The beautiful church of St. Margaret’s Newlands hosted this year’s ecumenical St Andrew’s Vigil service, organised by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT). The weather was miserable but the congregation was warmly welcomed outside by piper Isla McLennan and inside by Assistant Priest Maggie McTernan, clarsach player Carissa Swan and the St. Mungo Singers.

The service opened with the singing of God our Creator to the uplifting tune of Highland Cathedral, as the Scriptures were carried to the lectern. The words of the hymn – Gathered together, sisters, brothers all. Baptised in Jesus, faithful to your call – were so appropriate to this ecumenical gathering.

The church representatives in St Margaret’s sanctuary

After Rev. Maggie welcomed everyone formally and Fr. David Wallace, Chair of GCT, led the opening prayer, there were scriptural readings including the singing of Psalm 18 in the setting by Marie Dickie. The reflection for the evening was given by Rev. Stuart Fulton who immediately raised a smile when he drew attention to what was written on a chalk board at the side of the church, indicating that a service would be short and sweet. He would take his cue from this clear hint.

He reflected that there are great tensions in being human, in the juxtaposition of being a unique person in a social community. We come tonight, he said, in different clothes, from different backgrounds and traditions, and yet we share so much in common. We are united in God’s love for all of us equally. In the Gospel reading, St. Andrew was called to “come, see”. This call is to us all. We are asked to come and explore our tensions, experience love and hope. Our God-given uniqueness can be falsely dressed in hate and exclusion. We are called to experience our God-given differences. The call is “Christian, follow me. You who seek the God of love, take my hand.”

Carissa on clarsach

Carissa played a quiet piece on clarsach while the congregation digested Rev. Stuart’s words, then Rebecca Parkes read a St. Andrew poem in Scots, written by Liz Bovill. In the intercessions which followed, we prayed for fishermen, farmers and other workers; for the poor and neglected, including the homeless and destitute; all Christians of the many different traditions in Scotland; for our nation and our city in all their diversity of culture, creed and race (read, fittingly, by Shabir Beg of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society).

We also prayed on this, the 5th anniversary of the Clutha Vaults helicopter crash and the 50th anniversary of the James Watt Street fire, for those who had died or been injured, and all those affected by either tragedy. Our final prayer was for the dead and injured of World War I in this centenary year.

Everyone joined together in singing the Lord’s Prayer before a collection was taken up, as is the tradition of GCT services, on this occasion for The Mission to Seafarers Scotland.

The St Andrew’s Female Ensemble should have been with us from the start of the service but as if poor weather was not enough, the girls (including one young lady in a wheelchair) were taken by their taxi driver to Knightswood instead of Newlands and left in the dark at the wrong church. Thankfully arrangements were immediately made for another taxi to pick them up and get them to the correct venue in time to take part before the service ended.

The girls performed their two planned pieces beautifully and very professionally, and no-one watching and listening to them would have known what a trying time they had had in getting to the service. Well done to them indeed.

The service ended with a sung blessing by the St. Mungo Singers, followed by a spoken blessing by the church representatives present. The final hymn was John Bell’s thought-provoking Because the Saviour prayed,”May they be one”. There was time for tea, coffee and biscuits – and a chat – before venturing out into the dreich night again, but with a warm internal glow from the service.