Revitalising Faith: The Rebirth of Free Church Services in Ardnamurchan

Church revitalisation in Ardnamurchan.

By Rev Euan Dodds, of Kilmallie and Ardnamurchan Free Church 

The five West Highland Peninsulas are a remote and beautiful part of Scotland with ancient woodlands, historic ruins, white beaches and turquoise seas. They are often referred to collectively as Ardnamurchan which is also the name of the most Westerly of the five. There is evidence of the activity of Celtic Christians and Columba himself is reported to have ministered here. Following the Disruption, the Free Church were denied land upon which to build and so moored the famous ‘floating church’ in Loch Sunart by Strontian, one of the principal settlements. 

In time the Free Church would have three church buildings in three different villages: Strontian, Acharacle and Kilchoan. Both the Strontian and Kilchoan buildings have since been sold. The Acharacle building dates from 1878 and is still in use. One Sunday a month a service is livestreamed from Kilmallie to Acharacle and another Sunday a month an ‘in-person’ service is held. A Sunday school has recently been relaunched. Since May, work has been undertaken to completely refurbish the building. The vision is to create a welcoming, warm, accessible and flexible space which can be used for Christian witness and service and to host events for the local community. A two-way livestreaming audio-visual system is also being fitted. In addition to upgrading the whole space to meet current building regulations, health and safety standards and be more energy efficient, we are also looking to install a kitchenette to allow regular hospitality. The work is scheduled to finish in August.  

At the same time as this project has been undertaken, Free Church services have resumed in Kilchoan after a pause of around a decade. Kilchoan is one of the most Westerly villages on the mainland and is itself a further 22 miles from Acharacle, mostly along single-track roads. The Church of Scotland sold their 19th century building and built a very contemporary building in the grounds of their manse, just below the ruins of another earlier church building, parts of which date back to the 13th century. The Church of Scotland hold twice monthly services and have kindly made the building available to the Free Church on other Sundays. We have held a monthly service from December and have again been encouraged by preachers – many with a longstanding connection to Kilchoan – making long journeys to minister to the people there. The services have been attended by Christians of different denominations and are characterised by an extended time of fellowship afterwards. 

We have been greatly encouraged by the prayerful interest of other Christians and have been the beneficiaries of some generous grants. We would value the prayers of the wider denomination as this new chapter begins in the story of the Christian church in Ardnamurchan. Please pray that these two church buildings would be used by the Master as He builds His church in rural and remote Scotland.