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The oldest church in Scotland is closed down due to budget cuts

The Church of Scotland decided to close down the oldest kirk in Scotland, built in 1140. Members of the congregation expressed their disappointment, as now they have to travel around 20 miles to Elgin parish church for worship.

Birnie Kirk, the small church on the southern outskirts of Elgin, is one of Scotland’s oldest places of worship that has been in continuous use. The other churches from the period are in ruins. Historic Environment Scotland recognised it as a listed monument, referring to the building as of “national importance”. 

Despite its remarkable history and significance, the Church of Scotland chose to close the church due to falling congregation numbers and fewer ministers in training. The decision has upset most Christians. 

A Church elder, 68-year-old Gill Garrow, said the church’s closing is a disgrace and authorities have “no respect for country folk.”

Elder Ann Stronach said: “It’s not just a religious building; it’s a place full of history and architecture. It’s very simple on the outside, but it’s beautiful on the inside. If it gets closed up, it will just end up becoming a ruin, like a lot of other churches from the same time.”

The Church of Scotland spokesperson released a statement:

“While Sunday’s service was the last regular weekly service that will take place at Birnie Church, the building will continue to be maintained by the Kirk session pending its release. This will allow for the possibility of occasional use, such as for funerals or weddings. There is also an opportunity to organise worship in the Birnie Kirk hall as part of the agreed basis of the union. However, Birnie Church is still scheduled to be released from Church of Scotland ownership by the end of August 2027. Birnie and the joint charge of Plus Carden will unite with Elgin High, Elgin St. Giles’ and St. Columba’s South as a single parish to allow us to continue to serve the people of the community in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and offering practical support while making the best use of our resources in increasingly challenging times. The union was voted for overwhelmingly by each of the congregations and will be formally established on 1st December 2023. We are aware of the close emotional ties people and their communities have with their local church, and we share in the sadness felt when a church is released. The closure of much-loved places of worship is a grief that Church of Scotland ministers, elders, members, and staff all bear. However, we do believe radical reform is necessary if we are to address the challenges of falling minister numbers, a decline in membership and a reduction in income both nationally and locally and as part of that process, we recognise the need to reduce the number of buildings we own which has become unsustainable for our needs.”



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