The City/GCT events seem fated to be challenged by the weather in recent times. In December, it was snow. This time, it was unseasonable cold and heavy rain, but despite this, a good number of singers and musicians and a reasonable congregation made it to the City Chambers on 19 June.
The theme this year was “The Word at the Heart of the City”, taking the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible as a foundation for the celebration. On display were an exhibition of posters on some of the most important vernacular translations of the Bible in Europe, an accompanying Powerpoint presentation and a number of modern English Bibles in various print translations as well as on CD or DVD.
The instrumental group (John Allen, Ann Marie Berry, Carissa Bovill and Claire O’Neill) played to welcome the congregation, then the service began with the singing of the Benedictus to the well-known tune “Finlandia”.
Bailie MacMaster, on behalf of the Lord Provost, welcomed everyone to the service and expressed the Council’s pleasure at having the opportunity to thank and show appreciation for the work of the churches in Glasgow. The history of the Church has guided the City in fellowship and hospitality. They provide constancy of an open door for people when needed – whether the circumstances be birth, death, marriage or despair. The City Council want this interaction to continue – be here for us and with us, she said.
Referring to the current economic crisis, Bailie MacMaster said that people experienced fear in a time of recession but Glasgow can regenerate and build a new economy and a new city. In conclusion, she took the opportunity to welcome a new participant in the service, Airdrie Salvation Army Band under its Director, Bobby Weir.
The Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project (AGAP) presented a short and very effective piece “Word for today” which had the congregation both laughing and thinking. The scene was two older ladies and a young girl in church, the young girl causing first some consternation because she was on her mobile and then some confusion when she explained she was praying – she had the Bible on her phone as an App! One of the older ladies then produced a Kindle, which she preferred, which led to a discussion of the different English translations of the Bible available. The suggestion was made that it is always easier to read the Bible (in whichever translation) than to live it, but we can’t live it if we don’t read it!
The St. Mungo Singers then led the congregation in singing Ps.42 (setting by Bob Hurd) – a psalm of thirsting for the Lord and his Word – followed by a reading from the King James Bible. Then, in the first of two pieces, Russkaya Cappella, the Glasgow Russian Choir, sang an extract from Ps. 148 (arranged by Rimsky-Korsakov), before the very appropriate Gospel verse: “At various times in the past and in various different ways God spoke to our ancestors, God spoke through the prophets. Now in our times, he has spoken through his Son”
The Prologue of St. John’s Gospel was then presented by 3 members of AGAP in a way which focussed the attention of the hearer.
Dr. Noel Donnelly (who was present despite a hip injury), in his reflection, said he had chosen not to talk about the King James Bible or the obvious beauty and dignity of its text, but to concentrate on one Gospel, that of St. Luke, which has a practical relevance for Glasgow the Welcoming City. Luke wrote his Gospel, using the traditions of four communities of the early church: the Infancy Narrative from a community of humble and traditional piety and respect for the Law; a collection of sayings of Jesus from a community whose spirituality was austere and missionary; a community of women who had accompanied Jesus and which was warm and tolerant with a sense of God’s forgiveness and personal prayer; and the community of the Gospel of Mark in Rome which was facing tough times. Luke was a builder of bridges and wove their traditions together to present a Risen Lord who was greater than any single tradition. We too should be involved in bridge building and working together, inspired by the One God.
As we reflected on Dr. Donnelly’s words, the instrumentalists played, then Russkaya Kappella sang another Rimsky-Korsakov setting, this time of an extract from Ps.18, before the St. Mungo Singers introduced the Intercessions with the singing of “O Lord, hear my Prayer”. The Intercessions were inspired by the words of John Wesley, Lesslie Newbigin, and St. Augustine, and finished with one in Gaelic.
After the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, a collection was taken up to defray the costs of the service while the Salvation Army Band played. The prayer over the offering was read by Rev. Chris Van Staden of Glasgow Methodist Circuit.
Glasgow’s Gaelic community, in the persons of two young ladies (Christina and Mairi MacDonald) from the Glasgow Gaelic School, one in traditional kilt, the other in modern Ugg boots, now played and sang two pieces for us.
The service ended with a blessing by the church leaders: Archbishop
Conti, Rev. Neil Galbraith and Major Bruce Smith, and a sung blessing “God to enfold you”, before everyone joined in singing the final hymn, the joyful “Tell out, my Soul”.
Hospitality was then provided by the City Council, which gave the congregation an opportunity to chat before going forth to face the rain again.