With the Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) celebration of St. Andrew’s Day on 29th November this year coinciding with the first anniversary of the Clutha Vaults tragedy, it was agreed that the service would include remembrance of the victims. In the event, what developed was a significant memorial to that event which attracted a great deal of media attention and presence, as well as the attendance of national and civic politicians to join survivors, families and friends of the dead, and members of the emergency services who had been involved in the tragedy.
The service took place at St. Mungo’s cathedral, with the music of the liturgy led by the St. Mungo Singers, with the support of a group of instrumentalists as well as organists Jane McKenna and Andrew Forbes. The emotion was palpable as the congregation gathered. The instrumental group (John Allan, Carissa Bovill, Monica Dyer, Pauline McNichol and Clare O’Neill) played gently meditative music before the service began, before Carissa sang the lovely prayer of St. Columba – My Dearest Lord – with its consoling words “Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me, today and evermore”.
Dr. Laurence Whitley, the Minister of the Cathedral, welcomed the congregation to the celebration of St. Andrew’s Eve which would also be an opportunity to look back twelve months. He greeted in particular the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the Lord Provost Cllr. Sadie Docherty and members of the emergency services and NHS, as well as the families and friends of the victims and the survivors.
The opening prayer was read by Fr. David Wallace, Chair of GCT, and the readings were presented by Nicola Surgeon, Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins, and the Lord Provost. The psalm was Mary Dickie’s setting of Ps 18, sung by Catriona Glen. Before the homily, the St. Mungo Singers sang Virgil Thomson’s arrangement of “My Shepherd will Supply” which is a beautiful setting of Psalm 22/23.
Archbishop Tartaglia, in his reflection, recalled the events of November 29th 2013. He assured those present that the names of those who had died would never be forgotten. Every time he passes the Clutha Vaults, he said a prayer for them, for those who had been injured, and for all their families. Words were inadequate, he acknowledged, but he reminded them of the central element of the Christian faith, that we are made for life (in this world and the next) not death, and that we believe that God will bring light out of darkness.
He recognised from personal experience that a year is not long enough to come to terms with bereavement, particularly in such circumstances, but the pain of bereavement arises from the fire of our love. Today was an appropriate time to reflect on our nation. So much of its life was represented in the Cathedral because of the Clutha Vaults tragedy which had brought us all together and had witnessed to the spirit of the city and country. He suggested that an appropriate legacy for the victims of that tragedy, in this special moment in Scotland, would be the building up of a more compassionate nation in which all felt able to give of their talents and express their views without fear – a country in which all were equal, welcome and valued.
In an extremely moving act, lit candles were brought down through the congregation to the altar in memory of each of the dead, as Alexandra McPhee sang Faure’s Pie Jesu, and Amber Campbell brought down a candle symbolising our love for Scotland and our confidence in the future. There was absolute silence in the church as people reflected both on the past and on the potential future, then they responded to the warmth of the words of the hymn “Jesus calls us”.
The intercessions, for those who had died, for the country, for the city, and for those affected by war or illness, were read by Very Rev. Kevin Holdsworth of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Rev Ann Deacons of the United Free Church, Rev Gordon Armstrong chaplain to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Dr. Neil Dignon Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. The congregation then joined in praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Before Major David Burns of the Salvation Army led the final blessing, the Chamber Choir of the High School of Glasgow, under their conductor Frikki Walker, sang Chilcott’s setting of the lovely Irish Blessing which ends “may God hold you in the palm of His hand”, so suitable for this day of remembrance.
The final prayer expressed the wish that Scotland would be a country in which:-
“in which everyone matters, everyone has an honoured place, and the dignity of each is assured by our faith in you as Father of all.”
The service ended with the well kent hymn “Now thank we all our God”, and as the congregation slowly left the Cathedral, many paused to look at the candles of remembrance flickering on the altar and, as the Archbishop had done, whisper a silent prayer for the dead and for our country.