The second event of the St. Mungo Festival was an ecumenical service held on Sunday 9 January at St. Mungo’s Cathedral, involving instrumentalists (Cathedral Strings, Rutherglen Salvation Army Band and clarsach player Carissa Bovill), choirs (Russkaya Cappella and St. Mungo Singers) and dancers (Visual Statement), as well as representatives of the church communities in Glasgow, the City Council and the Scottish Parliament. Despite the snow and ice, there was a good turnout for the service. Unfortunately the snow had meant that the Minister of Culross (where St. Mungo was born) & Torryburn Parishes, Rev. Jayne Scott, was unable to be present on this occasion.
The Cathedral Strings played as the congregation gathered and accompanied the procession of Church representatives as the service began. An officer of the Salvation Army carried a copy of the King James Bible in the procession in recognition of this, the 400th anniversary of its publication.
The congregation remained standing as the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel ( in the haunting setting by Frank Docherty) was sung by soloist Catriona Glen and the St. Mungo Singers. Bailie Alan Stewart, on behalf of the City Council, then proclaimed “Let Glasgow Flourish!” to which everyone responded “by the preaching of His word – by the praising of His name” before joining in the singing of “Tell out my Soul” whose rousing tune was such a contrast to the gentleness of the Prologue.
Dr Laurence Whitley, minister of the Cathedral, welcomed those present to the service which he described as a celebration of a city of colour, life and exuberance, a celebration which had begun 4 years before from a suggestion by Archbishop Mario Conti and which had now developed into a week-long festival in the city. He drew attention to the display on the dais – a Russian icon of St. Mungo and a copy of the King James Bible, and elsewhere in the nave, a facsimile copy of the “Vita Kentigerni”- all items with significance for the celebration .
The Rev. Neil Galbraith, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, led the opening prayer before Rev. Alan Anderson, Superintendent of the Glasgow District of the Methodist Church, gave the first reading, from 1 Thessalonians.
Next, reflecting the varied roots of Glasgow’s citizens, Russkaya Cappella, from the Russian Orthodox community, sang a liturgical hymn in honour of St. Mungo, followed by two Carols. The St. Mungo Signers then led the congregation in singing a setting of the Canticle of Zechariah to the well-known tune “Finlandia” before the second scripture reading was given by Archbishop Conti, from the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Rt. Rev. Gregor Duncan, Scottish Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway caused a slight frisson with the opening remarks of his address when he suggested that he was taking a risk at an ecumenical event in what he was about to say. Having successfully captured the attention of all, he explained that he was approaching his address based on his own history and church tradition. In thinking about St. Mungo, he had looked to the Episcopalian understanding of saints as set out in the Scottish Book of Common Prayer – they are people who are important because of their example, their fellowship and their prayers.
He reflected that we tend to focus on the aspect of their example for living, as the first reading described it – the fearless proclaiming of the Gospel – but he was attracted on this evening to consider the other two aspects. People with whom we share fellowship and prayer are people who are living friends not historical figures. This reminds us of our calling to live in solidarity with one another and not just in church either. In these difficult economic times, solidarity gives us strength. God has made us for life together, and in solidarity, God is present, enabling us to reach across boundaries.
Finally, he suggested, Glasgow cannot flourish without good examples today, without people coming together for the common good, without the aid of each other’s support. To the Glasgow prayer, said at the beginning of the service, he would therefore add. Let Glasgow flourish …by the countless good examples of our friends!”
As the congregation reflected on his words, Carissa Bovill played some gentle airs on clarsach. Dr. Whitley then introduced Visual Statement and a specially commissioned ballet on one part of the City Coat of Arms – the Tree. The dancers, in green and white robes and crystal frosted headdresses, gave a beautiful performance to gentle Gaelic music.
After the dance interlude, the congregation were invited to sing what is now being considered the “Glasgow Anthem” – “Let Glasgow Flourish” – led by the St. Mungo Singers. This was followed by the Intercessions (for the city, its citizens, those who work for the City in any capacity and for peace in the world) , introduced by Margaret Long of Glasgow Churches Together, and read by representatives of the churches. As each of the four intercessions was read, school children lit candles and those present responded with the Taize prayer “O Lord, Hear my Prayer”. The Lord’s Prayer was then sung.
Before the final hymn, “Now Thank we all Our God”, an offering was taken up for the Lord Provost’s Fund, as the Salvation Army Band played. The church representatives concluded the service with a joint blessing before they went with the City Council representatives to lay a wreathe on the tomb of St. Mungo, as the St. Mungo Singers sang the joyful seasonal anthem “Resonet in Laudibus”.
After the service, there was time for everyone to enjoy refreshments and mingle before heading out into Cathedral Square.