Edinburgh congregation loses battle with Church of Scotland authorities over shake-up

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Stockbridge Parish Church told to merge with congregations in Granton and Ferry Road

An Edinburgh congregation has lost its battle with the Church of Scotland authorities over its future in the massive shake-up of parishes being carried out across the country.

Under the Kirk's masterplan for Edinburgh, Stockbridge Parish Church is due to amalgamate with Granton Parish Church and Inverleith St Serf's Church in Ferry Road in a three-way union - though no decision has been made on the future of the buildings. The new united church - served by one minister and an outreach worker focused on new-build homes in the area - would then form a "parish grouping" with Wardie Parish Church - which would still have its own minister - with a view to "greater integration".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It's part of a huge reorganisation of Church of Scotland congregations sparked by a shortage of ministers, together with falling attendances and lower income. In Edinburgh, the number of ministers is being cut by 40 per cent. Stockbridge and the two congregations it is supposed to unite with are all currently without a minister.

But Stockbridge argued it made no sense for them to be merged with congregations which were so far away and said they would be "out on a limb" in the new set-up. A more natural link-up, they suggested, would be with either St Stephen's, Comely Bank, or St Andrew's & St George's West in George Street.

Stockbridge officially challenged the plan, drawn up by Edinburgh and West Lothian presbytery, but a panel from outside the area rejected the plea for a rethink.

The Rev John Munro, who was minster at Stockbridge from 1976 until 1992, has been back at the church for the past two years serving as the locum minister. He said: "Things are going well in Stockbrdge. It has never been explained to us rationally why we should be part of a grouping between the Forth and the Ferry Road."

Stockbridge Parish Church is supposed to unite with Granton Parish Church and Inverleith St Serf's Church on Ferry Road.Stockbridge Parish Church is supposed to unite with Granton Parish Church and Inverleith St Serf's Church on Ferry Road.
Stockbridge Parish Church is supposed to unite with Granton Parish Church and Inverleith St Serf's Church on Ferry Road.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And he addressed the issue in a sermon, describing Stockbridge Parish Church as the "heart and soul of Stockbrdge life for 200 years". He said: "We find ourselves in this situation, in which we are being asked to become part of a union of parishes and churches, with which I would suspect we have little if anything in common."

And he said the congregation's preferred option would be to combine with St Stephen's, Comely Bank, to the west or St Andrew's & St George's West in the New Town to the south. "It's not for nothing that, historically speaking, Stockbridge was known as the New Town village."

He said that, according to presbytery representatives, both these churches had said they were not interested in forming a union with Stockbridge.  "This, I believe, needs to be properly tested by the presbytery."

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said: "Stockbridge sought a review of the Presbytery Mission Plan via their kirk session on the process used by the presbytery. A review panel was convened and the outcome was that the process used by the presbytery was appropriate and the decision was upheld."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said said the three-way union between Granton, Inverleith St Serf’s and Stockbridge and then the parish grouping with Wardie would see "a pooling of resources that would allow mission to continue through the facilities offered in the buildings". And she highlighted, in particular, a shopfront which the Stockbridge congregation has on Raeburn Place.

The spokesperson added: "The presbytery has reviewed all parishes across Edinburgh and West Lothian as it seeks to continue and develop its work to the people in our area, making the best use of our human and building resources as the Church continues to re-form and realign its commitment to the communities we serve. This process is happening all over Scotland."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.