The church leaders at the shrine of St. John Ogilive

It is a measure, perhaps, of how far ecumenical relations have come that the feast of the martyr John Ogilvie is now marked by an ecumenical service. This year Glasgow Churches Together (GCT), together with the Jesuit community at St. Aloysius, Garnethill, hosted an evening service on the vigil of the feast. Piper Isla McLennan welcomed the congregation and the St. Mungo Singers set a prayerful atmosphere in the church with Dr. Noel Donnelly on harp.

As the church leaders processed to the lovely shrine dedicated to St. John, cantor Gerry Healy led the congregation in singing the Litany of Saints which finished with petitions reflecting the ecumenical nature of the service:    “We thank you for what we have in common….fill us with mutual love”

The procession then moved to the sanctuary as the choir led the singing of “The Martyrs living now with Christ” Archbishop Tartaglia welcomed everyone to the service, particularly the other church leaders, Rev. Chris Foxon the Vice-chair of GCT, and Rev. William Young, Fr. Dermot Preston SJ, the parish priest of St. Aloysius and representatives of the Knights of St. Columba.

After the psalm, scripture reading and canticle, Rev. Young gave the reflection. He was introduced by Fr. Preston who reminded us that this was an opportunity to come together to remember not just St John Ogilvie but to pray for others who had been robbed of their humanity.  Rev. Young is a member of the Actions of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) Anti-Trafficking group. Brought up in the US, he could identify, he said, with what little he knew about St. John – that he sought to help his people who were being oppressed, and he noted that the same King James who authorised the translation and dissemination of the Bible which is known by his name was also the king responsible for ordering the execution of St. John.

His own hero is Rev.Dr Martin Luther King Jr., and this year is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King assassination. He too, like St John, is a symbol of a life lived and taken from him for Christ. Reading of St. John’s life, Rev. Young had reflected o the experience of Paul and Silas who had used their gifts to help a slave girl in Philippi whose own gifts were being exploited. Exploitation and slavery were the norm in their day.

Rev. Young giving the reflection

The challenge to the churches today continues to be to confront systems that treat people as commodities. This is the thread linking all our faith traditions, he said, to care and act for the most vulnerable. All human life is diminished when people are treated as commodities. His challenging question was: how is it that we have ceased to cultivate the global village.  St John and Dr.Martin Luther King were lessons to us all in giving our lives towards a purpose and setting people free. We can do this by our political votes, by our purchases, our trade relations. In concluding, he invited us to pray for people in our city of Glasgow who had been trafficked, that they might find freedom.

The intercessions which followed reflected the themes of the service: courage and faithfulness, leadership and justice, ending with the prayer:-

Help us all to realise that we are one people, and that no-one prospers unless all do.

The service ended with the much-loved hymn to St John Ogilvie On the Battlefields of Scotland. The congregation then had the opportunity to enjoy hospitality in the Ogilvie Centre.