Despite an uprising in the congregational board, the minister of Monigaff Parish Church, the Rev Peter Aiken, has assured his parishioners that it is business as usual.
Last week the Gazette reported the mystery surrounding the sudden resignation of key members of the congregation, including the session clerk and the treasurer.
Sources have said since that the parting of the ways came after a congregational board meeting on March 20 to discuss the broken heating system in the church when the minister had allegedly acted in a “high-handed” manner.
Neither those who resigned nor Mr Aiken were prepared to make any further comment this week.
But Mr Aiken, who is the minister in charge at both the Monigaff and Kirkmabreck churches, is very popular with many of his parishioners.
One told the Gazette: “
I have happily attended Monigaff Church for about six years and have been welcomed by everyone there. Peter gave great pre-marital sessions where my partner and I really saw what we were embarking on. I think this is one of Peter’s under-appreciated strengths. He just knows the deal when it comes to marriage. He will talk things through, offer marriage guidance and counselling, and lets you know he is always there to listen.
“He helped to make sure my kids were a big part of the church because he recognises they are the future for it, even though some people disagree with this.
“His sermons are full of energy and passion. He is such an encourager, a gentleman, a friend and he exudes charisma. Most of all, he is forgiving, so he won’t be phased by negative comments or grudges or arguments. Rather, he will pray for the strength to love those who say them.
“I find it quite painful that people could call his work into question. The saddest thing about it is that people have fallen out over this, forgetting how to behave as Christians.
“Peter’s sermons preach forgiveness, as does Jesus, to love thy neighbour and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Another parishioner added: “I think people have forgotten that Peter is the head of that church, so to speak, and so if they can’t trust his judgement on issues relating to the running of the place, then they should quite rightly step out and find a church with a less active leader.
“I believe this so-called furore to be a simple case of the ‘Newton Stewart area fear’ – fear of change and of something different.
“This isn’t 1950 any more and if something is a bit out of the ordinary, as some people see Monigaff church to be, that’s called moving with the times.”
A further member backed the minister saying: “I find it a shame that none of those involved will speak up as to why they have left, because people are forming opinions on the situation without having the full facts .
“And that can do real damage to the reputation of both Peter and the church, which is a fabulous place and he is someone I have heard described, and would agree with, as a breath of fresh air.
“I have attended that church for more than 20 years and wouldn’t change for anything.
“This could all be about something or nothing.
“But we are hearing and reading that something has kicked off so I would like to know what has spurred this and would like for Peter’s parishioners to speak up and support him so that we do the Christian thing and support whoever needs it.”