The Church of Scotland is changing
Across Scotland the number of people attending church services is diminishing and average ages of most congregations are increasing. Whilst undoubtedly a few churches are buoyant and seeing rising attendance numbers and levels of engagement these are the exception and, on average, Church of Scotland attendance is declining. Church finances are struggling with twin challenges of reduced income and the reality of a high number of very old church buildings which are expensive to maintain and operate. The number of ministers is also falling significantly.
Changing attitudes to Sunday Worship
How people see the established Church and the historical ways of worship is fast changing. Many church services now happen during the week; are watched on-line or take place in locations and buildings which are not traditional church buildings. Churches are also increasingly being used for other purposes such as community activities or charity purposes as well as social and entertainment events. Ettrick and Yarrow Churches already publish regular services on its own YouTube channel. Many people have simply stopped coming to church to worship on a regular basis. In reality they often only enter a church building for ‘life occasional events’ such as christenings, weddings or funerals or particular services such as Easter or Christmas.
This change is happening now; the change is accelerating. It now demands a response from the Church leadership and local congregations and communities in which our churches exist and which they seek to serve.
The 2021 General Assembly endorsed a review of all church congregations, their mission plans and their buildings. This activity has been taking place over recent months and the draft plans are being published by local Presbyteries. The Peebles and Melrose Presbytery (which includes Selkirk, Ashkirk, Ettrick and Yarrow) has recently published its draft plan. It includes an assessment and score of all church buildings within its area. The buildings were initially assessed by local congregations against a number of factors laid out by the Church of Scotland General Trustees who subsequently allocated scores to these locally produced assessments. The method of scoring by the General Trustees has not been made clear. Peebles and Melrose Presbytery then took these scores into account before determining the final rating for each building. This draft plan was approved by Peebles and Melrose Presbytery on 16th November and is now being submitted to Church of Scotland for final agreement.
Reduction in the number of Church Buildings
The draft plan proposesthat the Church of Scotland will need to close many church buildings in the coming years – indeed this process has already started in parts of Scotland. Some buildings will close completely; others will be offered for sale. Some buildings might be purchased by local communities or interested groups. Following any sale to a new owner some could be re-purposed into ‘celebration church buildings’ which, although no longer part of the Church of Scotland, could be used for certain ‘life events’. Worship may increasingly move into other locations such as community centres, schools or village halls. This does not mean the end of local church congregations although some structures may continue to change and evolve. More congregations are likely to come together and form ‘unions’ with other congregations.
What does this mean for Ettrick and Yarrow?
For Ettrick and Yarrow, currently linked with Ashkirk and Selkirk congregations, the plan from the General Trustees and the Peebles and Melrose Presbytery will mean significant change. Ettrick and Yarrow Parish currently has three buildings where it holds regular worship services; Ettrick (which is used in spring-autumn and is used only for Private Prayer sessions during the winter months), Kirkhope (Ettrickbridge) and Yarrow. It is proposed that two buildings are closed and only one church building is retained. It has been suggested that only Kirkhope building would be retained. It is important to note that this is only a proposal at this stage. However, the practical reality is we can no longer afford to run three church buildings so some change is inevitable. Any changes to our Ettrick and Yarrow Church buildings will happen over the next few years – the precise timings have yet to be agreed although the guidance is ‘within five years’. There will not be any immediate closures. The Kirk Session of Ettrick and Yarrow are carefully considering the implications of this plan including what other options exist. A key part of this consideration will be consulting with our regular worshiping congregation, our broader membership and the wider Valley communities.
We recognise that the role of the traditional Church has changed and is continuing to change. Whilst numbers attending our own services are relatively steady, and actually have been rising in recent months, they are still a fraction of what they would have traditionally been. We firmly believe that the Ettrick and Yarrow Churches still hold a place in the hearts and minds of many people in our communities, so we want to hear from everyone - whether you attend church regularly or not. We are interested in views and responses to the following points:
Please email these to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to us at The Birks, Kirkhope, Ettrickbridge, Selkirk TD7 5JW. We may decide to hold public meetings for further discussion in due course and, if these take place, we will publicise these so you can attend and give your views and ideas in person
To be the People of God in the Valleys
Worshiping God Together
Serving our Communities
Giving our Talents
Growing in Faith
Loving our Neighbours
Church Service Schedule
27th Nov Kirkhope at 11.30am (communion)
4th Dec Yarrow at 11.30am
11th Dec Yarrow at 11.30am
18th Dec Kirkhope at 11.30
24th Dec Kirkhope at 6.00pm (Christingle)
You can watch services at our YouTube channel.
We post a service from one of our linked churches late afternoon every Sunday.
Just search for "Ashkirk Ettrick Yarrow Selkirk"