Parish Profile

 

 

West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance  The communities Five Year Plan

 

Vista

West Mearns

The Parish of West Mearns (in the Presbytery of Kincardine and Deeside) incorporates the original parishes of Fordoun, Fettercairn and Glenbervie (united 1994), lying on the hill foot on the western side of the Howe o’ the Mearns. West Mearns includes the villages of Auchenblae, Fettercairn, Drumlithie and Fordoun, smaller settlements in between, and many farms; the parish has a population of around 3,500. Traditional land based occupations now exist alongside energy and engineering, with many parishioners now working in oil related occupations in and around Aberdeen.

 

 

Our closest service centre is Laurencekirk (Mearns Academy, shops, vet, railway station), while the former county town of Stonehaven has similar services and a broader range of business activity. Aberdeen is about 40 minutes by road from Fettercairn, and a good rail service links us with Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

West Mearns is a great area to live in if you like the outdoors: hills and mountains, rivers and lochs, forests and coast are all within easy reach.

This Parish Profile describes the life and activities of our congregation, the communities we live in, how we work within those communities and the sort of minister we are hoping to call.

 

 

West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance  The communities Five Year Plan

 

 

Our Congregation

Auchenblae Church

Church activity in the parish is centred on the original parish churches of Fettercairn, Auchenblae (formerly Fordoun) and Glenbervie. There is friendly interaction between these communities and some members attend more than one church. Congregational numbers have been in decline for many years, and the loss of older members has not been balanced by new communicants or incomers to the district, all of whom would be made very welcome. Sunday School has been part of our pattern of worship for generations, but few children now attend

Fettercairn Church

 

At present, morning services are held at Fettercairn (09:30) and Auchenblae (11:00), with a monthly service at Glenbervie (1100). A monthly service is also held at Queen Elizabeth Court (sheltered housing in Fettercairn). Joint services are held for the annual general meeting and at Christmas.

The Communications Group publishes church newsletter “Jottings” four times a year. The Christian Action Group organises the West Mearns Parish participation in Christian Aid Week and our Harvest and Manger Gifts.

We feel that while much has been done to create one parish out of three; there is still some way to go. One of our opportunities is the good will towards the church by the majority of non-church attending residents, largely due to the church’s active role within the community and the “rites of passage” services of baptisms, weddings and funerals. But there is a challenge: to engage with the majority of our population on a regular basis requires someone with energy, enthusiasm and vision. Herein lies a great opportunity for the right person to help us go forward in these challenging times.

  

Glenbervie Church

Music is an important part of our worship. We are using CH4 (and sometimes Mission Praise) at all of our services, providing a blend of traditional Psalms and hymns, and modern praise. Pew bibles (Good News) are present in all of our churches.

 

 

West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance  The communities Five Year Plan

Mission Activities in West Mearns

The Church is active in many areas of the local community. It has a presence in our local schools and nurseries (Fettercairn, Auchenblae, Drumlithie and Redmyre) where the minister is chaplain, and school church services are held at Christmas and Easter.

Christmas is a busy time in all of our lives and the Church is a focal point at this time. A Christmas tree festival in Fettercairn Church has become a popular community event. Fettercairn is an active community and its church hall is used as a Drop-in Café during summer months, which raises funds for the Church and other local good causes. Fettercairn has also hosted a silent auction to raise funds.

Services of Remembrance are held at all three Churches in the Parish. Local Cubs, Brownies, Scouts and Guides participate in these.

Christmas Tree Festival, Fettercairn Church

Coffee mornings are popular social events which also raise funds. These are organised by Fettercairn and Auchenblae Guilds (which raise funds for projects at home and overseas); others are occasionally held in the homes of congregational members in Auchenblae or in the village hall at Drumlithie.

Church members actively participate in raising funds for Christian Aid. Other fundraising activites include a Fairtrade Stall which has been run at Fettercairn Show, Drumtochty Games and Drumlithie Gala Day. Auchenblae also has an active fundraising community; its annual Open Gardens event was originally established for raising funds for church building maintenance, and is now a major event in the village calendar. A stewardship campaign was well supported by the wider community in 2011 and 2014.

AAuchenblae has a long established Friendship Club, originally for senior citizens but now for anyone free on a Wednesday morning.

A Bible study group was led by the late Rev Catherine Hepburn.


West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance The communities Five Year Plan

 

 

Governance

The Church is administered in accordance with the terms of the Model Deed of Constitution.

The Congregational Board is moderated by the minister and meets five times a year. The Kirk Session is responsible for spiritual affairs within the church and also meets five times a year, with extra meetings as required. At present there are 18 elders of which 14 are active and a further 13 individuals are members of the congregational board.

