The next part of the St. Mungo Singers celebration of their 45th anniversary was a visit on 13 August to Rothesay. The previous day had been wet and very windy but the ferry company assured us that the boat would be sailing on the Saturday and they were right – it was a lovely smooth sail.
A busload of choir and family and friends left St. Leo’s to catch the ferry at Wemyss Bay and were met in Rothesay by parish priest Fr. Michael Hutson (a former member of the St. Mungo Singers) who treated us to a guided tour of the island. Our first stop was at the remains of a lovely 13th century church (St. Mary’s), then it was on to beautiful Mount Stuart House, built by the Marquess of Bute, where Fr. Michael had arranged for us to have a short service in the Marble Chapel.
Some of the visitors to the House stopped to listen (perhaps in some bemusement) as we sang Ps.121 and Isaiah 55, and Br. Julian read Stephen Smyth’s thought provoking poem “The Quest of Elijah” in the beautiful setting which held some of the art installations marking the 15th anniversary of the Visual Arts Programme which has been hosted at Mount Stuart. Our service finished with Intercessions and a sung blessing, and then we were given an opportunity to see round the ground floor of the House, including the Shakespeare First Folio which has been the subject of much excitement.
Back in Rothesay there was time for lunch, sightseeing and shopping before we joined the congregation of St. Andrew’s for the Vigil Mass. The parish community was very welcoming and we enjoyed an inspiring liturgy filled with music, including the sung proclamation of the Gospel by Deacon Kevin Kelly, and the singing of the Eucharistic Prayer by Fr. Michael (just to remind us what the choir had lost when Argyll & the Isles Diocese gained a priest!).
Fr. Michael’s sermon was challenging. He drew our attention to the contrast between the lovely figure of the infant Jesus at Christmas and the adult Christ in the Gospels. We can create for ourselves a Christ with whom we are socially comfortable but the Christ of the Cross is one who challenges us to love our neighbours, one who made a point of being with the social outcasts of his day.
Fr. Michael asked us to think how we would feel if one of our family embarked on an authentic Christian lifestyle! The paradox is that there must be a bridge Bethlehem and the Prince of Peace to the adult Christ. That bridge is justice. We are called to stand up and stand out for what is right. We must take the teaching of the church seriously and apply it to our lives. Later in the Mass, he reminded us, we would exchange the Sign of Peace but there will be no peace without justice.
A challenging but fitting end to our pilgrimage to Rothesay. We just had time to thank everyone for our welcome and board our bus for the ferry back to Wemyss Bay and up the road to Glasgow. Our next stage in the celebrations will be a Dinner on 16th September. Who says we don’t know how to get a work/life balance!