Our Church Building
So we lost the vote at the Presbytery. 67 voted to suspend permission to use our historic church building (while allowing talks to be held on relocating the congregation) and 49 voted to uphold the deliverance we made successfully in December to reopen.
It was disappointing that while the representative from the General Trustees said he would consider it safe to get back in when the list of defects noted from October 2020 was attended to (they mostly have been already) yet the majority voted we should not. Effectively, they were saying, safe or not, we should not get back into the building until the appeal is heard. And we don't know when that will be.
It is not the result the Session wanted. We can still plan to contest the appeal, but that could be many months away.
It seems to me that the immediate question the congregation must now address is, what kind of church do you want to be in the interim? How do you want to live out your existence as a church, given that even when services are allowed to restart generally when Covid restrictions are eased, the St Vincent Street Church must remain closed at least until the appeal, and also after that if we lose the appeal?
My personal view as your Interim Moderator, is that you must plan to meet for worship as a congregation in another location as soon as the lockdown eases in order to preserve the integrity and fellowship of the worshipping congregation. With no end date in sight for the future of the building, there is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained by congregating elsewhere. That may not gather the congregation as it did in the old building. I know some fear it will not, as it is the building which attracts the loyalty of some members - allegedly. But we wouldn't know that until we have tried.
Certainly numbers may be small initially, and we will be fighting for the very life of the congregation. Yet I hope that would stimulate us into fresh efforts to reach out, to get in new blood, to build a renewed faith community with its Celtic heritage as a crucial bond, expressing worship and service to God in a unique way, and drawing on the rich cultural expressions that are thriving today in Glasgow.
Other points to bear in mind:
In the event of the building being withheld permanently, and being sold, there needs to be a legal entity called St Columba Gaelic Church, for any future congregation to benefit from the sale. Otherwise it goes to the Trustees in Edinburgh. A future congregation will be glad of that money, even though some of the older members of the present congregation may prefer to attend a local church if the familiar building closes for good.
Our Mission Plan makes a great deal of future possibilities, serving the Gaelic speaking and Highland community. That Mission Plan now takes on a fresh importance and urgency. Even if it's a new generation that will take up the cause, members of the current congregation owe it to them at least to carry the torch in the meantime.
Then, the congregation needs to be strong and dynamic if it will eventually attract a good minister / leader who can see potential for the future, and help you build on the vision.
Finally, online Gaelic worship continues weekly in the name of St Columba Gaelic Church, together with our friends in Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh. This has been very successful. We need to reflect on how this outreach can be sustained and developed as a focus for Gaelic language worshipers worldwide - a truly unique Christian ministry.
With no end to the lockdown in sight, and so with live services suspended everywhere, we do have a little time on hand to reflect on these matters, and where we each stand on them - but I hope and pray, not too much time. So get thinking, and praying.
God bless the people of St Columba Gaelic Church.