Parish finance is managed by our treasurer. Accounts are prepared annually and submitted to Presbytery and to the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator. The parish holds investments and the annual income from these helps to meet outgoings. The maintenance of buildings imposes a considerable burden on the congregation and fundraising for maintenance projects is on-going.

West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance The communities Five Year Plan

 

Appendix 1

People and Places of West Mearns

The Howe o’ The Mearns from Garvock hill - Photo courtesy of Iain Wood

The parish contains a large part of the Howe of the Mearns, Grassic Gibbon's "Sunset Song" country; a mixture of farmland and woods, hills and glens and burns. It is steeped in history and legend, containing sites of Roman forts, the lost village of Kincardine, the site of Finella's Green Castle and Fasque House, the ancient Glenbervie House and is the fatherland of Robert Burns.

Many of the working population are still engaged in agriculture and forestry, and associated service businesses, while others commute to Aberdeen working in or supporting the oil and other industries there. There are three major employers within the parish: Macphie of Glenbervie acclaimed manufacturers of bakery food products, Neptune Offshore Services Ltd, a steel fabrication company with premises in Fordoun serving the offshore oil and renewable energy industries, and East Coast Viners near Drumlithie, providing grain storage and supplying animal feeds. At the hill farm of Glensaugh the James Hutton Institute investigates different ways of using the land for agriculture.

 

The 2011 census showed that of our population:

·       36% said they belonged to the Church of Scotland (although only 2% regularly attend worship)

·       9% were in primary school; 6% were in high school

·       26% were aged between 25 and 44

·       13% were aged 65 or over

·       74% were of working age (16-74), including

·       15% who have no qualifications; 26% who have a University degree

·       34% who work full time; 9% who were retired

·       79% described themselves as 'White - Scottish'

·       2% described their health as bad or very bad

·       7% were providing unpaid care

AUCHENBLAE (population about 530)

 

The village of Auchenblae is hidden in a valley at the eastern end of Strathfinella Hill. The oldest part of the village is Kirkton of Fordoun where lie the church (formerly known as Fordoun Kirk), old manse and a former inn where Burns is reputed to have slept. The site of the present Church is reputed to have been ecclesiastical since the 7th Century; the kirk yard contains the ruins of 15th Century St Palladius' Chapel and a memorial to the martyr George Wishart. A Pictish stone found there was later moved into the modern church.

The present church is around 190 years old and its size reflects its historic status as “The Mither Kirk o' the Mearns”. In 2010 it hosted a special day of celebrations for the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation. A small church hall, formerly the church school is in the corner of the square in front of the church where in days gone by, the Paldy, or St Palladius Fair was held. A bequest to the church led to the installation of a pipe organ in the back gallery. The Auchenblae Guild meets in the hall, as does the Sunday School, Friendship Club, Board and Kirk Session. Some of the village groups (toddlers, guides etc.) also meet here.

In nearby Drumtochty Glen (home of the famous Drumtochty Games) there is a small but beautiful Episcopal Church which is often used for “up-market” weddings.

Auchenblae Primary School is near the Church, the present roll being around 100. There is a large Village Hall (run by Auchenblae Community Association) where meet the Community Association, Pre-school Group, Kids' Club, etc. There is a Nursery Class in the school, a babysitting circle operates in the village and there are several registered child minders. There are the usual youth organisations. There is a popular bistro style café and two shops: a general store/ newsagent which contains a post office on certain days, and a butcher, both on the main street which changes its name eight times from one end of the village to the other! "The Auchenblae Messenger, a quarterly newsletter is distributed free to every home while in between issues a brief “Memo” lists upcoming events. The Mobile library visits the village once a week. Auchenblae and District Heritage Society has proved popular.


For recreation there is a 9-hole golf course outwith the village and a bowling green, tennis courts, putting-green, children's play area and a commando course for the older children down in the Den where a garden and nature walk have been developed by the Parks Committee. There is a football pitch next to the new cemetery to the west of the village. Indoor Bowling takes place in the village hall. Each year the Parks Committee holds an open day to mark the start of the season and the Auchenblae Community Association runs a Gala, culminating in Gala Day in the Den.

FETTERCAIRN (population about 470)

Fettercairn, a neat and compact village, is the most southerly of the four villages in the Parish and is centred on a charming square containing the old Mercat Cross from the lost village of Kincardine. From this square, roads lead to Edzell, Brechin, Montrose, Stonehaven, and to Banchory via the famous Cairn o' Mount, often closed by snow.

The Church, built in 1803 but altered and refurbished in 1926 and again in 1961, with its graveyard lies on a small hillock near the village square with the new manse and church hall (used by the Guild, Board and Session) immediately across the road. There is a pipe organ which was refurbished in 1991. The new cemetery is about quarter of a mile south of the village and funeral processions still walk there from the church.

