SIGNIFICANT changes are planned for the future of Church of Scotland congregations across Helensburgh and Lomond.

Helensburgh has been without a minister for more than a year – and will now be reduced to having just one.

And Helensburgh will be split from Rhu and Shandon, who will now be grouped with the congregations in Arrochar and Luss, under the plans published last week by Clyde Presbytery, the Kirk’s administrative body for Helensburgh and Lomond, West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

Some churches in other areas are likely to close and ministerial posts set to be reduced across the west of Scotland under proposals to be considered on March 18.

The Clyde Presbytery is aiming to reduce the number of ministers from 60 to 40.

Local ministers declined to comment ahead of the proposals being formally adopted next week.

Helensburgh Parish Church has been the only Church of Scotland congregation in the town since 2015 and is currently linked with Rhu and Shandon Parish Church, sharing a team until Rev David Young left in February 2022 to take up a new role as chaplain to the Royal Air Force and Rev Tina Kemp retired. The church had 731 members in 2021.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Rhu and Shandon Parish ChurchRhu and Shandon Parish Church (Image: Kevin McDonald)

The Presbytery report’s authors state: “Helensburgh Parish Church have dedicated a lot of energy and resources into providing an array of opportunities to welcome people into their very impressive suite of buildings.

“With committed teams and staff, Helensburgh offer a plethora of worship styles, outreach initiatives and opportunities for Christian education as well as a variety of social/fundraising events.

“In the course our discussions, it was brought to our attention that Rhu and Shandon saw the linkage with Helensburgh more as ‘a marriage of convenience’ and felt that they would be better suited working closer with the Lochside congregations.

“It is for this reason that an alternative configuration has been explored.”

Cardross’s congregation of 333 was praised for its links with local schools, community groups and its concern for the community and the planet.

The report said: “It was very clear from our conversations that the minister of Cardross offers a lot more than the time to be expected of a 0.7 FTE and is happy to do so.

“We were pleased to note that this is recognised and greatly appreciated by Cardross office bearers.

“The congregation of Cardross acknowledge humbly recognise that there is always work to be done, but they have clearly demonstrated a willingness and determination to grow Christ’s Kingdom in this locale.”

Helensburgh Advertiser: Cardross Parish ChurchCardross Parish Church (Image: Newsquest)

The report concluded Cardross should keep its current almost full-time post but that Helensburgh is reduced from two to one full-time position.

They state: “While there will be an understandable disappointment in the reduction of ministry allocation from two to one in Helensburgh, we have every confidence that locally appointed and financed staffing would be possible if required.

“We also hope that the opportunity to ‘focus’ on Helensburgh without the additional administration and parish commitments of a linkage will counter some of this disappointment.

“To allow Helensburgh to proceed with calling a minister, the committee recognises that the link between Helensburgh and Rhu and Shandon will need to be severed. This will take place at the earliest opportunity.”

Arrochar, Luss, and Rhu and Shandon together cover almost 118 square miles and the Church of Scotland says the three congregations should “work towards a union” and have a part-time minister.

The church said the union will need to allow for the “village identities to be maintained”.

Their proposals state: “We feel that this is an opportunity to undertake mission across three communities with a collective will to enter into a new future.

“With close relationships to local schools, we feel that a ‘critical mass’ amongst the three congregations as well as the resources available will allow for many new mission initiatives to bud and bloom.”

The Luss manse, glebe and halls would be sold and proceeds go towards a new manse for the united congregation. And spare cash would be used for the Luss Sanctuary to be made more accessible and a more flexible space.

The area of almost 29 square miles covered by the Craigrownie, Garelochhead and Rosneath communities – the Lochside Churches – will see a merger of three Kirk Sessions into one.

All three have agreed this already, though building work in Garelochhead is needed before the union is finished.

They will have a full-time minister. The congregations, with Presbytery support, employ a full-time family worker for the area.