The Future of Cults Kirk
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Cults Kirk Always Open


1st Sunday of Each Month

At 11. am

Address to CCC Tuesday 31st July 2018

Church buildings are peculiar in that the community has a sense of ownership without actually owning them.

Village halls are owned and run either by a community committee or the council.  Churches, however, are owned either by the congregation or the central body.  So it is that Cults Kirk is owned by the Church of Scotland.  Maintenance is the responsibility of the Congregation.  Over the past 14 years, Friends of Cults Kirk has, through the generosity of the local people, raised and spent over £24,000 to ensure this building has been maintained in good order.  

Somewhere in all of this many people of the community have got lost.  They may have been baptised in Cults Kirk or had their wedding here.  They may also have attended the funerals of loved ones in this place.  But the kirk does not belong to them unless they are members of the congregation.  Even if they have been generous in their giving to the Friends, if they are not members they do not have any say in the future of this building.  Hard though this sounds, it is the legal position.  It is for this reason that I wanted to talk to you this evening.

A substantial majority of the members of the congregation of the Howe of Fife have decided that the time has come to sell Cults along with other church buildings in the Howe of Fife. An objection has been raised as to the procedure that led to this decision.  While this may well delay the process it will not stop it for the Church of Scotland is determined to reduce the number of buildings in its care.  If the local community – i.e. you – wish to have a say in the future of this building then you must either become members of Howe of Fife Parish Church, or take the opportunity, when it become available,  to adopt it.

It is worth pointing out at this stage that there is a party, who wishes to remain anonymous at this stage, who is prepared to buy the church – if the price is right and if  the community can put together a convincing business plan that will ensure that it will remain in good condition and available for the community into perpetuity.  There are two important ‘ifs’.  The first is not in our hands for it is the Church of Scotland that will set the price.  The second ‘if’ is very much in our hands.  

The Friends of Cults Kirk has a membership of 31.  These people come from all over the UK and America.  Through subscriptions they provide an income of about £700.00.  On the face of it this may sound quite healthy but the Management Committee of The Friends is, I’m sure they will agree, past their first flush of youth.  Of the nine members who wish to be here tonight, one is in hospital, two are ill and one has had to travel south to a funeral. That reduces our number to four, my wife Ann, who is the secretary, myself, the treasurer, Ted Statham and Mac Kervill, who is the Kirk Session representative.  As you see we are struggling to operate alone and if we are to support Cults Kirk into perpetuity then a new arrangement is necessary.

If we can come together, the ‘Friends’ and the CCC, to create a Management Committee that will produce a convincing business plan and a Constitution that is acceptable to OSCR, there is every hope that the church will remain available to the community for weddings, funerals, baptisms, concerts, exhibitions, plays, and many more activities.  In other words, this unique and historic building could become an important centre of life in the community for people of faith and for people of no faith.  The connection with the outstanding 19th century painter Sir David Wilkie is a matter not only of local importance but also of national and international importance.  I have written to the president of the Scottish National Galleries, Sir John Leighton, and he is keen to support us, although at the time of writing he could not see how he could help.  The idea of a ‘Wilkie Trail’ has since been mooted and perhaps Sir John could assist us in that.  This is just an idea at the moment but it shows how things could develop.

I believe that when the building goes on the market we must be prepared for it, otherwise we may lose our opportunity.  For this reason I seek two things from tonight’s meeting:

The support of the meeting to pursue ways of ensuring that the building can be preserved for the community into perpetuity.

The formation of  a Business committee of perhaps 8 people, members of the Friends and members of the CCC to create a viable business plan.  Having contacted ‘Fife Historic Buildings Trust’ I know that help is available to do this.

That would be the first step before presenting the business plan to the anonymous donor who might buy the building.  It will then be necessary to create a Constitution that will be acceptable to OSCR so that it becomes a recognised charity.

