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“THE FUTURE of a Glasgow church, home to Scotland’s most ancient Christian sculptures, is in doubt after a decision by church officials to close its doors.

Govan Old Parish Church, which was built in 1888, stands on a religious site dating back to the sixth century. However, the Church of Scotland’s decision to “rationalise its properties” has forced the congregation to amalgamate with Govan New Church in the autumn.

A former minister of the church, the Reverend Tom Davidson Kelly, described the move as “unforgivable”.”

What do you think?

Commenter Ted Harvie writes:-

The church building is A- listed on the basis of its worth to Scottish cultural and history… the burden of upkeep should not then just be dumped on an institution like the Church of Scotland – and that is a view from a confirmed secularist.

Contribute to the Sunday Herald debate…

Outcry over move to close sixth-century church

Govan Old Parish subject to ‘unforgivable’ decision by Maxwell MacLeod and Rachelle Money

THE FUTURE of a Glasgow church, home to Scotland’s most ancient Christian sculptures, is in doubt after a decision by church officials to close its doors.

Govan Old Parish Church, which was built in 1888, stands on a religious site dating back to the sixth century. However, the Church of Scotland’s decision to “rationalise its properties” has forced the congregation to amalgamate with Govan New Church in the autumn.

A former minister of the church, the Reverend Tom Davidson Kelly, described the move as “unforgivable”.

He said Govan Old Parish Church was “possibly the most significant church in Glasgow, including the Cathedral,” and claimed the building was being used as a centre of worship before the formation of Scotland as a nation.

Davidson Kelly went on to attack the decision made by the Church of Scotland’s arbitration panel last week.

He said: “I can think of no country in Europe where a church community would willingly give up a sixth-century place of burial, worship and service. I consider the decision to be unprincipled, illogical, indefensible and unforgivable.”

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland defended the decision, stating the church had been left with “more buildings than we require”.

“Every recent General Assembly has endorsed the view that the Church should rationalise its properties because, in addition to having a large number of churches, many of these are expensive to maintain and a number no longer fit the purposes of their local congregations”, he said.

The current minister of Govan Old Parish, the Reverend Dr Norman Shanks is calling on his parishioners to rally round and back any initiative to ensure a new use for the building, although he remained hopeful the building will still be able to be used as a centre for worship in the future.

Gehan Macleod, widow of GalGael galley builder Colin Macleod, whose late husband was buried in the church before a crowd of 600 mourners said: “This is a tragedy. Govan needs a spiritual centre, you can’t build a community around a collection of steel and glass boxes with people watching television inside them.”

The A-listed church has 31 pre-Christian and Christian sculptured stones, including five hogback monuments dating back to the ninth and 10th centuries, which are thought to have been originally used as grave markers. These sculptures represent one of the largest collections of early medieval stones in Scotland.

Stephen Driscoll, professor of archaeology at Glasgow University, described the decision as “bizarre”, adding: “I find it extraordinary that the Church of Scotland can turn its back on a building that has been the cultural centre of Govan for 1500 years.”

Pat Cassidy, managing director of Govan Workspace, said: “Govan Old is the oldest known Christian site in Glasgow and has to be protected. It’s up there with Iona, and it has to be protected as well.”

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: “Govan Old Parish Church is A-listed, meaning it is of national importance, and any alterations affecting the character of the building would require the consent of the local authority and Historic Scotland.”

A further concern is the fact that there is no option to appeal the Church of Scotland’s decision.

A Church spokesman explained: “When an arbitration committee is appointed, it will consider all of the pertinent factors, taking advice from independent surveyors, Historic Scotland, and other such outside bodies.

“Sadly, it is rarely possible to please everyone in situations like this. There is no right of appeal available, as lengthy disputes on issues of congregational union would be far more damaging to the work of the local church than the initial decision of the committee.”

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6 thoughts on “Storm Of Protest Over Attempt To Close Govan Old Parish Kirk

  1. The congregations of Glasgow Cathedral, Paisley Abbey and St Giles in Edinburgh should take note. Their churches will also soon become surplus to requirement in the fast declining Kirk.

    Too many buildings – or not enough people?

    The alienation of the people of Scotland from the Kirk continues unabated.

    • hello
      are u the minster who did marriages at gretna green re 2000, 2001
      god bless
      dr mrs banda

  2. My husband ,Dave and I recently moved to North Yorkshire, having lived in Liverpool ,North Wales, Worcester, ST.ALBANS, Central Scotland, Japan, South Lincolnshire .

    In the U.K.,Church towers,and church steeples abound as well as chapels, large and small and different kinds of church buildings. In Holyhead, Anglesey, it seemed like churches and chapels were everywhere.I’m sure you can think of other places like that. The buildings themselves are so much part of our landscape .Looking from above Stamford in LIncolnshire,I remember one was suprised at the number of church steeples and church towers in that small town.

    In quite remote places ,one finds tiny churches and chapels, some looking neglected and forgotten. A favourite church of mine to visit years ago, was a few miles from Bromyard ,Worcestershire, amidst lovely countryside and one walked through a meadow to reach it.It was always open when I visited. Now ,that steeple-house is someone’s home. Many churches and chapels are now lived in or used as warehouses,garages,shops etc.etc.

    I have to say ,I love looking at these older buildings, deserted or otherwise. So many stand there as a reminder of the nation we live in.( In Japan ,what one saw was instead temples and shrines..one knew it was not the U.K. just from that !) I have not yet been to Ireland but I guess it is the same as places in England, Scotland and Wales that I have visited. Now we find more and more mosques appearing on our city sky-lines,telling us that things are changing.

    But what has this to do with a living Christianity which recognizes that the true church is not a building but a body of people about which the bible teaches that God will” build” .That body is His church. (It is of course His and not man’s church.Perhaps that is where things have often gone wrong in people’s thinking and dealing. )

    The old stones or bricks, the monuments and history of church buildings can remind us that the church has a long history, with both good and bad elements.
    A little more up-to-date, I knew a Pastor Ian Meredith who ran a church-assembly in a school building .I wonder if he felt that the building restricted people less in terms of expression than a “tailor-made” old church building did.I think he once commented to me on church buildings being not much used when assemblies like his own had to meet in other places like schools .

    ( If you happen to know him, pass this onto him please .)

    Finally, we have a “tin” Catholic church building for sale in our little Yorkshire town. It is stipulated that its use is to be for the community .Now I see there an opportunity . Too few people ? Or is it that labourers are needed ? What do you think? Thankyou for reading this. I would be glad of your reply.

    “Labourers wanted in MASHAM, North Yorkshire.”

    God bless you.

    Yours in Christ, Mandy Harris.

  3. Mandy
    I saw your pretty little tin & wood panelled church which has come up for sale last weekend
    it is very pretty, and from what I could see of the interior, it looks like it is just as pretty on the inside.
    I live in one similar near York. It too was put up for community use but failed to get any takers, mainly due to the upkeep needed with a timber-framed structure such as this.
    Would you like to contact me to discuss this further. Perhaps I could also send pictures of ours before & after?
    kind regards
    Jonathan Mercer

  4. Outstanding Article , I thought it was great

    I look ahead to more interesting postings like this one. Does This Blog have a newsletter I can subscribe to for fresh posts?

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