THE Church of Scotland Presbytery Mission Plan has already rocked several congregations across Ayrshire.

Our sister paper the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald reported last month how the plans would lead to the closure of six churches across the Ardrossan Presbytery area.

The properties will be closing due to “a surplus of buildings” described in the plan, and the closures will lead to the union of several congregations in the areas.

The decision on which buildings should be closed was based in conjunction with ‘asset management building audits’ (AMBAs) carried out on each church.

This mission plan in Ardrossan is part of a wider plan which will see them join with five other Presbyteries to create the Presbytery of the South West Scotland in September 2022.

One of these other Presbyteries is that of Irvine and Kilmarnock - so begs the question whether we will see similar closures in Irvine and Stewarton.

The Times has accessed information, which clarifies the position at this current time. It should be noted that the Irvine/Kilmarnock Presbytery plan is currently in the draft stages, therefore any changes have not been finalised.

From the information available to us, it appears that one church building in Stewarton, which dates back to the late 1600s, has been earmarked for closure.

The draft Mission Plan indicates planned congregation unions, along with building categories (both category A and B). It also details how many ‘full time equivalent’ (FTE) ministers will be retained.

While Category A is to be retained beyond the five years from the date at which the Mission Plan is approved or annually reviewed, Category B buildings are to be sold, let or otherwise disposed of by a specified date.

In Stewarton, the union is John Knox and St. Columba’s is recommended. While the John Knox Church and hall and the hall at St. Columba’s are listed as category A, St. Columba’s Church building is noted as category B - meaning it is suggested that it is “disposed of”. The union would have one FTE minister.

In Irvine, the picture is, as of yet, not as clear. The suggestion is that six churches ( Fullarton, Girdle Toll, Mure Relief, Old, St. Andrew’s and Dreghorn and Springside would form one union with 2.5 FTE ministers.

The Times has been informed that: “The decision in relation to Irvine’s church buildings is to decide on which buildings to retain and release within the first two years of a union of the five existing charges, once vision and mission for the town has been worked out.

“The presbytery plan is to have 2.5 ministers to serve one parish church, which will have a number of centres of worship, work and witness across the town.”

At the present time, no Irvine church buildings will be closed, though a decision to do so may be reached in two years’ time. A decision could technically be reached that all will remain open.

This would, however, appear to be with the exception of St. Andrew’s, which has been closed since October 2020. Episcopal parishioners have moved to a sister church in Ardrossan since then, with Church of Scotland worshippers moved to Girdle Toll.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The presbyteries of Ayr, Ardrossan and Irvine and Kilmarnock are in the process of drawing up mission plans which will determine how limited resources are allocated to congregations over a five-year period.

“It is a roadmap to the future because change is necessary in order to deliver sustainable and realistic new expressions of ministry and ensure well equipped spaces are in the right places to effectively serve the people in our communities.

“The objective is to determine whether buildings are relevant for a congregation’s missional role and whether it is appropriate to spend local and/or central resources on introducing or improving standards. No final decisions have been taken.

“Draft mission plans must be agreed by presbyteries, the Faith Nurture Forum and the General Trustees by December 31, 2022.”