The winds of change have swept through the halls of our Church, ushering in a new era under the 2021 Presbytery Mission Plan Act. This transformative process has brought to light a myriad of emotions and considerations surrounding our sacred spaces and their role in worship and mission.

Presbytery Plans are not just bureaucratic scrolls; they are the embodiment of our collective vision, meticulously crafted and enlivened by the spirit of faith. Contrary to whispers in the pews, there’s no arbitrary quota for the number of buildings to be relinquished. The heart and soul of these plans, including the future of our buildings, lie within the nurturing hands of the Presbyteries.

Amidst the evolution of our spaces, the resounding mantra of the General Trustees echoes through time – “well-equipped spaces in the right places.” However, beyond the bricks and mortar, there lies a deeper truth – it’s not about the building itself. Yes, these places provide a sanctuary for worship and mission, enriching our spiritual experiences. Yet, at the core, our faith and reverence transcend the confines of any structure. The essence of our worship extends far beyond the tangible, rendering the beauty of a building a mere backdrop to the profound tapestry of our faith.

Acknowledging the intrinsic value of our built heritage estate, the General Trustees stand as custodians, working hand in hand with Historic Environment Scotland to breathe life into our heritage church buildings. The dedicated team, including the Presbytery Buildings Officers, stands as stalwart guardians, offering expertise and guidance on refurbishment and repair. Ensuring the safety and compliance of these special places, a specialised fire safety and compliance team stands as sentinels within our midst.

We recognize the tribulations that accompany the Presbytery Planning process, particularly for those whose cherished places of worship are earmarked for a new destiny. Yet, amidst this challenge lies a glimmer of hope. The surplus of buildings, while a weight on the shoulders of our congregations and local trustees, presents an opportunity for renewal. The capital garnered from the release of surplus buildings becomes the brushstroke that paints the future, breathing life into the renewal of our cherished havens. The General Trustees extend their unwavering support, both financially and professionally, to congregations in need of refurbishment and repair, ushering in a new dawn for our sacred spaces.

In the post-Presbytery Planning era, the heartbeat of the church needs to resonate with the harmonious cadence of mission and worship. In this new dawn, the buildings, once towering monuments, now take on a humbler role as tools to fulfil our mission. While the allure of our heritage buildings remains undeniable, their significance lies not in their grandeur, but in the profound reminder they carry – a testament to the mission of the Church. Buildings, in essence, become the faithful companions to our congregations, harmonising with their missional aspirations.

As Chief Executive of the General Trustees, I hold a single guiding principle close to heart – to walk alongside congregations, through the conduit of Presbytery, in the pursuit of their mission. While the landscape may see fewer buildings in the days to come, the legacy of Presbytery Planning lies in ensuring that each remaining structure stands as a testament to the enduring mission of the Church.

In this symphony of transformation, amidst the ebb and flow of change, let us embark on this journey together, crafting a future where our buildings stand not just as monuments of the past, but as beacons illuminating the path of our mission.

By Brian Waller