Last September, Glasgow Presbytery initiated the “Inner West End Review” with the aim to identify the possible future of three West End Churches (Wellington, Kelvinside Hillhead and Kelvinbridge). In response to this, Wellington’s Kirk Session formed a sub-committee which quickly became known as “The Group of 8”. The committee members are: Claire McDiarmid, David Blackhurst, Grace Franklin, Christine Johnston, Niall Hardie, Wendy Alexander, Robin Shannan, and Rebecca Gebauer. The group are a mix of elders, members, an adherent, and an employee.
In October 2017, the Group of 8 met with the Presbytery Strategic Planning Group. The outcome of that preliminary meeting was a strong feeling for a need to take forward discussions about Wellington’s future and to prepare for the changes ahead. The Kirk Session granted permission to the Group of 8 to continue with their task and to update the existing Wellington Profile. Between October and December the group met three times for discussion and on one occasion for a consultation with Prof Heather Walton and Rev Doug Gay to gain insight from the research and expertise of the contexts of the challenges Wellington and The Church of Scotland as whole face. The biggest practical challenge was how make best use of the resources available to the three congregations under review: 3 A-listed buildings, 3 manses, 2 Ministers, 2 Ordained Local Ministers (OLM). OLM’s are part time ministers that are usually contracted for 10 hours plus a Sunday morning service and who are unpaid. This is the position currently held by Rev Dr Roger Sturrock. One of the minister posts is held by the Rev Gordon Kirkwood who has tenure at Kelvinbridge.
Apart from the challenging circumstances faced in the West End, one aspect which repeatedly featured in the discussions was the need to include the congregation in this journey of change that lies ahead of Wellington. To achieve this, the updated parish profile was circulated during the Nativity Service on 17th December 2017 with the prospect of a congregational discussion during the Service on 14th January 2018.
The incorporation of a discussion into the Sunday morning service was a new and very well received experience for Wellington. The congregation split into 12 small discussion groups who under the guidance of a facilitator discussed the following:
- Please give your thoughts on the documents circulated – the Wellington Profile document and the papers produced by the Presbytery Strategic Planning Committee
- How do you see the future of Wellington’s ministry in the West End of Glasgow
- How do you feel about the change which is coming?
The result of the discussion was that generally everyone in Wellington is aware of the need for and inevitability of the change. The majority of the congregation engages positively with the situation under the condition that it would be not just any change and that decisions are made with care. There was broad agreement that the three congregations should come together as one in one building. In some groups there was a strong preference for making Wellington the home of such a new congregation while other groups approached this aspect more flexibly. Similarly, groups expressed different priorities for the future, some strongly emphasised a focus on student outreach work and witnessing to the wider West End while others pointed out that more consideration should be given to the needs of our aging congregation. A suggestion was made that the different needs of the congregation could be addressed by having a “twin”-ministry where one minister caters the traditionalists while the second minister lead engagement with new ways of worship and being a church. All groups wished to maintain Wellington’s strengths, namely Wellington’s inclusive values, the challenging and thought provoking preaching, the good music, and a continued mission of “Christian Welcome”. Finally, all groups expressed the desire to engage in dialogue with the other two churches to get to know them better and to develop a vision for the future together.
The Group of 8 prepared a synthesis and a timeline of the work and discussions carried out at Wellington and provided them to Presbytery (both documents are available on request from the church office). On 25th January 2018 the Group of 8 met again with the Presbytery Strategic Planning Group and presented Wellington’s views and emphasised the wish to enter dialogue with the other churches. A further meeting is expected to happen by the beginning of March.
If you missed the congregational discussion or if you just generally wish to share your thoughts, questions, and views on the future for Wellington and the Inner West End, please feel free to get in touch with any of the Group of 8.