THE link between Helensburgh Parish Church and its counterpart in Rhu and Shandon was formally severed at the weekend.

The move comes after the congregations of both churches voted last month to bring the link to an end after eight years.

Under a ‘mission plan’ prepared by Clyde Presbytery, the Church of Scotland’s administrative body for the area, Rhu and Shandon will instead be linked with the churches in Luss and Arrochar.

The mission plan, which was published in March, is aimed at addressing declining numbers of worshippers and ministers across the Presbytery area – not solely in Helensburgh and Lomond.

The plan said that breaking the link between the congregations in Helensburgh and Rhu should be done “at the earliest opportunity” to allow Helensburgh Parish Church to call a new minister.

The church in town has been without a minister since the Rev David T. Young left the linked congregations in February 2022 to take up a new post as chaplain with the RAF.

Under the terms of the linkage, which took effect in 2015, the churches shared a ministry team but were otherwise independent, controlling their own property and funds.

Members of both congregations voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ‘basis of severance’ plan last month.

The Presbytery's mission plan said the congregation at Rhu and Shandon had viewed the linkage as a "marriage of convenience", and felt that they would be better suited working closer with congregations in the rural areas to the north and west of Helensburgh.

A spokesperson for Rhu and Shandon Parish Church said: “The Clyde Presbytery Mission Plan, that was approved earlier this year, heralded considerable changes for churches in the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Helensburgh Parish ChurchHelensburgh Parish Church (Image: Helen Sadie)

“The plan is now in the first stages of its implementation phase. 

“It included a proposal that the churches in Arrochar, Luss, and Rhu & Shandon would work together to create a union of three churches.

“To allow this to proceed, it was recognised that the current linkage between Helensburgh Parish Church and Rhu & Shandon Parish Church would need to be severed.”

The Kirk Session at Rhu and Shandon will now begin working with their counterparts in Luss and Arrochar towards a formal union, and Helensburgh can now begin the process of calling a new minister.

The mission plan also said the Kirk Sessions at Craigrownie Parish Church in Cove, St Modan’s in Rosneath, and Garelochhead Parish Church – collectively known as the Lochside Churches - should be merged into one, though this had already been agreed by all three before the plan was published.

The Lochside Churches, which also employ a full-time family worker in the area with the Presbytery’s support, will have a full-time minister.

The plan also recommended that Cardross Parish Church should retain its current position of having a 0.7 FTE (full-time equivalent) minister – though it added 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”.

The Clyde Presbytery, which covers West Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde as well as Helensburgh and Lomond, said its mission plan aimed to reduce the number of ministers across the area from 60 to 40.