A turf-cutting ceremony has been held to mark the start of a long-awaited new church building for Portree & Bracadale Free Church.
The church community met to celebrate the momentous occasion. It follows numerous delays and setbacks to the project including rising building costs due to the pandemic.
Charles Crichton, Session Clerk & Treasurer for Portree & Bracadale Free Church, said: “On a wet and windy Saturday morning, a group from our congregation along with minister the Rev. Donnie G MacDonald attended the sod-cutting in a field of weeds!”
“We have come through 20 years of prayerful preparation. We’re now grateful to be able to officially start the project.”
The new-build, which will be on a housing estate, is intended to be a real hub for the community.
Charles said: “The church is the people, and the building is simply to support the cause of the church in this parish. Donnie G has always been very strong on this. Through the years, we’ve asked ourselves very searching questions about the purpose of the project, and we have had many tokens of encouragement. Therefore, we are more certain than ever that there’s a place for it in our community, and not just for Sundays”.
“We want to develop an identifiable place in which to meet for worship, in order to develop our small part of the Lord’s cause in the Portree and Bracadale parish.”
The congregation has not had its own church building for the past two decades, so it has been meeting in a local primary school. Around 80 people meet on Sunday mornings with up to 70 people joining online.
The plans to build a church go back about 20 years but really took off when the church bought a 1.8-acre plot of land on a housing estate in 2012. The site had previously been earmarked for 14 detached houses, with utilities for those homes already installed. However, due to the nationwide financial crisis, the land was put up for sale with an asking price of £500,000 – and the firm accepted £250,000 for it.
Since then there have been great strides in raising money so that work can start on the build.
Around £1.75 million has been raised including a substantial loan from the Board of Trustees several years ago, money from the sale of the manse in Bracadale Parish after the parishes merged in 2016, and through many generous donations.
Unfortunately, the unprecedented rise in building costs throughout 2021 means the congregation still needs to raise £350,000, taking the final total to £2.1 million.
Local firm RK Joinery has been appointed for the project. Work will shortly take place to move the utilities to enable the foundations of the church to be laid. The single-storey building, which will have disabled access, is set to complete by early-summer 2023.