Melness church could be saved by becoming multi-denominational
In an unusual move, Christians of various denominations may come together to save a Sutherland village’s last remaining church.
A proposal has been put forward for Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and other Christians to use Melness Church of Scotland, which faces closure.
A meeting is taking place at the church on Monday at 7.30pm to discuss its future.
The Sutherland Presbytery of the kirk has called the meeting but made it clear it cannot afford to keep Melness – which is linked to St Andrews in Tongue – open.
The churches’ minister, the Rev Dr Beverly Cushman, who was the first woman ordained in the state of Louisiana in the US back in 1977, said she was “open” to the idea of different Christian denominations using the building, but stressed they would have to be responsible for it.
Dr Cushman, who has six churches in her two parishes of Altnaharra and Farr and Melness and Tongue, said Melness only attracted a few worshippers.
“The most I have had is five,” she admitted, “while at St Andrews we have 15-20 each week. Melness also only has two services a month.
“We want people to come and talk about the church building, about their feelings and ideas for it. To discuss options.
“But we can no longer afford it. For the congregation it is too late to save it – the church is scheduled to close. We have been losing thousands of pounds each year.”
Talmine resident John Williams has contacted various Christian denominations to float the idea of a shared building.
“It could be a model for other Christian groups facing the same situation,” he said.
“Christians here do get on. Roman Catholic services in the community centre are once a month, so there is scope for shared use.
“I have spoken to an elder of the Melness Church and he thought it was a good idea. We are all worshipping the same God after all. They would be separate services but just in the same building.
“Some local people have also paid for the window replacement in the church, which is an important local building.
“Hopefully it might be possible to put together some amalgam of CoS, Episcopalians, Catholics and any others of good intent to keep this, the last working church in Melness functioning.”
Dr Cushman added: “It’s a lovely church with a gorgeous view, but it needs a new roof.
“It is a terribly sad thing to close a church. We are certainly open to other Christian denominations sharing it.
“We would love to see something come out of that.”
Construction of Melness Church began in 1896 and was completed in 1902.