Glasgow the Welcoming City, the annual summer service, jointly sponsored by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) and Glasgow District Council, took place in the City Chambers on 10 June. This year, it was a mix of prayer, music (sung and instrumental), dance and reflection.
The congregation was greeted at the entry to the City Chambers by piper Willie Park, and by traditional instrumentalists John Allan, Ann Marie Berrie, Carissa Bovill, Clare O’Neill and Marie Clare Rankin, playing on the grand stairway leading to the Banqueting Hall. Within the Banqueting Hall itself, a fascinating Powerpoint presentation showing excerpts from the Vita Kentigerni and scenes of historic Glasgow had been prepared by Irene O’Brien of Glasgow’s renowned Mitchell Library.
Before the service began, young dancers from the Stewart School of Irish Dancing treated the congregation to a great display of traditional Irish dance which had the podium vibrating as well the toes of all tapping in time to the music.
Depute Lord Provost Bailie Gerry Leonard represented the Lord Provost and, in addition to church representatives from GCT, we were honoured to welcome the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Albert Bogle.
The service began with the rousing “God our Creator” to the tune of “Highland Cathedral” played first on the pipes, as the church and civic leaders processed in, and then taken up by the instrumentalists, choir (the St. Mungo Singers) and congregation. Bailie Leonard then welcomed everyone to a service which celebrated in dance, drama, readings and prayer, the history and friendliness of Glasgow, and the Church which had throughout Glasgow’s history offered help and care for those in need.
He affirmed that the Church has still a great deal to offer the city, from the success of events and developments such as the Mungo Festival and the St.Mungo Trail, to the principles of tolerance and respect which we treasure and continue to build on today. He took the opportunity to express his thanks to GCT, the singers, musicians and others involved in the service, and he expressed a special thanks to former Bailie Cathy McMaster who had been responsible for so much of the recent developments.
This year, celebrated as the 14th centenary of the City and the Saint, one focus of the celebration was the meeting and friendship of two great Celtic saints, St. Mungo and St. Columba over 14 centuries ago. Verses from a beautiful hymn attributed to Columba, with their emphasis on love and concern for family and friends, were sung, before Rev Alan Anderson of the Methodist church led those present in the opening prayer for Glasgow and its people.
Then the Rt. Rev. Dr. Gregor Duncan, Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, read an excerpt from the Vita Kentigerni which described the meeting of Mungo and Columba. The theme of love and friendship was continued in the James Quinn hymn “This is my Will” and the reading by Fr. Paul Milarvie from the Gospel of St. John (Ch.15:14-17).
The homily, given by Dr. Laurence Whitley of Glasgow Cathedral, reflected on the use by Jesus in the Gospels of the term “friend”. It was not a term used lightly by him and the contexts (as in Gethsemane) made it clear that for him, people were friends no matter who or what or where. The meeting of Columba and Mungo was that of two very different men, one from the West who could be described as a warrior monk, and one from the East who was perhaps gentler and more reflective.
There could have been difficulties between these two missionaries but instead there was friendship. The legacy of Mungo is the city of Glasgow and it is known worldwide for its friendliness. Mungo had a vision – and it was not a small one. We are called on in turn not to “do small” whether in heart or mind or vision. The legend of the exchange of pastoral staffs – the symbol of their authority – by Mungo and Columba reflected the fact that they recognised an authority greater than them both and one which united them in their work. Dr. Whitley invited everyone to recognise today that unity – one city, one people, one community, one family, one household of God.
This challenging homily was followed by a lighter moment as members of the Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project (AGAP) presented a sketch reflecting on what the two great saints might have discussed when they met (beginning with the introductory music from a certain news programme!). Some gentle harp music from Carissa Bovill allowed those present time to consider the more serious messages contained in the sketch
Prayers for the city, the country, the nations of the world and, last but not least, families and friends followed. Then the congregation joined in the singing of the Lord’s Prayer.
Former Council member, Mrs. Cathy McMaster spoke briefly on the relatively new St. Mungo Pilgrim Trail. She referred to the research of a student at Glasgow Caledonian into what makes a place of pilgrimage successful. It is when it enables us to encounter the past. She expressed the hope that the St. Mungo Pilgrim Trail would bring richer life to the city and blessings from its patron saint. Carissa Bovill concluded this section of the service with the singing of the St. Mungo Pilgrim Song.
The “Young Franciscans” from Turnbull High then presented a very moving mime to music, reflecting on the various temptations which threaten young people and their relationship with Christ. This mime was dedicated to their retiring Head Teacher, Mr. Neil Roarty
Before the singing of what has come to be known as the Glasgow Anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish”, Mrs. Greta Doig, on behalf of GCT, presented the Council representative, Bailie Leonard, with a gift for the City in acknowledgement of their work together over the years.
The service finished with a greeting and blessing from Rt. Rev. Albert Bogle who expressed his pride, as a Glasgow man (albeit currently on missionary work in the East of the country!) to be present at the service. He warmly congratulated the Turnbull High children for reminding us that Christ is victor over all evil in our lives, and expressed the hope that the success of the St. Mungo Trail would be in terms of an encounter with the living God on our pilgrimage. His thoughts were echoed in the final hymn “God, we praise you”.
The City Council provided its usual warm hospitality and the congregation was entertained by the young children of the Southside Fiddlers who brought a smile to everyone with their lively music and their evident enjoyment of it.