I WRITE, as a Kirk minister, in response to Rosemary Goring’s column ("Kirk’s cruel plan to banish elderly from services is a disgrace", The Herald, June 17). I wish to reassure readers that this seriously misrepresents the facts and the care that the church has for older people.

Ministers are well aware of the distress that closing church buildings has caused, particularly to the elderly. We are keen to see everyone – of every age – having the option of returning to church as soon as it is safe.

Our head offices are providing welcome guidance as local churches consider reopening, and they are consulting ministers regularly. The guidance is complicated, not because it is trying to fool anyone, as Ms Goring alleges, but because Government advice is changing weekly.

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It is the Scottish Government that placed certain people in the “shielding” category and advised that over-70s take care. The Kirk simply asks congregations to keep this in view, recognising that some will choose (for themselves) not to return when their church reopens. No one is being banished. We are being asked to ensure that options remain for those choosing not to return. For my own church, our services will continue to be available online, distributed by DVD, and by dial-in service, even after we reopen, so that everyone – young or old – can choose what is best for themselves.

Can I also reassure readers that decisions will be taken by local elders (many of whom are also over 70) and not by any “hierarchy,” as Ms Goring claims.

Alistair May (Rev), Dalziel St Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Motherwell.

ROSEMARY Goring highlights one of the dilemmas for parish ministers caused by Covid-19. She is right to point out that many of our faithful members feel isolated and deprived of the church presence they value, because they are older and because many of them do not readily use or have access to the internet. They are good at looking out for one another, but many are living alone, and for them the virus itself is less of a burden than the isolation it has caused. I am reduced to keeping in touch with them by phone or card, and occasionally through doorstep and window conversations, and I am sure I am not the only minister receiving phone calls asking "When can we get back into the church?"

It is ironic that I can meet those members in funeral services in a variety of settings, and now in numbers up to 40 but cannot yet conduct a Sunday service for the living in my large church building.

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Most of these members are well able to weigh up the risks and benefits. For some who have dementia the pattern of weekly worship in a familiar place keeps them mentally on track, and I wonder what this isolation is doing to their mental wellbeing.

Ms Goring is right to point out that the document we have received is designed to keep everyone safe from a health and safety point of view, but it would be untrue to suggest that any of us at the front line do not care. Many of us have had sleepless nights wondering how best to fulfil our calling in these terrible times.

Rev Catherine Collins, Dundee DD5.