Local Church Review

 Presbytery of Argyll – Superintendence Committee

Local Church Review

Report on Visit to Glassary, Kilmartin & Ford lw North Knapdale

Date of Visit: North Knapdale: 16.10.18 Glassary, Kilmartin & Ford: 31.10.18

Minister: Rev Clifford Acklam vacated the charge on 15.10.18

Visiting Team: Rev Hilda Smith [Lochgilphead]  Donald Maclauchlan [Elder Strachur and Strathlachlan]  Margaret Munro [Elder West Cowal: Kyles Parish Church]

Meetings The Visitors met with the Kirk Sessions at Tayvallich and Kilmartin Churches respectively and received reports from the Minister. They were, however, unable to meet him before he left. 

General Background:  The charge of Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford linked with North Knapdale was established as a formal linkage around 2004.  Until recently, each part of the linkage supported three places of worship. In the course of 2018, however, Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford took over a modern church building in Kilmartin, recently vacated by Living Stones.  Glassary and Ford will close in mid-November 2018 and, along with the current Kilmartin church building, will be sold.   Meantime, the parish of North Knapdale has churches at Tayvallich, Bellanoch and Inverlussa. In 2017, Argyll Presbytery refused permission for Inverlussa Church to be refurbished and it has been placed on the market, with permission granted for worship to continue until the building is sold. 

Rev Clifford Acklam was inducted to the charge in May 2010. He experienced some personal and health difficulties during the latter part of his tenure, during which he was supported by his congregations, and recently remarried, moving to join his wife in the USA on 15.10.18 and take over an internship in NY State.   

Life of the Congregation:  Morning worship is held in the linked charge at 10am and 11.30am, the time alternating between the two parishes on an annual basis.   The congregation at Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford will meet at Kilmartin from Remembrance Sunday, their first united service.  The church at North Knapdale meets for worship every second week at Tayvallich and once in every four weeks at Bellanoch and Inverlussa, respectively. People have generally been found to travel between the churches in their respective parishes. Occasional evening services have also been held at Tayvallich in summer months. Special ceremonies are observed over Easter, Christmas and on Remembrance Sunday: an occasional joint service is held.  The format for morning worship in both parishes is generally traditional, until recently led by the Minister. Recent attempts at North Knapdale to make changes have led to some tensions within the congregation. An alternative format has, however, occasionally been introduced at evening services.  Members of the congregations take part in door duties and bible readings and most weeks singing is accompanied by organ or keyboard music.   Both parishes offer a flower ministry and, where facilities are available, coffee and teas are served following worship.  There have been difficulties in introducing new technologies in worship although North Knapdale does have a current and updated webpage.  Otherwise services are advertised through intimations and public notices.

The linked charges work together to support Messy Church, alternating for monthly meetings between Kilmartin and Tayvallich.  Rev Acklam expressed concern that, in some quarters, Messy Church is not always seen as church. Turnout, however, appears to compare well with numbers present at regular Sunday worship with a significant of Primary age children and their carer/s attending .  North Knapdale has established Café Connect each Saturday morning to serve the Achnamara area of their parish. 

This is also well attended and has proved a useful way of transmitting information about the church leading, in turn, to the establishment of ALPHA courses and, from ALPHA, to new church members. Elders in each parish have a district with regular visitations and office bearers and members support a number of charities and initiatives locally, either personally or, in the case of North Knapdale, through identifying causes for prayer.  Elders from Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford organise and administer “The Lunch Bunch,” a monthly lunch club funded by a local benefactor for vulnerable members of the community. Within the wider Christian community, the linked charge is part of the Malawi Twinning Group with Kasamba Church in LiLongwe and recently helped host visitors from Malawi.

Resources – People, Buildings, Money, Time and Talents:  Prior to his departure, Rev Acklam set up a weekly worship group to plan services.  As yet, none of the participants from North Knapdale have become involved in worship leading while Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford have one trained Local Worship Leader who is currently also training for Readership. Both congregations rely on a small, mostly retired, group to oversee all aspects of church life, putting strain on their levels of energy. North Knapdale describe having “only just enough” volunteers for the work they want to do while the office bearers at Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford acknowledge their exhaustion in the wake of moving church. Nevertheless, at Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford they are looking forward to the new opportunities that worshipping under one roof presents and the openings that the building provides to reach out to the community.  They had a positive response locally to the change but are, nevertheless, mindful that the transition will be painful for some and that the move requires sensitive handling.  They have, however, already started to think about how they might retain a presence in Kilmichael Glassary and Ford, to consider how best to develop activities in the new Kilmartin Church, to question how they might link up with Secondary pupils and to think about talking to members absent from the pews about what church means to them.  Similarly, office bearers at North Knapdale are looking at how they can best consolidate what is working for them while planning to engage with the community on how best to proceed in developing a presence in different parts of the parish. Bellanoch, for example, is the most central church in the parish of North Knapdale but it is an unsuitable building for more than Sunday services, creating a challenge in respect of other forms of outreach in the Crinan area.

The church at Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford struggles to break even annually and, although the move to one building will help, fundraising will need to be considered to ensure that the vacated buildings are kept in a reasonable condition until disposed of.  There is sufficient in reserve finance at North Knapdale to fund current work but income is reducing as numbers fall.  It had previously been hoped to remove the pews in Tayvallich Church to allow more varied usage but objections within the congregation meant compromise had to be made with half the pews remaining.   The current plan is for an extension to be added and the Kirk Session are in discussion with the Convenor of the Argyll Presbytery Property Committee about the feasibility of this.

Despite the similarities in respect of the makeup of their respective communities and the collaborative way that they have come together to provide a successful Messy Church, the two parts of the linked charge are very different in outlook and approach.  Nevertheless, there are a number of common challenges:  managing the workload placed on office bearers and volunteers; the future of redundant and perhaps unsuitable buildings; the possibility of a protracted vacancy given the current shortage of ministers; assessing how to best deal with the tensions which arise between members who are uncomfortable with change while simultaneously trying to reach out to those in the community who are detached from the Christian message, perhaps more of an issue in North Knapdale.  However, there also appears to be a sense of vision within the current eldership in both congregations and a willingness to look towards a positive future, with or without current ministerial support.

Action Plan:

Office Bearers and congregations to work, during the vacancy, along with the relevant committees in Presbytery to establish future plans for Ministry in the charge.

To maintain a Christian presence in the Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford parish, engaging with the membership about the meaning of church and considering how best to maintain a physical presence at Kilmichael Glassary and Ford.

Develop and consolidate worship and outreach currently being undertaken by office bearers and congregation in North Knapdale.

Explore other ways to connect with the community throughout the parish of North Knapdale.

Explore the best use of Kilmartin Church in reaching out in new ways to the community.

Consider training and establishment of worship leaders at North Knapdale.

Explore the possibility of Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford engaging with Youth Development Services in Lochgilphead to make a link with teenagers as a follow on to Messy Church.

Re-visit the management of elder’s districts at North Knapdale.

Consider the best use of property, including plan to extend Tayvallich church, the future of Bellanoch Church and maintenance of Inverlussa church until the property is sold.

Maintain Glassary and Ford churches and the redundant Kilmartin church in a suitable condition for sale. 

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