Local newspapers needed more than ever, says Fort minister

Easter Window in the Duncansburgh Macintiosh Church. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F15 Rev Baxter and window 01
Rev Richard Baxter is minister of Duncansburgh Macintiosh Church. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F15 Rev Baxter and window 01

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Fort William minister, Reverend Richard Baxter, says local newspapers such as the Lochaber Times are vital sources of information and will be needed more than ever as the coronavirus lockdown is lifted.

Rev Baxter was speaking after former Church of England PR chief Peter Crumpler issued a public appeal recently urged Christians to buy their local newspaper – warning them they are in danger of losing their ‘best friends in the media’ if titles close.

Writing for Christian Today, Mr Crumpler urged churchgoers to support local newspapers which he said were ‘teetering on the brink of extinction’ due to the virus outbreak.

Asked if his parishioners were managing to keep informed of local news events during the lockdown restrictions, Rev Baxter, minister at Duncansburgh MacIntosh Church in Fort William, told the Lochaber Times he had not seen the story about Mr Crumpler’s appeal.

‘But  I am happy to be quoted endorsing that because we will all keep needing local information as the lockdown is lifted,’ said Rev Baxter. ‘We can’t risk losing local papers as they are a vital community resource.’

Asked how the initiative of holding church services and funerals online was progressing, Rev Baxter said things were going as well as they can.

‘ We’re still seeing about twice as many people online as we used to see in person, local and from various countries – Canada, USA, Malawi, Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand spring to mind,’ he told us.

‘I’ve been doing video funerals to go alongside the graveside services. My last three funerals had a combined total of about 50 people in person and over 1000 online all told.

‘I’ve also done an online primary assembly, service for people in homes and hospitals and I’m working on some stories for primary RME classes. The Church of Scotland just installed a new moderator online, and also had a great online celebration of church life which lots of local people linked into.

‘We also put out a daily email thought for the day and we’re soon going to send out another set of home worship resources by post and email.

‘Anyone who wants it who didn’t get previous versions can email me at rbaxter@churchofscotland or send me a note.’