St. Mungo Singers

cwg mass 5It has been a busier time for so many of us this summer than usual. The St Mungo Singers expected some involvement in services related to the Commonwealth Games and were scheduled – along with members of the East End Deanery Choir, the Cathedral parish choir, members of St Joseph’s, Tollcross choir, and a group of instrumentalists – to lead the music for the Mass to celebrated in St. Andrew’s Cathedral to mark the Games, along with requiring a recall from holidays for an additional rehearsal.

Then at a few days notice, they were asked to help out at a service in the African Village sited in Bellahouston Park, and at even shorter notice (less than 24 hours) to provide some singers for an event being sponsored by the Trades House at Cathcart Old Parish Church as part of the church’s celebrations for the Commonwealth Games, when another choir had had to pull out. With their usual generosity, members took part in these additional commitments when perhaps they might have hoped to be sitting at home, watching the Games.

The first service, in the African Village on 25 July, took place in a large marquee which had been set aside as a prayer space. The Singers were joined by members of the choir of St. Leo the Great, the local parish. It was rather sad that the whole concept of the African Village had been poorly advertised but what was lacking in numbers was more than made up for by the enthusiasm of the small congregation. The service was beautifully prayerful.

By contrast, the Mass in the Cathedral on 27 July was very well attended, despite the difficulties in travelling to the city centre due to road closures for the Marathon race and public transport jampacked for the various events.

The Cathedral was beautifully decorated for the Mass, with a lovely floral arrangement in the shape of a thistle and roses in the colours of the Games. The ladies of the several choirs wore colourful tops in one of the colours of the Games, with touches of tartan (including the Commonwealth Games tartan) and some of the men wore kilts. It was truly a festive occasion.

Before Mass began, the instrumentalists played a selection of music, much of it with a Scottish theme, and the choirs sang the Celtic Invocation (in Gaelic and English) and Great God, Be near Me. Then they led the congregation in singing the entrance processional hymns – the Pauline Greeting “Grace to you and Peace” leading into “Holy God, We Praise thy Name” – as Archbishop Tartaglia and the clergy processed to the altar.

The ARchbishop and clergy at the Mass

The ARchbishop and clergy at the Mass

In his welcome, the Archbishop expressed his sense of privilege in hosting this Mass and welcomed all visitors to what was proving an enjoyable and very friendly spectacle. Later in his homily, he jokingly commented on what a great congregation it was for a Sunday evening. The Mass was meant to be a recognition of the hosting by Glasgow of the Commonwealth Games.

The Archdiocese, he said, had been active with other faith communities in celebrating the spiritual aspect of the Games, in co-ordination with the Games organisers. They had provided chaplaincy services for the competitors, worship services for all attending for the Games, and had sponsored an international conference on faith, disability and sport.

He recalled the words of Pope Francis on the potential of sport to foster human dignity and the working together of different nations – something to be desired at this time of strife in Gaza. Turning to the Gospel with its parables of the search for Kingdom of God (the pearl of great price etc.) he reflected on St. Paul’s sporting metaphors of that search – the need for strict training and for focus with eyes fixed on the prize. In the Commonwealth Games, we had witnessed the joy of winners, and the dignity of those who did not win. For St. Paul, the only aim was to finish the race and complete the task given him. We too should have such determination.

Finally Archbishop Tartaglia commented on the fact that many of the competitors were visibly religious and this may have surprised some people. These competitors recognised that their sporting prowess was a gift from God and this led many of them to seek to contribute to their communities, to give back something. He finished with a wish that all would have a happy and safe stay in Glasgow, that they would compete to the best of their ability, and that we all would imitate the best qualities of these athletes.

The Mass, as might be expected with so many singers present, was a celebration full of music, from the plainchant Gloria, through the singing of the psalm, gospel acclamation and dialogue Creed, the Sanctus, memorial acclamation and Agnus Dei, to what has become known as the Glasgow Anthem (Let Glasgow Flourish) and the song written by Frank O’Hagan for the Commonwealth Games (The Commonwealth for the Common Good), as well as motets such as the Mozart Ave Verum and the Scarlatti Exultate.

