keep fit clubs, mums and toddlers groups and youth events, to concerts, lectures, children’s holiday clubs, coffee mornings, lunches, fundraisers and elections.
After popular minister, Jim Campbell took up another position elsewhere in Scotland, the congregation was without a replacement minister for 18 months. During that period, church members faced the problem of a costly outbreak of dry rot within the church building.
This was tackled last year and work on the roof was coupled with a project to install 40 photovoltaic panels, which have already generated more than 7,000 units of electricity, bringing both financial and environmental benefits.
And with the church now in sound structural condition and new minister Reverend Margaret Steele in post since September, the congregation is looking to the future, with an initial three-phase project to bring the building firmly into the 21st century. Phase one, for which money is already available, will see the installation of a disabled access toilet. Phase two, costing upwards of £50,000, is an extensive remodelling of the old Victorian toilets, former session room and outside store rooms, to provide modern toilet facilities and baby-changing facilities.
The congregation has already started to raise funds for this, through direct giving by members and various fundraising events. It is hoped grants may also be available, as the church is a listed building and if the cash is in place, work can be done next year.
Phase three is based around a vision to make the halls ‘greener’ through better insulation, a more efficient and economical heating system, and new flooring with this work costing between £50-60,000.
This work could be carried out in 2014 if the cash is forthcoming. However, with or without grants, this is an ambitious and costly project, which cannot be paid for by the usual fundraising efforts alone.
However, an innovative scheme has been devised to raise the cash by also appealing to the many non-church members within the local community, and to exiled Souters and others with Selkirk connections scattered around the world, who may want to support the venture.
To this end, the ‘Friends of Selkirk Parish Church’ has been set up and is inviting and encouraging members and non-church members to join and contribute to the refurbishment fund.
Church elder and member of the steering group, David Bethune, says like most churches, the Parish Church’s congregation has more members aged over 50 than under.
“But we’re quite healthy numbers-wise and the congregation is feeling very positive. Our new minister, Margaret Steele, who arrived in September has been warmly welcomed and people have reacted very positively towards her and responded well to this project.”
His comments were echoed by Rev Steele, who herself has a cousin from Selkirk now living in Australia. She says the congregation is very enthusiastic about the plans.
“There is a real feel good factor about the Parish Church. People far and wide have great affection for Selkirk and I am sure will want to support this.”
Anyone wanting to know more about the plans can drop in at the church hall any time between 10 and noon on Saturday, for the project launch. Plans will be on display, the project steering group will be there to answer questions, information leaflets will be available, and free tea, coffee and baking will be on offer.