An Arch near the centre of the village commemorates a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who stayed in the nearby Ramsay Arms hotel (still welcoming visitors and meetings of the local Rotary Club). There is a general store with an Outreach Post Office which is open on a Monday and Thursday morning, a dress shop, a tearoom and a distillery with visitor centre. A branch of the county library opens three times a week in the school. There are a variety of clubs and organisations (20 in total) including a branch of the W.R.I., children’s dance classes, a Senior Citizens Club, indoor and outdoor bowling clubs, a tennis court in the local park, a Curling club and a craft club. Both the W.R.I. and the Craft Club meet in the Church Hall. There are Guides and Brownies (Fettercairn is the location of the division camp site) and there is an active Youth Club.

The village hall is run by Fettercairn Public Property Committee, and the church plays an active role on this committee with representatives from the Guild, the Sunday School and the church serving on this Committee. It runs a successful Annual Gala Week, and the church plays its part in the organisation of Gala events. Queen Elizabeth Court is a sheltered housing complex with close ties to the church (a monthly service is held here). Beechgrove Garden's Hit Squad helped to create a lovely little park near the Court. Every summer the Fettercairn Farmers’ Club holds its annual Agricultural Show in a nearby field, attracting many visitors.

The modern primary school (60 pupils) is on Distillery Road.

DRUMLITHIE

The village of Drumlithie is the principal community in the former parish of Glenbervie; a former weaving village, its famous steeple used to summon the weavers to work. Glenbervie Primary School (60 pupils) is in Drumlithie along with one hotel and a village shop. There are many active groups - Glenbervie District Community Association, Drumlithie Village Improvement Committee, Glenbervie Amateur Hortus Club (which runs the annual Flower Show), Glenbervie Ploughing Association, WRI, Walking Group, Playgroup, Mother & Toddler's Group and Youth Club, in addition a group of ladies from the congregation hold successful coffee mornings. There is a bowling green and All-Weather Sports Court. The Community Association, aided by every group in the village plus the children from the school (who are working on their own corner), is at present developing a three acre site into a woodland and nature walk.

Glenbervie Church lies on the Auchenblae to Drumlithie road. Built in 1826 it lies in a valley close to Glenbervie House. The ruins of an earlier church lie in the kirk yard (gravestones of Robert Burns' grandparents) with the former manse alongside. The new cemetery is beside the church.

Glenbervie House

Nearby are the modern premises of Macphie of Glenbervie. The ancient Glenbervie House (pictured above) with its fine walled garden (opened every August under Scotland’s Gardens Scheme) has been at the heart of a diverse agricultural estate for over 700 years.

The church seats about 250 and upstairs you can find the original Laird's Pew. The building, dedicated to St Michael was restructured and redecorated about forty years ago, and the pipe organ was refurbished in 2008. Sunday worship is at present on the first Sunday of every month. Glenbervie Church functions take place in Drumlithie Village Hall.

 

FORDOUN (Population 305)

This small village grew around the now closed railway station and lies close to the A90 Dundee to Aberdeen dual carriageway. It is linked by an underpass to Redmyre Primary School (about 50 pupils). The school is not within West Mearns Parish, but since most of the pupils live within the parish the West Mearns minister visits. The village has a hall, shop, post office, car sales and steel fabrication businesses

 

EDZELL WOODS

The community at Edzell Woods is based on a former Ministry of Defence Camp with a US listening station, since the MOD relinquished the land it has become a further community within the parish.

 

West Mearns  Our Congregation  Mission   Governance and Finance  The communities Five Year Plan

 

Appendix 2

Excerpts from Parish Five Year Plan

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

Opportunities

·       Fellowship

·       Friendliness

·       Commitment

·       Willingness of members to work together

·       Hard working volunteers

·       Loyalty of regular attendees

·       Supportive community

·       Reasonably affluent area

·       Inclusive  (ecumenical, non-members and members of other churches included)

·       Events held in villages both organised by and for the church and secular events in which the church participates

·       Buildings – throughout the parish

·       Faith

·       Heritage and history

·       Skills of individuals

·       Minister and Sunday School teachers

·       Increasing populations in all villages

·       Music – wider range and capitalizing on our current expertize

·       Pastoral care – serving

·       Buildings – additional uses of them

·       Parish Church – i.e. inclusive over the entire parish

·       Fellowship and friendship

·       Communication – internet

·       Lapsed members and communicants class

·       People's need for spirituality

·       Ideas from other churches

·       Fundraising events

·       Bible study and prayer groups

·       School visits to widen church participation

·       Families - encouraging them to attend services

·       Growing our membership

Weaknesses

Threats

·       Small, aging congregation

·       Too few willing people for too many jobs

·       Geographically widespread   (c.80 square miles, 5 villages, 2 phone books)

