Ex-minister hits out at ‘outrageous’ plans to close church

Former minister Lily McKinnon with the big plans for the church which are now in tatters. 01_B21lily01

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By Hugh Boag

The last full-time minister at Lamlash Parish Church has heavily criticised plans to close the historic venue as ‘outrageous’.

The former Rev Lily McKinnon, who retired as parish minister two years ago, told the Banner: ‘I am deeply saddened and angry to hear of the presbytery’s draft plan to close Lamlash Church and hall.’

‘The church has well developed plans in place to become a community church, exactly what the Church of Scotland is committed to as part of its mission.’

Many of these plans would have already come to fruition had it not been for Mrs McKinnon’s illness and the subsequent pandemic.

The redevelopment proposals – which would have cost at least £80,000 – were drawn up by the Lamlash Church community focus group, chaired by Mrs McKinnon, and were already at an advanced stage with much of the funding secured.

But these now lie in tatters with the threat of closure hanging over the church, which first opened its doors for worship in 1886.

As revealed in last week’s Banner the Kirk plan is to close Lamlash Church along with Corrie and Kilmory, as part of a rationalisation plan, with the remaining churches combining into a joint congregation. Pirnmill Church would also close.

Two full-time ministers would be employed to run the four remaining churches – Brodick, Shiskine and Whiting Bay and Lochranza – one with pastoral duties and the other a ministry development worker.

The draft plan by the Ardrossan Presbytery will be discussed at its next meeting to be held in Beith on June 14, where it has emerged the Lamlash representatives will be given just three minutes to argue why their church should be saved.

Mrs McKinnon said: ‘Lamlash already fulfils much of the community outreach work the church is so keen on.

‘This plan is all about saving money and it is my personal view, and I mean no disrespect to any of the other churches, that Lamlash should be kept open and Brodick and Whiting Bay closed.

‘Before the pandemic Lamlash Church was part of the Church of Scotland Path of Renewal movement and was looking to become a community church, filling the gap left by no village hall or community centre.

‘Sadly, I was seriously ill and off work for over a year and the week I went back to work, the first lockdown came into being. Naturally the redevelopment plans had to go on the back burner.

‘We had contacted many groups about the plans – COAST, ACVS, Lamlash Improvements, Umbrella, arts groups etc – and had 100 per cent support.’

The proposals for the redevelopment included new heating and a redesign of the church, including the removal of some pews, to allow more flexible use during the week. And £52,000 was available to the church for the new heating.

It was also believed it could secure £10,000 in funding from an Investing in Ideas Lottery grant.

Other proposals included better use of the grounds, to include a sensory garden, a new hall entrance and a glass corridor linking the church to the hall – all of which had been costed and was being supported by the Kirk’s Committee on Church Art and Architecture (CARTA). Ardrossan Presbytery was also being kept informed of the plans.

Lamlash church hall is already one of the most used church halls on the island with a wide range of community groups using the venue.

One of the most innovative was the Music Matters events for dementia suffers which Mrs McKinnon brought to the island and it is now seen as a model for resources elsewhere.

In its submission to the church, the Kirk Session stated: ‘We see a tremendous opportunity to create a new and exciting future for Lamlash Church.

‘We envisage a new type of church with substantial and significant community presence: at the heart of the community with the community at its heart. We seek advice and support from CARTA at this initial stage.

‘We accept that some of the challenges we face are significant and that our ambition has to be realistic, but we see increased activity and funding opportunities within the island context.

‘Altogether, we aim to generate increased activity and income levels to enable a church with a strong sense of its place in the community and thereby maintain a viable future.’

  • Mrs McKinnon was interviewed as a private individual and her views do not necessarily represent those of the Lamlash Church Kirk Session or the congregation.