A DEESIDE community group is celebrating this week after its successful bid to safeguard the future of the local village church.
Birse Community Trust (BCT) has successfully bid for Birse Church and is now raising funds to complete the purchase of the 16th century building.
BCT has spent the past few months working with the recently formed Ecumenical Trust for Birse Kirk (ETBK) to try and buy Birse Church for the local community and both groups were delighted to learn this week that BCT's bid had been accepted by the Church of Scotland.
Ian Fletcher, Secretary of ETBK said: “This is tremendous news. Birse Church is an historic listed building and one of the oldest sites of Christian worship on Deeside. It has been the parish church for Birse for many centuries and safeguarding its future is of great importance to the local community as a core part of Birse parish's cultural heritage.”
The Church of Scotland is selling Birse Church as part of its wider plans to develop Finzean Church as the parish church for the ecclesiastical parish of Birse and Feughside.
Those plans also involved the sale of Birse Church Hall, which was successfully bought by BCT earlier in the year and is now managed by the Birse Area Community Association (BACA) as their local village hall.
The church could have been purchased for conversion into offices or similar uses, although it is unlikely it would have been converted into a residential property as its graveyard is still used by the parish of Birse.
BCT's successful bid for the church has secured its long term community ownership and will allow them to lease the building to ETBK, who will maintain the tradition of religious worship there on an ecumenical basis.
ETBK are also leading the fundraising to complete the purchase of the Church with the Save Historic Birse Kirk appeal and as part of that, will have a stand at the Aboyne Games this Saturday, August 2.
They will be selling a wide range of items to support the purchase and also hope individuals visiting their stand will sign up to sponsor the 'Wings of a Dove' pilgrimage from Iona to Birse Church by three local ETBK supporters – a distance of over 300km across Scotland which they will cover between August 21-24.
The group have already raised a substantial sum of money towards the purchase of the church but hope they can secure enough funds to ensure the maintenance and upkeep of the building in future years.
BCT's Project Manager, Robin Callander, said he was delighted the group's bid had been successful.
Mr Callander said: “It is an historic achievement for the local community to become owner of Birse Church. There has been very strong local community support for this and we hope that many people from outwith the parish will also want to contribute to saving this historic church.
“We look forward to seeing lots of people at ETBK's stand at the Aboyne Games, where they will be able to find out more about this exciting project.”
Donations to the Save Historic Birse Kirk appeal can be sent to ETBK, per Ian Fletcher, Banchory Business Centre, Banchory AB31 5ZU.
Anyone wishing to make a donation should include their personal details to enable the group to claim Gift Aid. Anyone requiring further information on the project should call (01330) 82 6507.