A NEW locum minister has taken over the helm at St John's Church.

The linked church charge of St John's in Largs and Cumbrae Parish will not be given the right to call a minister by the Church of Scotland, but Reverend May Bell has stepped into the breach in Largs and parish assistant Gus McKay on the island.

May told the News she is delighted to lead the local congregation at a difficult time.

She said: "I look forward to conducting worship moving forward.

"It is difficult for any church with a vacancy. It is a time a church can feel unsure of the road they have to travel as one body of believing people.

"I pray that together we can strengthen each other as we walk forward in faith.

"What I pray is that we can come together in worship and praise."

Rev Bell says she wants to look to the future and will introduce a special focus on children to her sermons.

She said: "I shall have a children's address, speaking to the children directly.

"The children are so much part of the church we would not wish to lose them when we begin a Sunday School again.

"This part of the service will be 'their time'."

Rev Dr Graham McWilliams is interim moderator for the area and also serves as minister for the linked charge of St Columba's Parish and Fairlie Parish Church.

He said: "There are three Church of Scotland parishes within the town of Largs and the presbytery has a view that this number should decrease.

"This is not a new consideration and many members of the local churches are fully aware of this need, even accepting of it.

"How this change will happen however, has not been discussed on the floor; but more importantly, it has not been realistically discussed within the Kirk Sessions and congregations of the Largs churches.

"Secondly, the actual number of ordained ministers within the Church of Scotland has diminished significantly. The number of ministers retiring greatly exceeds the number of men and women being called to ministry.

"This situation will impact the whole of the national church, but, locally, it means that the vacant charge of Cumbrae linked with St John’s will not be given the right to call a minister.

"Like the other congregations in Largs, the history of St John’s is long and many memories have been created along the journey of God’s people who have worshipped, and continue to worship, within the congregation.

"However, one aspect that we must all address is that of buildings, which are all expensive to run and which take a large proportion of any congregation’s givings to maintain and upkeep. And we will address this issue in due course."

Speaking to the News, Rev McWilliams added: "My priority has been for worship to continue whilst providing stability going forward. Although there will be changes there is still plenty to be positive about going forward in the future with restrictions easing.

"Parish assistant Gus McKay is going going to focus his time with the people of Cumbrae while May will dedicate her time to St John's Church going forward.

"There are still a lot of discussions to take place regarding the future of our churches moving forward."