THE congregation at a Stevenston church due to shut its doors for the last time this year is to ask for its closure to be delayed.

The Stevenston High Kirk building, along with that of Ardeer Parish Church, are both scheduled to close by December, with the two congregations uniting at Livingstone Parish Church in New Street in a single charge covering the whole of Stevenston.

The move is part of a wider presbytery mission plan for the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of South West Scotland, which covers the Three Towns, Kilwinning, Garnock Valley and West Kilbride.

The request for a delay was announced at Livingstone Church's Communion Sunday service on September 3. It's understood a similar announcement was made at the High Kirk.

Writing to inform the congregation at Livingstone of the position, the High Kirk's minister, Rev Scott Cameron, explained why they would be asking to delay the closure.

It is proposed instead of December of this year, the building would close in the summer of 2024.

Mr Cameron wrote to the Livingstone congregation after the High Kirk met with the a dedicated Church of Scotland 'presbytery planning committee', who are handling the merger of a number of Kirk Sessions across the west of Scotland.

He said: “They [the presbytery planning committee] have no timeline of when they will be able to have a meeting of all three (Ardeer, the High Kirk and Livingstone) Kirk Sessions.

“Due to these backlogs within Presbytery it looks certain that all of the issues, including the agreement on basis of union, will not be completed by December.

“The High Kirk has therefore requested a delay in their closure date to be moved from December to the summer time to allow for the joint Kirk Sessions to meet and for the Presbytery to finalise the situation at Ardeer.

“It will also allow the High Kirk more time to prepare themselves for a new season away from the High Kirk building.”

Reference was made to "the situation at Ardeer", which has become a major issue around the planned merger.

The church building there has been closed since early 2021 due to repairs of around £200,000 being required for the building - despite some work having already taken place.

Ardeer has also fallen short in ministry contributions of more than£75,000.

Since then, members of the Ardeer congregation have been attending Livingstone Parish Church.

In April 2022 it was proposed that Ardeer Church should be dissolved so that no burden of the building, nor financial shortcomings, would be passed over to Livingstone Church.

However, that has raised questions over what should happen to money given by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the National Churches Trust to refurbish Ardeer's buildings.

Around £400,000 was raised to help restore the building, and it's thought that lottery funding will have to be returned should the church not re-open.

Resolving this situation will be key to ensuring the merger of the three congregations in Stevenston can go ahead.