'The wrong decision' - Outrage as Church of Scotland plans to close place of worship

A Dumfries and Galloway congregation is fighting plans over a controversial decision that will see a church's doors permanently closed.

Southwick Church, near Dumfries, is set to close in 2027 as part of plans by the Church of Scotland.

The Church of Scotland state that they are "facing the double difficulty of decreasing numbers of both ministers and congregational members."

Mark Jardine the Deputy Lord Lieutenant for The Stewartry, said: “The church is in good condition and there is a great congregation.

"I think this one should be spared but I do feel sorry for the Church of Scotland, they have got some difficult decisions to make, but this is the wrong decision here."

Rev John Murdoch believes Southwick Church should remain open. Credit: ITV

The news of the closure has been met with consternation amongst those who worship here and use its facilities.

Ruth Jardine, said: “I think a proper consultation process needs to happen. It seems that the church has not been down to meet with the people."

Although Southwick Church is set to close in three years time, the Church of Scotland has allowed for annual reviews of the decision.

Rev John Murdoch, Minister Southwick Church, said: “Having been in Perth where there are a large number of Church of Scotland buildings, the idea of consolidation in a city centre is sensible.

"When churches are up to nine miles apart you need this place of worship, particularly as the local school is closing."

In a statement, Christine Murray, Presbytery Clerk of the Presbytery of the South West, said: “The Church of Scotland, in common with other denominations, is facing the double difficulty of decreasing numbers of both ministers and congregational members.

“We are aware of the close emotional ties which people have with their local church and we share in the sadness felt when decisions are made to release church buildings, but we believe radical reform is necessary to allow us to flourish in the future.

“Strong and effective mission, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable people in society, is at the heart of what the church is about and this work is not dependent on buildings.

“In this particular case, the South West Presbytery undertook the preparation of a new Presbytery Mission Plan, as it was required to do by an Act of the General Assembly.

"Following the circulation of draft proposals representatives of every congregation affected, including Southwick, were invited to meet with members of the Planning Committee in Dumfries.

Southwick Church is at the centre of a controversial decision that will see it closed. Credit: ITV

"This was an opportunity to discuss the draft recommendations and advance arguments as to why the proposals should be re-examined.

“Once the draft was finalised the Mission Plan was discussed and voted on by Presbytery, and, again, members of the congregations, including Southwick, were invited to that meeting in order to present the case for their building being retained.

“Following the decision being taken to approve the new mission plan and close this church there was then an opportunity for the matter to be reviewed.

"Southwick applied for such a review, and submitted their arguments to the committee, which is independent of the South West Presbytery.

"The review application was unsuccessful, and the decision of the presbytery to close this building in 2027 was upheld."

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