Rain, sleet and wind affected the turnout for the ecumenical service for the Vigil of St. Andrew, held in St. Andrew’s Cathedral on 29th November, but inside the Cathedral the atmosphere was
warm and welcoming. An instrumental group (John Allan on whistle, violinists Carissa Bovill (also on harp) and Benedict Morris) together with the St. Mungo Singers and members of Night Fever (Stacey Dodwell, Louise Grant, Marie Kane and Joanna Sweeney) provided music to set the tone for the service.
The Vigil began with a procession of church representatives, including Archbishop Tartaglia, Rev. Tom Pollock (Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery), and Very Rev. Ian Barcroft, Dean of Glasgow & Galloway Diocese of the Scottish Episcopal Church. They were accompanied by flag bearers carrying saltires and a copy of the Lectionary which were placed on the sanctuary. Fr. David Wallace then led the opening prayer which expressed the wish for Scotland to be “a community in which everyone matters, everyone has an honoured place, and the dignity of each is assured.”
Archbishop Tartaglia welcomed the congregation to the celebration before it proceeded with the singing of Psalm 23 (24) and a reading from Romans 10:9-18. Night Fever then led us in the singing of John Bell’s lovely, challenging and appropriate hymn “Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?” . The second reading, from Ephesians 4:1-6 was read by Baillie James Scanlon, representing the Lord Provost. The Gospel reading which followed was the calling of Andrew and his brother, from Matthew’s Gospel.
Fr. Jim Lawlor gave the reflection. He began by wishing everyone a Happy New Year! – reminding us that coincidentally this was the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church’s year. Advent, he said, is a restless time, a time of looking forward and also back. Increasingly we live in a culture in which we define ourselves by what we are not, by emphasising our differences. Society questions everything, and all our beliefs are up for grabs.
He reflected that Scotland now is radically diverse – in his own parish in Maryhill there are 23 different nationalities. We should be proud of this diversity but also recognise the tensions it can cause. Pope Francis had only that day in the Central African Republic cautioned against emphasising our differences.
Fr. Lawlor suggested that this should be a mission for Christians – to recognise the individual uniqueness of each person while celebrating our togetherness. We have to recognise the paradox – how to celebrate uniqueness yet come together. Sometimes it takes suffering to make this happen, as was the case two years ago on this evening when the Clutha Vaults tragedy occurred. Our instinct then is to go beyond ourselves. He finished with a reference to the reading from Ephesians where we are invited to find the uniqueness in ourselves and to support each other to do so, and to find in that inner self space for God.
After a gentle instrumental interlude while the congregation pondered Fr. Lawlor’s words, the Very Rev. Ian Barcroft presented the intercessions for our country, our city and its leaders, for peace, for refugees and for those affected by the Clutha Vaults tragedy. After each intercession, the choir led the congregation in singing the response from the Hymn for the year of Mercy, as a candle was placed on the altar.
The Lord’s Prayer was then sung and the choir provided a lovely rendering of the classic motet “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”, before the Blessing was pronounced and the service ended with a well-known hymn in honour of St.Andrew “When Christ our Lord to Andrew cried “Cone thou and follow me””. The congregation was then invited to come over to the Eyre Hall to enjoy the hospitality of the Archdiocese before venturing out into the dreich night again.