Scotland could learn from isles congregations, says Kirk Moderator

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland has heaped praise on the way congregations have dealt with a need to consolidate kirks.

The Rt Rev Susan Brown says other churches in Scotland could learn much from the way in which Shetland has handled the problem.

It comes after plans emerged to close 20 Church of Scotland buildings due to rising costs and falling congregations.

Two churches, Tingwall and Fetlar, subsequently appealed against the plans.

Mrs Brown said: “The courageous thing about Shetland is they are taking a grip of it and trying to do something about it that is positive and creative.

“It sounds negative when you say you’re closing churches, but the way their approaching it is absolutely brilliant.

“It’s about how to maximise the use of ministry and encouraging the ministry of all believers, really, to use their gifts – and doing it in a way that is amazingly creative, and sustainable.”

She added: “What I’ve learned is that although the church is smaller in number, the amount that the church is doing has never been so great as it is right now, in terms of trying to serve their communities in quiet but faithful ways.

“In some absolutely extraordinary ways they are doing it – from opening foodbanks to feeding children during school holidays; to providing lunch clubs; dementia-friendly cafes; places for parents of kids with autism to relax because they can’t often in regular coffee shops; cafes that employ people with mental health issues. You name it the church is actually doing.

“The more I hear of what the church is doing, the more I see of it, the more I realise that if we weren’t actually doing this Scotland as a nation would be a much more scary place for a lot of people.”

Mrs Brown was talking ahead of a Palm procession around the Knab in Lerwick to St Columba’s Church, where she is due to preach the Palm Sunday service.

A Shetland Pony – which Mrs Brown jokingly said would be “disguised as a donkey” – will be leading the procession, to signify the Easter story where Jesus enters into Jerusalem.

“The fantastic thing about this weekend is that all the churches are coming together and celebrating Palm Sunday.

“If you’re talking about pain – this is a week in the Christian year in which God himself faces absolute pain for the sake of a better future.”

Mrs Brown is well known as the long-standing minister at Dornoch Cathedral.

In December 2000 she married Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and baptised their son, Rocco.

But she says younger people today are more interested in the fact she presided over the wedding of Elon Musk – the name behind Tesla cars, among other things – to actress Talulah Riley.

“For younger people, it’s the fact I married Elon Musk that’s important.”


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