A CHURCH organist who claimed she was unfairly sacked after 17 years' loyal service has had her complaint rejected by an employment tribunal.

Mary Boyd, from Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire, took St Cyprian's Church in Lenzie to an employment tribunal after her services were terminated.

However, the tribunal in Glasgow has ruled she was not an employee and so was not entitled to fight her claim before it.

Mrs Boyd told a preliminary hearing how she took on the role of organist at the Episcopal church in 1987. She played for morning and evening services and was paid an honorarium of pounds-150 a quarter. This was increased to pounds-1000 a year in 1992.

Mrs Boyd, who is also a music teacher, included the payment in her tax returns. She said she took over responsibility for running the junior choir and, after the choirmaster of the church died in 1997, leadership of the senior choir.

She was given the title of director of music, with duties including playing the organ at services, training the senior choir twice a week, coaching the junior choir, and choosing hymns for services. The work took about eight hours a week.

Following an unspecified problem between Mrs Boyd and the Rev John Marsburg, the rector at St Cyprian's, she was relieved of her duties and responsibilities in January last year. She appealed to the local bishop and was advised her position as director of music was at an end.

Mrs Boyd, who teaches music at home, told the tribunal: "It was my life. It was a job to me. It was where I could use my professionalism. If I had not done that, I would have gone into some other employment."

Mr Marsburg told the tribunal Mrs Boyd's duties came under divine worship or spiritual matters and were his responsibility, but he denied she was ever an employee.

The only people who were employees were himself as rector and a cleaner, he said. "My understanding was that Mary was a very welcome volunteer who fulfiled the role as director of music, " Mr Marsburg told the tribunal.

Mrs Boyd argued she was an employee and should be able to fight her unfair dismissal claim before the tribunal, but the church contended that she was simply a member of the congregation involved in the music group at the church.

It said she could take holidays when she wanted and the church could do nothing about it. The tribunal accepted the church's evidence that Mrs Boyd was not an employee.

Iain Atack, the chairman, said: "There was no obligation upon the rector or the vestry to provide the claimant with work. There was no obligation on the claimant to do any work which was offered to her.

"She could decline to attend church on any Sunday without giving any reason. She could cancel the choir practice or change the night on which it was to be held.

"No disciplinary sanction could be inspired if she chose not to attend, other than terminating the arrangement, in terms of the constitution."

The tribunal added that Mrs Boyd was given a voluntary payment for services rendered, not a wage, and that the rector did not have powers to control how she performed her tasks as organist or choirmaster.

Mr Atack said: "He did not control when and how she held choir practices. He did not control how she played the organ."

Neighbours at Mrs Boyd's home in Kirkintilloch said yesterday she was on holiday in New Zealand. Mr Marsburg declined to comment when contacted by The Herald.