The annual “Glasgow the Welcoming City” service goes from strength to strength. This year, it linked in to the Homecoming Celebrations and included participants from an even wider spectrum than last year to provide a colourful, exciting and lively experience.
Groups from last year including the Southside Fiddlers, the Christian Asian community, members of the Afro-Scottish Social Heritage Group, the St. Mungo Singers and instrumentalists were joined by the Govan Citadel Salvation Army Band, members of the Stewart School of Dance, the Gaelic League Singers and members of the Scots Gaelic community.
As the congregation gathered, they were greeted at the entrance to the City Chambers by the sound of the pipes (played by Willie Park of the College of Piping) and Carissa Bovill on clarsach on the main stairway.
The opening procession was led by Baillie Cathie McMaster and church leaders together with representatives of the various communities taking part. Baillie McMaster, who has been so supportive of these civic ecumenical events, welcomed everyone to the service which she described as a gathering place for Glasgow as we would want it to be – open and welcoming. In particular she welcomed those who were coming home. Glasgow had been socially enriched and culturally impressed by the various different ethnic groups who had come to it over the centuries. All of them had perhaps in common a sense of exile, struggle and eventually acceptance, and through the diversity of its citizens, Glasgow’s culture had grown and continued to grow and evolve, and we should praise God for the wonder of diversity!
The service itself was a wonderful tapestry woven from readings, prayers, music, dance and reflections. After the opening hymn, the popular Mallaig Sprinkling Song, the Scots Gaelic representatives, led by Kenna Kennedy, began to weave the different threads with the singing of Psalm 108. This was followed by an exuberant and colourful contribution from the Afro-Scottish Social Heritage musicians and dancers, who truly raised the roof and the spirits of all present.
The congregation were then given the opportunity to express themselves, with Stephen E Smyth’s version of the New Testament Canticle from Colossians to the tune of “Alleluia, sing to Jesus!”
An Irish response to the African dancers came next from the young dancers of the Stewart School of Dance who performed the “Trip to the Cottage”. As we enjoyed the sight of these young enthusiastic dancers, there were a lot of surreptitious toes tapping among the congregation!
In complete contrast, this was followed by a quiet meditation on the homecoming theme, read by the Ecumenical Officer of Glasgow Churches Together, Margaret Long, to the accompaniment of Carissa Bovill on clarsach, against the background of a powerpoint presentation, reflecting the diverse makeup of Glasgow’s citizens, their emigrations and their homecoming to a city whose face was both familiar and new.
Another change of tempo came with lively music from the children of the Southside Fiddlers, and from the Asian Christian community who sang in Urdu to the accompaniment of traditional instruments.
The theme of diversity was reflected in the intercessions which followed, which were in English, Scots Gaelic, Irish and Urdu, and these were completed by the Gaelic League Singers who sang “Columcille”.
The congregation then joined in the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, before an offering was taken up for the Lord Provost’s charity, encouraged by the warm and joyful sound of the Govan Citadel Band. The service finished with what has perhaps become the anthem of these Glasgow Churches Together services – “Let Glasgow Flourish”.
As always, the City Council provided hospitality and the enjoyment of the service was surely seen in the number of people chatting afterwards over tea and coffee.