Kirk gives its blessing to sale of St George’s

The former St George's West church
The former St George's West church
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THE Church of Scotland has given the go-ahead for the sale of one of its most famous buildings.

The former St George’s West Church in Edinburgh’s Shandwick Place is set to be bought by Charlotte Baptist Chapel for £1.5 million.

The Evening News revealed last year that talks on the sale were under way following the merger between St George’s West and St Andrew’s & St George’s Church in George Street.

Now the Kirk’s Edinburgh presbytery has given its approval. The Church of Scotland general trustees are expected to add their backing.And if members of Charlotte Baptist Chapel can find the money and decide to go ahead with the purchase, the building could be handed over in January next year.

Charlotte Chapel says its present building in Rose Street – where it has been based for nearly 200 years – is no longer big enough for the size of congregation and all its activities.

Members are being asked to pledge money towards the purchase price of the Shandwick Place church, and a final decision on whether to go ahead will be made by a church meeting in June.

The Rev Paul Rees, senior pastor at Charlotte Chapel, said: “I am excited about this potential next step for Charlotte Chapel and the support which has so clearly been shown by the elders and membership.”

Plans were being developed to turn the Shandwick Place building into a community hub run as a charitable trust.

But the Rev Ian Gilmour, minister of the merged Church of Scotland congregation, now known as St Andrew’s & St George’s West, said the majority felt continuing its use as a church building was the right thing to do.

St George’s West was known as the Church of Scotland’s premier “preaching station” in the 1950s.

Mr Gilmour said: “There is a sadness to leaving behind one of the icons of Scottish presbyterianism, which had some fantastic ministers.”

But the united congregation will return to Shandwick Place for six months from May this year while a major refurbishment is carried out in its George Street building. Mr Gilmour said it would allow for a celebration of the contribution St George’s West had made.

The building is currently home to the Olive Tree Cafe and the Hadeel Fairtrade shop, and provides offices for a dozen charities as well as being a well-know Fringe venue.

Mr Gilmour said: “Everybody knows the timescale and that we won’t know exactly where we are until mid-June.

“We would anticipate the building would cease to be ours by the end of this year and the staff, volunteers, charities and businesses would have to finish up by then.”

He said the church would offer any assistance it could to help find them alternative places and work.