Church of Scotland 'facing a crisis' as 20 buildings prepare to shutter on the Shetland Islands

Church of ScotlandThe Church of Scotland is experiencing a continued decline in attendance

Two thirds of Church of Scotland churches on the Shetland Islands will close their doors over the next three years, it has been announced.

The drastic measure comes as the Kirk continues to grapple with a rising national deficit combined with a fall in church attendance and a shortage of ministers.

In total, 20 of its churches in Shetland will shutter, including the oldest Hillswick, which dates back to 1733. 

The Reverend Ian Murray, Shetland Assessor Minister for the Church of Scotland told the BBC it was time to focus on 'mission and outreach'.

'We are facing a crisis in the church, and we've got to trim back,' he said.

Newly-installed transition minister, the Reverend Dr Frances Henderson told the BBC that proposals are afoot to merge 13 local parishes into one. They would be served by three ministers who would share the burden of Sunday services, weddings and funerals.

'We are going to be travelling a lot but we will go where the need is. With funerals, for example, when the call comes in we will work out who is available, where they are, and send them out,' she said.

Latest figures reveal a sharp fall in the number of Scots saying they belong to the Church of Scotland, from 32 per cent in 2002 to 18 per cent in 2017. 

The Social Attitudes Survey bodes ill for the future of the Kirk as affiliation was even lower among the vital 18- to 34-year-olds age group - just 4 per cent last year. At the same time, nearly three-quarters of 18 to 34-year-olds in Scotland (73 per cent) said they had no religion.