The Church of Scotland has been accused of having no respect for people living in rural communities after the country's oldest church was closed.
900 year old Birnie Kirk in Moray held its last service on Sunday and now parishioners say they will have to travel around 20 miles to Elgin parish church to worship.
68 year old Gill Garrow, a Kirk elder, told the Telegraph she was “upset” by the Church of Scotland’s decision and accused officials of having “no respect for country folk”.
In a statement to Premier a Church of Scotland spokesman said:
“While Sunday’s service was the last regular weekly service which will take place at Birnie Church, the building will continue to be maintained by the kirk session pending its release. This will allow for the possibility of occasional use, such as for funerals or weddings.
“There is also an opportunity to organise worship in the Birnie Kirk hall as part of the agreed basis of union. However, Birnie Church is still on schedule to be released from Church of Scotland ownership by the end of August 2027. Birnie and the joint charge of Plus Carden will unite with Elgin High, Elgin St. Giles’ and St. Columba’s South as single parish to allow us to continue to serve the people of the community in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and offering practical support, while making the best use of our resources in increasingly challenging times.
“The union was voted for overwhelmingly by each of the congregations and will be formerly established on 1st December 2023. We are aware of the close emotional ties which people and their communities have with their local church, and we share in the sadness felt when a church is released.
“Closure of much-loved places of worship is a grief Church of Scotland ministers, elders, members and staff all bear. However we do believe radical reform is necessary if we are to address the challenges of falling minister numbers, a decline in membership and a reduction in income both nationally and locally and as part of that process we recognise the need to reduce the number of buildings we own which has become unsustainable for our needs.”