A CHURCH described as the “heart of Oxgangs” is to be sold under plans to merge its congregation with a neighbouring parish.
Falling congregation numbers and rising costs mean St John’s Church will join with Colinton Mains Parish from January 1.
Members will move down the street when it becomes the new Colinton Mains St John’s on Oxgangs Road North.
The decision has been met with “sadness and understanding” from both congregations.
Linda Stewart, 66, who has been a member of St John’s since she was eight years old, said it was a big loss to the Oxgangs community.
“I think it is difficult when you have been a member of a church for 50 years but I suppose we have to walk in faith together,” she said.
“The church has always been the hub of the community because back then there was no community centre, library, swimming pool or anything like that.
“It has been the making of a lot of people over the years but it’s a sign of the times, that a lot of people consider it their church but don’t go. In modern times people work on a Sunday and children play football, it’s just a changing society.
“It will be sad to see a building sold that holds so many memories for the people of Oxgangs.”
The church opened in 1956 and has been a community hub – where the likes of Cubs, Brownies, Guides, old people’s groups as well as the church congregation have met for more than half a century.
Rev Ian Goring, the interim minister at both churches, said the merger was reflective of what was happening in churches across Scotland.
He said: “All over Scotland there are churches that are uniting, that is the way it is for the church these days.
“It was decided that the two churches should unite and that was put to the congregations earlier this year.
“The decision was made that the building that is currently Colinton Mains should be the place of worship and will become the new Colinton Mains St John’s.
“It might not be one of the oldest churches but it has had an important impact on the lives of local people.
“I think a lot of people will be sad to see it go and wish it wasn’t going but I think they understand the realities of the Church of Scotland.
“They become like a family where everyone knows each other; to have to change that and break it up is very difficult.
“I think the hope with this new congregation is that it will be able to do more together and build a new identity to make us stronger.”
A last service will be held on Hogmanay before both churches unite at the Colinton Mains venue.
Colinton/Fairmilehead councillor Jason Rust, who represents Oxgangs, said the move represented the passing of a part of Oxgangs history, but welcomed the merger.
He said: “I was delighted to attend the Thanksgiving Service which saw people connected with the church through the decades as well as other local congregations come together.
“There is a wonderful history to St John’s and it has been very much associated with the local community for the past half century.
“Hopefully, the union with Colinton Mains will flourish and see a strengthened congregation.”