St. George’s Tron Church was the venue for Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on 19 January. It was an inspired location for this service – an island of calm in the midst of the busy city, with double-decker buses going past and intrigued passengers looking down into the church.
The theme for this year was “Breaking down Barriers” and perhaps the location of the church is one way to do this, with its central location and its great café The Wild Olive encouraging people to come in.
The opening hymn,This is my will….that you should love as I love you, led by members of the St. Mungo Singers, echoed the theme. The opening prayer began with a reminder that this was the 5th centenary of the start of the Reformation and we all need to renewed in faith, generous in love and capable of offering and accepting compassion now.
A penitential rite followed in which stones were brought to the sanctuary, where a copy of the Bible had been installed, to represent the barriers which exist: lack of understanding and love, intolerance, isolation. This part of the service was completed with an exchange of the sign of peace among those present.
Readings from Scripture were next proclaimed: 2 Corinthians 5:14-20 (the love of Christ urges us on); Psalm 17 with the refrain I love you, Lord my God; Luke 15:11-32 (the parable of the prodigal son – or should that be the prodigal father?)
Rev Alastair Duncan, the minister of St. George’s, gave the reflection. He said the Gospel story resonated particularly for him as he is an identical twin and understands how two sons, raised in the same house, can turn out so differently. He suggested that we can find both brothers in the story in our own hearts at different times. Our churches too can live for their own agendas at times, and at other times live out of the heart and will of God.
Referring to the theme for the service, Rev. Alastair pointed out that both sons attempted to win their father’s love by working for it, yet the father’s will was for both to come into the house together and accept that they were dearly loved children. The message of the reading from Corinthians was reconciliation both for the lost and the dutiful. This message of “outrageous, indulgent grace” is our calling and our mission.
After a few moments of musical reflection provided by Dr. Noel Donnelly on the clarsach, all present stood to proclaim their common beliefs in the praying of the Creed. Then candles were lit and brought to the sanctuary as the intercessions were read, finishing with the Lord’s Prayer and the singing of the Taizé chant O Lord, Hear My Prayer.
This lovely and fairly short service finished with the commissioning of the congregation to carry the light of Christ into the world. The Canticle of Ezechiel was sung, followed by the blessing. Having worshipped together, there was still time for a sociable sharing of tea and nibbles.