THE minister of a Saltcoats church has thanked the community for "kindness and support" as she announces her retirement.

But Reverend Sarah Nicol's plan to retire comes amid uncertainty of the future of the St Cuthbert's Church building.

The minister has been a familiar face at the Campbell Avenue church since she took up her role in 2018.

She was inducted into the charge by Ardrossan Presbytery in August of that year.

Rev Nicol was the first woman minister in the 110 year history of St Cuthbert’s and was inducted in the year that saw the Church of Scotland celebrate 50 years since the decision was taken to ordain women as Ministers of Word and Sacrament.

Though the time has now come for Rev Nicol to call it a day and she confirmed her decision to retire and move away from the area in the February edition of the church's monthly magazine.

Rev Nicol will officially finish up in April and will take her residency north, to Fife.

Writing to worshipers of St Cuthbert's in their magazine, the minister explained her decision, which comes while the controversial Ardrossan Presbytery mission plan is put in place.

READ MORE: Three Towns churches set to close as decision rubber-stamped

This plan would, at present, see the St Cuthbert's Church building close alongside several other three Town's churches in December of this year.

The proposals would also result in the Ardrossan Presbytery joining with five other presbyteries to create the Presbytery of the South West Scotland.

Rev Nicol said: "Even before the Presbytery mission plan’s (PMP) proposal about the four Church of Scotland congregations in Saltcoats and Ardrossan becoming one parish with two places of worship and two ministers, I knew that my 'Reviewable Tenure' was coming to an end in July.

"The impact of the PMP has made the search for a retirement home more urgent.

"I put in an offer for a house which appealed to my heart as well as my head.

"That offer has been accepted, and I have shared with the Kirk Session my intention to retire in April.

"Easter Sunday is likely to be my last Sunday in the pulpit, using the following week’s holiday to pack, clean the manse behind me, and move."

And ahead of her departure, she thanked the kind worshippers who have made her job a "privilege".

She added: "It has been a privilege to be part of the St Cuthbert’s Church family, and I will treasure special memories of your kindness and support over the last five years.

"It has been an unusual and challenging time for all of us, with Covid, lockdowns and the PMP affecting us individually and as a congregation.

"As I move into a new phase of my life, I know you face significant changes, too.

"I hope that my retiral will enable the church in Saltcoats and Ardrossan to progress more quickly to your search for someone who can serve as part of a new team to lead you forward in worship and service."

Within her announcement, Rev Nicol also provided an update on the impending closure of the St Cuthbert's building.

She added: "As you know, the Kirk Session made an appeal against the decision to close our building, as did several other congregations in North Ayrshire, but we still await the decision by the national committee on this appeal.

"This uncertainty is not just affecting St Cuthbert’s, but is having an impact right across Scotland as the Kirk tries to rationalise buildings and pool resources of personnel and property.

"The intention behind this process is to ‘relieve’ some of the pressures arising through falling membership, clergy numbers and congregational income, so that we can co-operatively continue our mission and outreach to the people of Scotland with fewer anxieties.

"However, at grassroots level, for members and ministers alike, this has resulted in different anxieties as we experience feelings akin to bereavement, facing the loss of much-loved places of worship and fellowship."

The final decision on Three Town's church buildings, following the appeals process, is expected in the coming months.