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By Hugh Boag
The bells have tolled for Lamlash Parish Church when it was confirmed this week that the church and hall are to close by the end of 2023.
At a meeting of Ardrossan Presbytery on Tuesday the proposal, which will also see the closure of Corrie and Kilmory churches, was fully approved.
A delegation from Lamlash Church attended the presbytery meeting in Beith, where it was suggested they would have just three minutes to argue their case to save the church, but it appears their pleas fell on deaf ears.
It followed a consultation among kirk sessions of the Ardrossan Presbytery which was criticised for only lasting a matter of weeks.
The historic A-listed Church of Scotland building is one of the most easily identified on Arran.
It opened in 1886 – almost 136 years to the day – and its tower of nine Ellacombe bells may well be unique in Scotland.
The design of the bell tower is believed to have been based on St Marks Church tower in Venice, but the spire in Venice, although similar, is taller.
As well as the tower, the big concern is the loss of the church hall which is so well used by community groups, and discussions will now continue into what alternative arrangements can be made for them.
These groups include: toddlers, dancing, AA, SWI, coffee mornings, Memory Cafe, Music Matters, Skinnymalinks, Umbrella Group and many more.
There was genuine shock and anger among them, and in the village at large, when the closure was first announced and support was widespread for the church plea to presbytery, which has now been rejected.
Under the finalised plan four churches will remain open on Arran – Brodick, Lochranza, Shiskine and Whiting Bay – which will join into one parish with a single kirk session. The Tin Church at Pirnmill is also expected to close, but was not part of the approved plan.
There are presently no full time ministers on Arran with services being conducted by retired ministers, interim moderators and lay readers.
Two full-time ministry posts will now be created – a minister of word and sacrament and a ministry development staff worker – to work across the island.
A Church of Scotland spokeswoman said: ‘Following consultation with kirk sessions, including those across Arran, the Ardrossan Presbytery Mission Plan was fully approved at a presbytery meeting held on June 14.
‘We believe this plan will ensure the future of Church of Scotland ministry across the island.
‘Within the plan, Lamlash, Corrie and Kilmory church buildings are earmarked for closure by the end of 2023.
‘Brodick St Bride’s; St Bride’s Church, Lochranza; St Molio’s Church, Shiskine; and Whiting Bay and Kildonan church buildings will remain open for worship, with Arran’s seven existing congregations uniting to form one large congregation.
‘One parish will allow a united voice on Arran and allow the church to combine resources.
‘The plan will now be submitted for final approval by the Church of Scotland’s Faith Nurture Forum and the General Trustees.’