The annual Carols for Peace service took place this year on 16th December. The weather the previous day had been dire and we worried that this would affect the level of attendance at the service if this continued. The opposite proved to be the case. The weather on the day was much improved and in fact so many people came that Council staff ran out of chairs and space and eventually had to turn people away for safety reasons!
The music for the service was provided by the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band, the St. Mungo Singers, and our usual faithful instrumental group (John, Carissa, Anne Marie, Mil, Annette, Monica and Marita) and organists Jane and Jacqueline. Regulars Pauline and Clare were unable to attend this year. We also had our wonderful fiddlers from the Southside Fiddlers.
John and Carissa played on the half landing to welcome people as they arrived and piper Willie played outside before coming upstairs to pipe Baillie Kyle Thornton and the church and civic representatives into the banqueting hall for the beginning of the service.
The service opened with the ever popular and cheering Adeste Fideles, before Baillie Thornton welcomed everyone on behalf of the City Council. He said that the Council was proud of Glasgow’s ecumenical record, at the centre of which was Glasgow Churches Together (GCT). In these challenging times, the work of the churches at home and abroad make us proud and this service was also an opportunity to thank all involved.
The Chair of GCT, Fr David Wallace, was unable to attend due to family illness but Rev. Chris Foxon led the opening prayer for peace. Then everyone joined in singing Away in a Manger. This was followed by one of the smallest Southside Fiddlers playing O Holy Night.
After scripture readings and further carols, Rev Roy Henderson gave the reflection. He drew attention to the fact that so many carols speak of peace – carols and peace seem to go together. Is it wishful thinking – can we not bear too much sad reality? This year in particular, we have many important and sad anniversaries to remember: the Lockerbie disaster in 1988, the Clutha Vaults tragedy; the bin lorry accident; and now the heightened tensions in Bethlehe our twinned city.
If peace is to be a reality, it must be grounded in the real world, he said, in ourselves, between us and among nations. He remembered how as a boy, he had bought his first record, a recording of Holst’s the Planet Suite, mainly because he liked the space picture of planets on the cover. He began to read the notes on the sleeve and was struck by the notes in particular for the Mars and Venus tracks. Mars was the bringer of war, with simple brutal music, but Venus was the bringing of peace, with complex beauty.
It was easy to get used to the simple music of Mars but harder to understand Venus. The carols sing of peace and some people even try to take the risk of working for it. Reflecting on this, he recalled the late Dr Laurence Whitley, whose funeral he had recently attended, a man who , together with the mosque and Glasgow the Caring City, had helped deal with the aftermath of the Clutha Vaults accident.
GCT exists, said Rev. Roy, to bring together Christians of many denominations and Interfaith Glasgow brings together people of different faiths, each working to promote peace. He acknowledged that there are sometimes difficulties, and national and international tensions but peace can only be made, he suggested, if we have real enemies that we need to face. The baby whose birth we celebrate said as an adult, Blessed are the peacemakers. So now you know your job, he said!
The ensemble gave the congregation time to reflect on his words before leading them in singing Silent Night for all families for whom there is “no room at the inn” this year. There followed intercessions for the anniversaries already mentioned and for the centenary of World War I. A poignant lament was played by Lauren Dunbar of the Southside Fiddlers, and a beautiful song in remembrance Bright Red Poppies sung by Elena White- a sombre interval in what was otherwise a joyous service.
The final section of the service began with the communal singing of It came upon the Midnight Clear and the Lord’s Prayer. A collection for the Lord Provost’s Fund was taken up while the Salvation Army Band played. Then the St. Mungo Singers sang Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
Rev. Foxon led the church representatives in the blessing, and the service ended with the joyful Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, and then it was off to the Satinwood Suite to enjoy mince pies and tea/coffee while listening to the Southside Fiddlers.