Changing Times

To members and friends of St Columba Gaelic Church: July 2021

Dear Friend,

The Kirk Session of St Columba Gaelic Church met on 17 June and asked me to write to you, to advise you of recent important developments.

Closure of the Church

St. Columba, the Gaelic Church of Glasgow, has served the Highland community in Glasgow since 1770, offering services in Gaelic and English. Sadly, we are now unable to use our church at 300 St Vincent Street, because major repairs are required; the Presbytery instructed us in April to cease using the building for any purpose. Both the Presbytery of Glasgow and the General Trustees who effectively own the building are opposed to retaining it in use and wish it to be disposed of. The Session did everything it could to find ways to keep the church open, however with a combination of Covid restrictions and with Presbytery having closed down the option to seek external funding, it is hard to see how the congregation can use the building again. This comes against a background of major change agreed by last month’s General Assembly, whereby both ministries and buildings throughout Scotland face unprecedented cuts.

An indicative vote was held by the Session on whether the building should be sold; this showed that the Session is still evenly divided on the matter. However Church law states that not only must the Session agree to a sale, but the congregation, at a special meeting called for the purpose, must then vote on the question of the sale / disposal of an ecclesiastical building. The matter then goes to the Presbytery for final decision. However Presbytery has made its position very clear.

While members will be very unhappy at the prospect of selling such an iconic building which holds so many precious memories, the congregation’s legal counsel is very strongly urging you to accept disposal of the building as the best route towards a rejuvenation of the congregation’s distinctive ministry. Your office bearers have kept the building going on a shoestring for many decades now, thus enabling a generation of members to continue to worship in a place and in a manner that meant so much to them. For this alone, they can be justly proud of keeping things going for as long as they did. This congregation, in common with the wider church, is now facing a time of radical change.

The Session will keep you informed of developments and in particular we will contact you again when a date for a congregational meeting has been arranged. It is now possible to hold ‘virtual’ meetings thanks to Covid, and special arrangements for meetings to consider a building sale have been made. Such meetings are allowed to conduct ballots where votes can be submitted either in person or electronically.

Arrangements to restart in-person services

The closure of the church, confirmed in April, led to the question of making alternative arrangements for the congregation to meet for worship. A number of options for alternative venues have been explored. We believe it is best to secure a temporary place of worship, and continue to be on the lookout for a building that will suit our needs in the longer term. The Session resolved to accept an invitation from the Kirk Session of Blawarthill to use their premises initially.

I feel strongly that the congregation should not join the fellowship at any other church but should maintain its own integrity and organise its own services. This is now being actively planned, and details of dates and times will be announced as soon as arrangements are in place. The venue for services will most likely be Blawarthill Church Hall, in Kinstone Avenue, Scotstoun. On-street parking is free and easy to find, and the hall is five minutes’ walk from Garscadden railway station.

Before these services begin (and organising them won’t be easy, as pulpit supply is much harder to find since the Covid pandemic) you are welcome to join the Blawarthill congregation for joint services. Doing this will also be a good way to keep up to date with any St Columba news. I stress that this is just until your own services restart.

Online services

I want to remind you that the Covid pandemic did not mean a cessation of church activity. When in-person services were not possible due to the lockdown, I immediately began a joint project with the Gaelic congregation in Edinburgh to webcast Gaelic worship on our new YouTube Channel, “Eaglais Air-loidhne / Gaelic Church Online”. Services in Gaelic have continued online ever since on a weekly basis – a frequency we were finding impossible to manage even before the virus hit us. I am grateful to all the contributors from both Scotland and Nova Scotia who have made this possible. I invite all Gaelic speakers and learners who have not already done so to have a look and to take part in these services. From the YouTube website or Mobile App, type “Gaelic Church Online” into the YouTube search box.

Development of new outreach

I also want to make clear that although the Presbytery is against opening the church building again, it is very much in favour of developing ministry to the Gaelic and Highland community. To this end a Gaelic Group has been formed and is actively exploring options for fresh expressions of Church, predominantly in the Gaelic medium. This is being done in collaboration with the national Gaelic committee and along with the Edinburgh Highland congregation. Taking advantage of this opening is one reason why it is essential to keep the congregation going in any way we can, and at the same time attract new members who are able to recognise the potential of Gaelic worship and witness, developing that in ways that are appropriate for the 21st century, and free from the constraints of maintaining a legacy building the congregation cannot afford, at a time when interest in traditional church forms is declining. The Kirk Session v

alues your continuing support and interest in these difficult times, yet times that present exciting opportunity as we allow God to lead us into new areas of outreach and service in Christ’s name.

Warmly, in His name,

Melvyn Wood

Interim Moderator

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