Joint presbyteries a fait accompli?

A CLAIM that the Church of Scotland is bent on pushing through a group presbyteries concept regardless of local opinion, has been made by a Far North minister.
Rev Ivan Warwick maintained that not everyone was happy about the plan which would see Caithness Presbytery amalgamate with Sutherland and Ross Presbyteries.
He spoke out at the monthly meeting of Caithness Presbytery which has entered into exploratory discussions with its neighbouring counterparts.
The group concept has been rolled out for consultation, by the Kirk’s General Assembly which favours bigger presbyteries with more responsibility and resources. According to the Kirk’s Panel on Review and Reform, the linking would free up the member presbyteries and enable them to concentrate on their mission work.
Caithness presbytery has entered into talks with Sutherland and Ross to investigate the pros and cons of a Far North triumvirate. A conference was held at Dronish, in October, last year and a committee was formed to develop the proposal.
A note of caution was sounded, however, by Thurso minister, Ronnie Johnstone who said: “I think we have to decide where we are going with this. Personally I have doubts. We are enthusiastic but Ross is lukewarm.” He added that they must be clear about the difference between investigation and implementation.
Community Minister Warwick, questioned whether the views of the presbyteries and their congregations would carry weight and suggested that the investigation process might not be taken account of.
He said: “The Panel of Review and Reform have never really changed their mind set on this. It sounds to me, as if they will just ask everyone their views and take the matter to the General Assembly and then it will just happen.”
Referring to the Dornoch conference he added: “I was aware that there were others in the room that were less than enthusiastic. Maybe these big presbyteries are not the way forward. I am not particularly hopeful. If we discover at the next grouping meeting and tell them (the Panel) that it is a non-starter, I am not convinced it will listen. I think they have in mind that bigger presbyteries are the answer.”
He stressed however: “I am not negative about the pilot scheme. I think we do need to commit ourselves to the experiment and not make an assumption about what we are going to find out.”
The presbytery reaffirmed its commitment to the pilot, but made it clear that the exercise is and investigative one and that implementation is not a foregone conclusion.
Meanwhile the presbytery is pressing ahead with its own blueprint for reorganisation within its own bounds which states that the current 13 parishes will retain their present identities. And, in the interest of future planning flexibility, there will be no further moves from linkages to unions, throughout the county.

A warm tribute was paid this week, at Caithness Presbytery to Wick elder, George Leith who died late last year.
The Moderator, Rev. Ken Warner said that when he was interim moderator at the then Wick Old Parish Church (now Wick St Fergus) George had been “my right-hand man”. Rev. Warner went on to say that he had had “the wonderful privilege” of Mr Leith’s support when his duties extended to interim moderator services at the Lybster and Bruan and Dunbeath and Berriedale charges.
The Moderator continued: “He was extremely helpful and I have always treasured his friendship. His commitment to the church was complete and total. George was a very devoted Christian and many people enjoyed his preaching in the various places I sent him. I will always have fond memories of him. He was very devoted member of the church.”

The presbytery has nominated ministers the Revs Ken Warner, Alistair Gray and Michael Mappin, along with Deaconess Janet Anderson, as their commissioners to the forthcoming General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

A former Church of Scotland Moderator, Rev David Lunan will head a panel of speakers at a conference being organised at St Peter’s and St Andrew’s Church, Thurso, on April 2.
The theme is “What shape will the Church be in 2020?”.

Interim moderator
Myrtle Gillies has been re-appointed as interm moderator at the Pulteneytown (Wick) and Thrumster charge. Business committee convener, Alan Sinclair, said: “She is doing an excellent job and the best we could do in the interests of the congregations is to re-appoint her.”