Kirk Session Decision
To the Members and Adherents of St Columba Gaelic Church, Glasgow
The Kirk Session of St Columba Gaelic Church met on 3rd February 2022. The main business was to receive a report from our legal counsel, Eoghainn MacLean, advocate. Eoghainn has kindly been supporting us for some time on a pro bono basis in our negotiations with the Church authorities concerning our church building at 300 St. Vincent Street. This support has enabled the Session to understand the complex legalities surrounding the ownership of buildings in the Church of Scotland, as well as to evaluate our options as events have unfolded. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
At our meeting, Eoghainn clearly explained those options which the congregational Trustees were now faced with in deciding what to do with our church, which as you all know requires major repairs. He also reported on recent conversations with certain parties who in the past have shown an interest in putting in an offer for the church, should it go on the market. The Kirk Session had to hand a valuation of the property, recently completed on the instruction of the General Trustees in Edinburgh, which reflects the likely cost of repair that a new owner would have to undertake to make the building useful to their needs.
As you will understand it has taken time to bring matters to this stage, and to gather all the information the Kirk Session required in order to make an informed decision. During much of this time the building has been closed. I fully understand the frustration felt by some of you that a well-loved building has been out of use, and at the same time little was being reported by way of progress.
The Kirk Session felt as they received the latest updates that they were now in a position, as local trustees, to reach a substantive decision. The elders agreed, with great sadness, to consent to the proposed disposal of the church property by the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland. Their vote was unanimous.
This decision was taken in the knowledge that after the Presbytery has concurred with the disposal, the General Trustees will place the property on the open market, and that when offers are received, the congregation will be consulted before a successful buyer is chosen.
Under church law, the sale of property cannot, effectively, be decided only by the trustees. The matter must now go to a meeting of the congregation. The congregation will have the opportunity to ask questions and then there will be a vote on the question of agreeing to a disposal. The Presbytery will take both the vote of the elders and of the congregation into consideration before the property can finally be offered for sale. A date for this congregational meeting has been set for Sunday 27th February, in Blawarthill Parish Church, Millbrix Avenue, Glasgow, after Sunday worship, i.e. 1.30 p.m. Pulpit intimation will be given as required on Sundays 13th and 20th February.
For the purpose of the meeting, the congregation is defined by Church regulations as 'a company of persons...whose names are on the Communion Roll and Adherents’ Roll and who are under the pastoral oversight of a minister (or an Interim Moderator) and a Kirk Session, for Christian worship, fellowship, instruction, mission and service.' All whose names appear on that Roll and who are present may vote. Proxy or postal voting, to be clear, has never been allowed in the Church of Scotland.
The Kirk Session also attested the Rolls at its meeting. If you are in any doubt about whether your name appears on either the Roll of Communicants or on the Roll of Adherents, you should immediately check with the Session Clerk or myself.
While sale negotiations are in hand, the Kirk Session agreed that the present arrangements for Sunday worship will continue, with thanks to the Kirk Session of Blawarthill for their hospitality. I have also placed a request with the Presbytery, that a final Closing Service be held in St. Columba’s, dependent on a safety inspection by an independent surveyor.
Please remember that the life of the congregation will continue. Your office bearers are proposing to sell a building, and there is no question of dissolving the congregation. Our distinctive ministry to the Highland and Gaelic speaking community gives me some confidence that the congregation will have an assured future within the new Presbytery Plan currently being devised, even in these difficult times for the whole Church. Indeed the congregation must stay together if it is to benefit from any proceeds of sale. In this new phase of the life of St Columba Gaelic Church, the congregation will be free to embark on its fundamental Christian mission with renewed vigour, liberated from the concerns of maintaining a costly building, not well suited to present day needs. I do however call on your continued support, week by week, to make all this possible.
I know that for a small number, worshipping at Blawarthill may involve a difficult journey if you rely on public transport. For car users however, parking is free and available at the church gate. The St Columba service begins at 12.30 p.m. If you prefer an earlier time, you will be welcome at our 11 a.m. service which is almost the same in content. When the 12.30 service is wholly in Gaelic (we are aiming at monthly for this) the 11 a.m. service is a joint English service in any case.
I realise that for many, this letter does not contain welcome news. I have been with you now for six years and the decision of the meeting was an emotional one for me, so I cannot imagine the feelings of those who have worshipped in St Columba’s for a lifetime and have seen key family events taking place there. Please hold each other and all involved in your prayers as we go forward together on a new chapter in our church’s life.
Warmly, in Christ's Name,
G. Melvyn Wood