St Fillan’s: Congregation and campaigners still hope to save old church

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The old interior of St Fillan’s

The parish church of St Fillan in Aberdour, Fife, which dates back to 1123, could close in a controversial downsizing exercise by the Church of Scotland.

The plan aims to mitigate the crippling rising costs of running Kirk’s extensive real estate portfolio at a time when he struggles with declining incomes and falling congregations.

Kirk’s calculators came up with a formula to identify buildings that could be sold in a bid to reduce his holdings and generate a multi-million pound bailout.

Residents of Aberdour have been left in shock after the ‘miniature cathedral’ dubbed ‘one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Scotland’ was included on a list of 51 properties in Fife alone to be ‘sold, leased or otherwise transferred”.

They claim it is the victim of a flawed algorithm favoring modern buildings over the historic treasures that form the bedrock of their communities. Public meetings were held and over 150 letters of objection were submitted to Fife Rectory in opposition to the plan, branded an “act of cultural vandalism”. Fife Rectory has set up a Historic Churches Task Force to look again at the long-term viability of churches such as St Fillan’s and the 13th century Culross Abbey, which is also under threat.

The task force, led by University of St Andrews chaplain Dr Donald MacEwan, will report its findings to Fife Rectory, which has the power to overturn the previous designation.

Willie Crowe, Property Convener for St Fillan’s and a fifth generation member of the congregation, said: “The task force had to be formed to try and fix the clumsy algorithm that has been put in place by the Church of Scotland.

St Fillan’s Kirk has served the community of Aberdour for nearly 900 years

“The algorithm gave good scores to modern multifunctional spaces with accessible restrooms, kitchens, and easy access in and inside churches.” This condemned the majority of Fife’s Grade A listed historic buildings. Fife Rectory has realized the error of this plan and is therefore re-assessing these much-loved buildings.” Mr Crowe added: “The task force will take the next 12 months to complete this detailed exercise which has been well received by churches in danger. “Under the existing closure plan, the congregation would move to a nearby communal hall. However, they are determined not to be evicted from their church ‘for a second time’ – 232 years after the Countess of Morton ruled that she did not want them to worship so close to her home at Aberdour House in 1790. Then another kirk was built nearby – now used as a parish hall – although the congregation returned to its historic home after its restoration in 1926.

Mr Crowe said: “Next year St Fillan’s Church will celebrate its 900th anniversary. We want to continue to worship in this unique church and will not be obliged, once again, to move our worship from our current setting. to the parish hall.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said change was needed to “provide new, sustainable and realistic expressions of ministry and the church and ensure that all buildings are fit for purpose in the mission of the Church of Scotland. 21st century”.

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