When the Mass ended, there was a lovely feeling of warmth friendship and celebration, very fitting for such a wonderful sporting occasion.

Adding a bit of colour to the celebrations

Adding a bit of colour to the celebrations

The following day a small group of the St. Mungo Singers took part in the event at Cathcart Old Parish Church. They were not sure what this was to be and were a little taken aback when they found out that it was a concert, not a service, and they were part of a line-up which included the Glasgow Youth Choir (Junior Section), members of the Scottish Police Pipe Band, members of the MECTIS choir, a classical pianist and many others!

One thing was certain. The choir’s selection of music would be quite different from anyone else’s. It ranged from the Orlando Gibbons/James Quinn “Love is of God”, through the Scottish liturgical pieces Celtic Invocation (Noel S Donnelly) and John Bell’s “God to Enfold You”, to an African hymn (Jesu, Tawa Pano by Patrick Matakenyiri) and concluding with the Glasgow Anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish” and Frank O’Hagan’s hymn for the Commonwealth Games “The Commonwealth for the Common Good”.

We were not sure what the audience expected but they seemed to appreciate our “something different”, and we appreciated the chance to listen to the others taking part – and the homebaking and snacks provided at the interval.


…and elsewhere

There were a host of events going on in Glasgow in addition to the official celebrations – local church celebrations, events linked to aspects of the Games etc.

In the southside, Kinning Park Parish hosted a Commonweath Games Garden Party on 26th July as a finale to the passing of a Prayer Baton round parishes in the area. The parishioners from the churches involved were fortunate that the weather was dry and warm enough to sit out in the parking area opposite the church. They enjoyed music and barbequed hot dogs, as well as lots of home baking. Some of the braver souls got up to dance, to the undoubted fascination of passing motorists and pedestrians.

The celebration ended with a short service, presided over by Kinning Park minister Rev Marnie Johnston, with music, scripture readings and prayers for all involved in the Games.

Church representatives in the box!

Church representatives in the box!

St Anne’s Dennistoun was the venue for a service of a different kind on 21 July – a Just Prayer service for Victims of Human Trafficking. The organiser, Marie Cooke, is a member of the Archdiocesan Justice & Peace Commission and also a part of the More Than Gold team with specific responsibility for the social justice aspect of the team’s work.

Human trafficking has been an area of increasing concern for those involved in social justice. It is the second biggest source of income for organised crime. More Than Gold had arranged to bring up four UN “Gift Boxes” which had been used at the 2012 Olympic Games in London to highlight the issue. The service in St. Anne’s took place on the evening before the launch event for the Gift Boxes.

It was a very affecting service, with a rich mix of scripture readings, psalms, hymns, prayers, stories and information – some of it made uncomfortable but powerful reading and hearing.

The following day, the Gift Boxes were launched at an event in the Square before Glasgow Cathedral which was attended by representatives of the various churches in Glasgow and a number of the volunteers who were to staff the boxes. Passing tourists who had come to visit the Cathedral were somewhat bemused.

They were even more confused when the Salvation Army representative decided it was time to brighten up the event with some Scottish country dancing. This certainly got attention and hopefully the more serious message also got home.

The Gift Boxes were placed in Cathedral Square and Sauchiehall Street. Volunteers braved both the sun and the rain (the local “pound shop” did good business in selling umbrellas to volunteers!) to explain what the boxes were about, to hand out information leaflets and to get signatures on a petition to the Scottish government to strengthen the planned legislation on human trafficking – over 16,500 signatures were obtained

The volunteers also did their bit as ambassadors for Glasgow, giving directions and information to the tourists they met!

Adding a bit of lightness to a serious subject

Adding a bit of lightness to a serious subject