If this meeting is not willing to follow this through, then we must lay aside all concerns for Cults Kirk and leave the Church of Scotland to sell as it sees fit and the community will have no further interest in it.

The decision is yours.

Thank you for your attention.


A meeting was held in Cults Kirk attended by representatives of Cults Community Council, representatives of the Friends of Cults Kirk.   There were also present representatives of the Friends of Kettle Church and Friends of Collessie Church, in addition to several members of the local community: in all, 18 were present.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the present position of the Kirk and what efforts could be made to ensure a future for what is a much loved historical building.

Angus Shaw gave a comprehensive account of the present circumstances.   The Church of Scotland is likely to put the building on the market in the near future and he wanted to know what interest there is in the community in preserving it for its own history, for its connection with Sir David Wilkie R.A. and for its value as a venue for genealogy tourism.   There is an anonymous party who might be willing to secure the building for the future if the price is appropriate and if the community can demonstrate their willingness to maintain it with a convincing Business Plan that will ensure it will remain in good condition and available for the community into perpetuity.

The Friends of Cults Kirk have, with the support of the local community, raised and spent £24,000 on the Kirk and the Session House in the past 14 years.   We are an ageing group and need to extend the membership in order to continue functioning.  If members of the Community Council would be willing to join forces with us, along with any other individuals who have an interest, then a Management Committee could be formed.   The first task would be to produce a business plan (we know that help is available for this) and draw up a Constitution which would be acceptable to OSCR.  

The Kirk would still be available for all its previous functions: for Weddings, Funerals and Baptisms;  for Sunday worship;  for a place of retreat from the world if people wish to use it as such; for community events including exhibitions, plays, concerts, etc.   The memory of Sir David Wilkie R.A. would be kept alive with connections to the National Gallery Scotland.

Angus pointed out that when the building is placed on the market, the local community needs to be ready to act or the opportunity may be lost.

In closing, he pointed out that if the meeting was not willing to follow this through, then all concerns for the Kirk must be laid aside and the community would have no further interest in it.

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There followed an opportunity for questions.

1.  Why does the Kirk need to be sold?

 The Church of Scotland is recognising that the number of regular worshippers is reducing, and ageing and sees fit to divest itself of buildings which are surplus to requirements.   The Church is not an organisation for the preservation of ancient buildings.   

2.  Is finance the reason?

 Yes.   The regular bills for insurance and electricity are paid by the Parish Church.   Since 2004, the Friends have paid all repair and maintenance bills.

3.  What about Sunday services.

 Until the Kirk is sold, monthly services will continue at Cults.   Thereafter, an arrangement would have to be made with the local clergy to hold any services.   Once the new proposed Church Centre in Ladybank is open, parish church services will be held there in accordance with the Church of Scotland.

4.  What is the amount of money involved in maintaining Cults Kirk?

 The aim would be £4,000 per annum to cover regular bills and general maintenance and repairs.  Initially funds would need to be sought for capital investments into the building, for example perhaps, the installation of toilets and kitchen facilities.   Research has shown that there is money available from various sources for such alterations especially if the “Community” would benefit.   Whatever may be done, sensitivity will be required to avoid changing the ethos of the present building.

5.  Although the Kirk is considered to have a very special place in the community, it was noted that remarkably few people were present.

6.  One feature of Cults Kirk is that it is never locked.  It is known that there are people who come to the Kirk, perhaps at difficult times in their lives, to be alone, to think, to pray, or simply to escape from the world for a few minutes.   It is hoped that this facility would continue to be available.   Insurance companies may not view it in the same way as we do!

Because the number present was not large, it was decided that the report would be made available locally and on line and people encouraged to attend the next Community Council meeting on 20th August, 2018 at 7.30 p.m. in the Wilkie Hall, Pitlessie.   A further meeting of the Friends of Cults Kirk and the Cults Community Council could then be arranged to elect a committee for the project.  

Ann Shaw  (Secretary - Friends of Cults Kirk)  shaw,