Police called to unauthorised church service in Skye

The Free Presbyterian church in Portree
PHOTO: Willie Urquhart/WHFP

Police were called to warn worshippers who had defied lockdown restrictions by holding a church service in Skye.

A small number of Free Presbyterians met for the service in Portree on Sunday 10th January.

The acting inspector for Skye and Lochalsh, Bruce Crawford, confirmed that the gathering had been reported to police.

Commenting on the incident, he said: “A report was received of an alleged breach of coronavirus regulations at a church in Portree, Isle of Skye.

“Officers attended and engaged with the leadership of the church, explained the regulations, and encouraged compliance with the rules on services.”

PHOTO: Willie Urquhart/WHFP

Rev Iain Macdonald of the Portree Free Presbyterian Church was among five ministers from the denomination who signed an open letter to Nicola Sturgeon to protest against restrictions, announced on 4th January, which prohibited church services.

The letter read: “Since March 2020, we have taken all necessary steps to protect public health on the advice of the civil authorities. No instances of spreading the virus have been identified with any place of worship as far as we are aware. We are prepared to continue co-operation now and in the future. But we do not concede that the First Minister, or any other civil ruler, has an absolute authority to prohibit all attendance on the public worship of God, nor any jurisdiction or authoritative control over the regulation of the affairs of Christ’s Church.”

Rev David Campbell in Edinburgh, Rev Allan MacColl in Dingwall, Rev Keith M Watkins in Leverburgh and Rev Alasdair B MacLean in Perth also signed the letter, which urged: “The public preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, must continue in Scotland during this emergency.

“This legislation has given a sinful priority to many activities of far less importance, and even to supermarkets and other businesses to remain open on the Sabbath Day in breach of the law of God.”

Skye MP Ian Blackford has called on worshippers across the island to safely observe Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking to the Free Press this week, the SNP Westminster leader said it was vital that praying and services should take place at home and that the health of the wider public was the priority.

Mr Blackford said: “It is absolutely critical that everybody follows the guidance, which in many cases is the law, and it is with regret that, for very good reasons, the Scottish Government has made it clear that services should not be taking place at this time.

“The priority should be the health of absolutely everyone, we need to get through the current crisis we are in and into a position of safety.

“And of course, when we do so religious services shall resume, and we can look forward to that day.”

He added: “We understand that people want to pray, and want to take part in services, but for the time being that should be done from the comfort of their own home, and where appropriate joining online services.”

From 8th January 2021 places of worship located within an area having level 4 restrictions — which Skye is within — were told that they must close for communal worship and individual prayer, until further notice.

Within its guidance the Scottish Government stated that it was well aware of how important communal worship is to people, but believes that the restriction is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission.

For more, see this week’s WHFP Editorial