FINANCIAL crisis is threatening the future of a historic parish church in Peeblesshire.

The Eddleston Parish could be forced to close its doors calling the cash shortage “critical” and said it is not viable to continue without a substantial income boost.

Though Eddleston is linked with Peebles Old Parish Church and shares a ministry team, it is wholly responsible for its own finances and building.

Session Clerk Lorraine Mulholland said: “Month by month expenditure exceeds income and with the beautiful building to maintain and regularly recurring expenses to meet, the church cannot continue without a very substantial increase in income.”

There has been a worshipping community at the church since the missions of St Mungo (Kentigern) in the late 6th or early 7th century.

It was rebuilt after a fire in 1897 and is said to house one of the oldest church bells in the country.

Today, as well as providing weekly Church of Scotland worship on Sundays, the church seeks to reach out to the Eddleston community through a variety of initiatives.

Uses of the premises include:

• A Bite and a Blether – a chance for villagers and visitors to meet over tea or coffee, bacon rolls and home baking each

Wednesday in the Village Hall.

• Eddleston Voices – the local community choir which practises each Thursday evening and presents a concert every June in the church, as well as performing throughout Peeblesshire.

• Eddleston Parish Church Junior Choir which practises in the church every Thursday afternoon.

• A Craft Group in which people meet and share their skills and ideas in an informal social setting.

• 'Chat in the Hat' – an informal social-cum-discussion group.

This week, a letter highlighting the financial crisis and appealing for support will be circulated throughout the parish.

Mrs Mulholland added: “Unless the financial situation can be addressed very soon it is difficult to see how Eddleston Parish Church can continue in its present form.”

“Financial costs are rising all the time and we rely on donations coming in. If we can’t resolve the financial situation we may be forced to cut our weekly services to once a month as it is the only way we would be able to operate.”

But the bleak reality is the beloved church could eventually close for good unless the bank balance is boosted to maintain expensive running costs.

Eddleston’s village church is an attractive building and opens its doors to weddings, baptisms and families wishing to have a funeral service for a loved one.

However the number of church weddings has dropped dramatically. Mrs Mulholland said: “On average we have about three weddings per year. Couples being married in churches have declined – this is something that has happened nationally with more people choosing to marry in hotels.”

It’s been a bittersweet week for the congregation and community after the successful junior choir celebrated its 25th anniversary with a concert last Friday evening.

“The local parish church plays an important part in the life of Eddleston village and the parish community and of course the minister can be called upon by anyone in the parish for the ordinances of religion or for pastoral support,” said Mrs Mulholland.

“The church and its groups have become a central meeting place for villagers and we will do everything we can to ensure its future.”

This may not be a crisis members can solve on their knees, but nevertheless the congregation will be praying for a way to save the church which is an integral part of the Eddleston community’s heritage.