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Ardchattan Kirk has shut after 182 years of worship but there is a ‘hope and a prayer’ it will come back as a community hub.
The parish church on the shores of Loch Etive was packed for its final communion and special service marking its closure on January 27 and now that it has been locked up for the first time in its long history, plans could be getting under way for a possible community buy-out.
The church at Achnaba had to shut because of its straitened financial circumstances after a review by The Church of Scotland.
Church elder John Campbell said: ‘The hope and prayer is that we might get enough funds together to keep the building in the community but we couldn’t start on an action plan for a community buy out until it shut. We need to look at how we would bring revenue in if we did manage to buy it. There would need to be a lot of fundraising and set up a special group although there is already a group looking at buying out the old Bonawe school for the community. Perhaps the two can work together.
‘The other possibility is that another church buys it. That would be a major boost and perhaps we could still use it for our family services such as christenings, funerals and weddings,’ added Mr Campbell who was christened there.
Elders from the church are also looking for a site nearby for a new commemorative memorial remembering First and Second World Wars. The current brass plaque and framed paper memorials are now locked inside the church.
‘Neither of them can go outside so we need to get a new war memorial and to do that quite soon. We don’t want to be barring people from paying their respects at them,’ said Mr Campbell.
Other church elder May Macdonald, who was at the last service and whose father-in-law was a previous minister there, said: ‘Sadly the closure was on the cards for a long time. The numbers at our services were dwindling but it was almost full for its final swan song. It’s to be sold and according to the people at the presbytery that won’t be a problem. I hope John’s plans come to fruition but it would need a lot of work. It has damp and the prevailing wind blows on it. We are not the only ones to have closed a church and sadly I fear we will not be the last. If we can now fill our other church at St Modan’s in Benderloch every Sunday then that will be to the good of the community.’
Donnie Campbell, also an elder, is worried St Modan’s will not be big enough to cope with some services, especially funerals and said parking was ‘inadequate’.
He also said because of its remote location, Ardchattan Kirk also surrounded by a graveyard, would sell for much less than St Modan’s.
‘I think it’s a great shame. It’s a unique building that can take greater numbers than St Modan’s. However, the decision has been made. It’s a personal loss to me and the wider community,’ he added.
At full capacity Ardchattan Kirk could seat 420 people.
Ardchattan community councillor Breege Smyth, who is instrumental in the Ardchattan School take-over project, hopes a group will be formed to take forward the idea of a community buy out and said maybe a development trust could then be set up for the school and church to work together.
‘What the church has, the school does not. There’s not a conflict between the two. It has a big space that could be used for multi-denominational worship or a museum to house the Ardchattan archives. We could complement each other.’
A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: ‘The Ardchattan congregation owns two church buildings and has decided to keep St Modan’s church in Benderloch and to sell the Ardchattan building. The Presbytery of Argyll has agreed to this plan and the building will be listed for sale soon. In addition, the congregation has agreed to seek a link with the congregation of Connel. The Presbytery will consider their request in March.’