A FORMER Greenock minister says he is honoured to have been appointed to lead the newly-formed Clyde Presbytery.

Reverend Dr Ian Johnson has been named moderator of the merged presbyteries of Greenock and Paisley and Dumbarton.

He says the move is aimed at 'modernising and streamlining' the church and feels privileged to take on the prestigious position.

Mr Johnson told the Telegraph: "It is a surprise and great honour to be asked to be moderator.

"We are trying to do things in new ways."

He said he wanted to use the new presbytery to reach out to congregations and to be closer to the people it serves.

Mr Johnson said: "Many church structures were designed for circumstances pertaining 40 to 50 years ago.

"Obviously things have changed since then and we want more powers to be devolved from the centre in Edinburgh to local communities.

“The creation of Clyde Presbytery is part of a wider programme of change across the Church of Scotland -– a programme that will probably be extended and speeded up to reflect the challenges and opportunities arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have been working before and during the pandemic to look at ways to modernise and streamline the church and trying to be more responsive to local needs.

"The union of the two presbyteries, and the changes that will in time flow from it, are designed to refocus the role of presbytery.

"Instead of primarily having an administrative function, it will in future provide congregations with support in a variety of ways.

Mr Johnson was the former minister of the Old West Kirk and then Lyle Kirk, following the union with Ardgowan and Finnart St Paul’s, spending a total of 16 years in Greenock.

He said: "I have fond memories of my time in Greenock.

"Greenock is a lovely place with lovely folk.

"It does have its economic and social problems but it is still a nice place."

He said he was pleased to see local people rallying around during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Johnson said: "I think it has renewed community spirit and prompted people to take more of an interest in their neighbours and make more time for them."