Our November 2014 church magazine is now online. It includes information about our finances and buildings, including an action plan from the Kirk Session to deal with outstanding issues.
The following is the text of a press release issued today, as the magazine went online:
Congregation seeks partners to develop Old High Church
The high cost of insuring the most historic old church in Inverness could mean it is forced to shut its doors for the sake of a few thousand pounds per year.
Despite the increasing number of visitors being drawn to the site where St Columba himself is said to have converted a Pictish king, the situation is now so serious the congregation is urgently seeking partners who could help to keep the Old High Church building open.
Old High St Stephen’s minister, the Rev Peter W. Nimmo, revealed that some 1,500 people had visited the Old High Church during weekday openings this summer, and hundreds had attended concerts in the building in 2014, but said that the congregation now needed other partners to develop and maintain the building.
The A-listed Old High Church plays a significant role in the life of the city, hosting civic events such as the Kirking of the Council, an event which has grown and developed in recent years.
In August the Old High hosted a moving service marking the anniversary of the start of the First World War, and just a few weeks ago was filled with families and children celebrating the Christmas Lights Switch-On. It is also home to the finest pipe organ in the Highlands, which was restored in 2010 with funds from sources including the Inverness Common Good Fund.
The Old High St Stephen’s congregation also hold services at the charming St Stephen’s church in Southside Road.
Explained Mr Nimmo: “Although we have been very good at keeping building costs down, there has been a huge rise in insurance costs in recent years. Other, similar, congregations in the city pay around £4,000 per year in insurance, but we have an annual bill of £10,500. As charity trustees, the Kirk Session cannot see how that situation can continue’.
In a recent church magazine, the Kirk Session (who are the charity’s trustees) have laid out a scheme to tackle the financial issues, including an attempt to negotiate a reduction in insurance premiums and other measures to cut the cost of running their buildings. They may also set up a Friends of the Old High Church scheme to raise fund and develop interest in the historic town church. And they plan discussions with Inverness Presbytery and the Church of Scotland, as well as outside partners such as Highland Council and Historic Scotland.
Mr Nimmo said, “The nationally-important Old High building is a hidden gem at the heart of our city. As concerns grow about the state of the Old Town of Inverness, we need to find ways to develop this vital part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the city. We have to make sure that economics don’t mean that the most important building in the Old Town is left empty and unused”.
The existing Old High Church building was completed 1772 on the site of a mediaeval church, the lowest portion of the bell-tower at the west dating to the 15th or 16th century.
The church boasts a remarkable organ built by Henry Willis & Sons in 1895, and restored by Nicholson & Co in 2010, which is widely regarded as the finest in the Highlands. Since the restoration the congregation has developed a programme of concerts in the building.
The church was the regimental church of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, and houses the regiments colours and books of remembrance. A memorial area, completed in 2013, houses the Martinpuich Cross, a wooden memorial constructed on the battlefield after the Battle of the Somme.
There are also stained glass windows by such exponents of the art as Douglas Strachan 1925, Stephen Adam & Co 1893, and A Ballantine & Gardiner 1899.
St Stephen’s was founded as a “daughter” church of the Old High in 1897, to serve the rapidly growing suburbs of late Victorian days. The two congregations united in 2003, retaining both buildings as places of worship.
The present minister, the Rev Peter W Nimmo, was inducted in 2004, having previously been minister of High Carntyne in Glasgow. He is a graduate of Glasgow University and of Princeton Theological Seminary in the USA.
The congregation is part of the Church of Scotland, the national church, and contributes generously to maintaining the work of the church through its network of 1400 parishes and 800 ministers in communities across Scotland.
Contact: Rev Peter W Nimmo peternimmo[a]minister.com
Scottish Charity No. SC035073