The Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) celebration in the City Chambers this year on 23 June was a really full one, with input from the Woodlands Afro-Caribbean Methodist Church Choir, the Scottish Asian Christian Fellowship choir and pupils from St. Denis’ Primary School as well as the St. Mungo Singers, the St Mungo Ensemble and the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band.
Visitors were welcomed to the service at the entrance to the City Chambers by the familiar figure of piper Willie Park who then led the Lord Provost’s representative, Baillie Raja, and the church and civic representatives in, as he played the Barren Rocks of Aden and Highland Laddie in remembrance of those involved in the D-Day landings 75 years ago.
Baillie Raja in his welcome spoke of Glasgow and the people of Glasgow – their sense of fun, tolerance, kindness, social justice, straight talking and wisdom. As the posters say “People make Glasgow”, and he expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Council to the churches of Glasgow for their work in the city.
The next speaker, Rev Muriel Pearson, illustrated the practical welcoming aspects of Glasgow, as she reflected on the actions taken in 2002 in Cranhill to welcome some of the first asylum seekers being dispersed to the city with little preparation. All the churches there and across the city had rallied to help and in Cranhill this work had developed into projects of all sorts, underpinned by two words – justice (as envisioned in the reading from the prophet Isaiah which followed) and partnership.Her moving input was followed by the well-known reading from Isaiah (42:1-7) on the Servant of the Lord who will bring justice to the nations.
The situation of asylum seekers and refugees was described then from the viewpoint of one who was experiencing it – Semira, a young and articulate woman from Eritrea. She spoke of her reasons for leaving Eritrea, her difficulties in learning English (particularly with the Scots accent!), and her determination to do well, to believe in herself and be herself. She expressed also her thanks to all in Glasgow who had shown her love and kindness.
After the Gospel reading (John 17:20-23) which set out Jesus’ great prayer for unity in his disciples, Rev. Dan Carmichael, Moderator of the Presbytery of Glasgow, gave a brief reflection. He asked “who was Jesus praying for?” Surely it was for all people, of every language and culture. It was and is a much needed prayer – we only have to look at the early church and its problems.
The unity of people is a fragile thing, its fulfilment easily hindered, but today, he said, we have had a wonderful experience and encouragement, and we will pray as one that we can serve the Lord’s people of Glasgow.
The seriousness of the messages was leavened by the musical inputs of the service. The Woodlands Afro-Caribbean Methodist Church choir brought colour and joy which had everyone clapping with them as they sang. The Scottish Asian Christian Fellowship choir brought another taste of the multicultural nature of faith communities in Glasgow, with their singing in Urdu.
Finally there was a very Glasgow input from the children of St. Denis’s Primary who gave us The Glesga’ Budgie (a very large and startling yellow and green apparition which raced through the Hall!), Just a Glasgow Boy and Going Home to Glasgow. The children sang with such clear enjoyment and enthusiasm that people could not resist joining in where they could.
The Prayers of Intercession- for our world, our city and its Council and those who serve the city, visitors to the city and those who settle in it, the work of the Scottish Refugee Council and of the Scottish Catholic Justice & Peace Commission (celebrating 40 years of service), the youth of the city and for our planet and its health – gave an opportunity for reflection before the Lord’s Prayer was said and, as is the custom, a collection was taken up (this year for the Scottish Refugee Council).
The service ended with a sung and spoken blessing before the final hymn – the thought provoking God in such love for us lent us this planet. The Council provided refreshments afterwards, giving people a chance to talk and perhaps reflect on what had been a great celebration with lots to think about.