·       Reluctance to capitalise on our strength  (e.g. there may be people who want to be asked)

·       Unable to retain young people

·       Buildings – cost of maintenance and consequent inability to improve them

·       Transport problems – the distances between the various churches, villages and other communities

·       Lack of communicant class

·       Lack of men

·       Lack of money (lurking deficit)

·       Lack of non-church support for fundraising in some parts of the parish

·       Parochialism – 3 churches – some members are only loyal to one of them

·       Communication

·       Apathy

·       Closure of buildings

·       Falling numbers

·       Lack of youth and aging population

·       Materialism

·       Competition from other activities

·       Losing minister due to rationalisation

·       Work and other activities on Sundays

·       Not being prepared to change

·       The Church having a ‘smaller’ place in community and its understanding (e.g. children knowing little or nothing about the Bible)

·       Lack of money

·       Rural location, parish size, 5 villages

·       5 year plan – overwhelming the capability of the active members

·       The dilemma of a geographically large parish (with varying foci between the villages) trying to behave as a single (united) congregation

 


 

 

Forward Plans: Aims and Goals for 2012 - 2017

Due to the illness and death of our previous minister we have made little progress with our Five Year Plan. The following has been discussed and requires further work.

Mission

How does the church reconnect with those people who are members but never attend? How does the church reach those people in the community who never darken the church door? One of the key issues in this area is about forming relationships with people.

Further consideration will be given to the following potential developments during the first year with selected ideas introduced in years 2 to 4:

·       Welcome pack for new folk to the area

·       Website development – including community announcements and church announcements and calendar

·       Baptism follow up – with baptised being invited to Sunday School Christmas Party

·       More church info available at times when more folk are at Church e.g. school visits.

·       As a first step consideration will be given to developing a mission group to supplement and assist the existing communications group.

Worship

A number of ways of developing worship in the Parish have been discussed but the principle underlying all of these was the theme of growing the number and involvement of those taking part in acts of worship. The following will be considered during the first year and then introduced during years 2 to 4 as appropriate:

·       New communicants classes

·       Alternative service format perhaps an "all-age" format during the late afternoon or early Sunday evening including more contemporary styles of music

·       A men's discussion group.

·       Explore ways of transforming the generally supportive local community into a worshipping community.

·       It is intended to establish a worship group to work with the minister in developing these ideas.

·       Young people

            This falls into a number of different categories:

     o   Children

     o   Teenagers

     o   Youth Adult

·       Parents and young people up to 40

Working with one of these groups may well draw in the other groups – e.g. children’s work will draw parents, young adult ministry will also draw their children in.

There is a whole range of ways in which this work might be carried out – messy church for younger folk, Alpha groups, developing the schools work, a project of some kind either in the church or the community, developing the church website, new communicants’ classes.

The younger people in the village are an important aim, perhaps the most important, but, rather than having specific plans for this category, attraction and involvement of the youth (age below about 40) will be specifically considered as part of the Mission and Worship plans, such as development of the website and involvement in an All-age format of service.

Church Buildings

The present number of buildings, and particularly the churches within the parish, is probably unsustainable, but there are risks associated with the closure of any of them.

Glenbervie Church is the most economical of the buildings but is also the least used.

Auchenblae Church is nearest the centre of the parish, is in the largest of the villages, is on the site of the "Mither Kirk o' the Mearns", and has the largest regular attendance on Sundays.

Fettercairn Church is adjacent to the Manse, and although having a lower regular congregation its loss would mean that the outlying community of Edzell Woods would be badly served by the parish.

Both Fettercairn and Auchenblae have church halls, but in both cases these are considerably smaller than the nearby village halls and the Board do not wish to compromise the viability of the other village resources.

All three churches have high proportions of elderly attendees and transportation between villages will become an issue if any of the churches were to be closed.

Finance

The cost of maintaining all six buildings are an overwhelming consideration for the Congregational Board, to the detriment of mission work and our ability to contribute to the Church's work elsewhere. During 2011 and 2012 all but essential maintenance to prevent degradation has been stopped while fund raising for the fabric fund continues.

We worry that the Church in the parish is seen as being obsessed with maintaining the under-filled buildings, which although essential to villages' lives have no outstanding architectural merit.

The General Assembly requirement for the Parish to establish the 3 year Stewardship Cycle is noted; as the Parish undertook a successful financial appeal in 2011 the financial stewardship year of the cycle will be in year 3 (2014). Years 1 and 2 of each cycle will address the giving of time and talents and will be planned by Session.