The annual Carol Service for Peace, organised by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT), took place on 14th December in its usual venue, the Banqueting Chamber of Glasgow City Chambers. This service, which is in its 14th year, is an annual opportunity for Glasgow to remember and pray for the peace of its twinned city, Bethlehem.
Church and civic representatives, a capacity congregation, the St. Mungo Singers, the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band, and instrumentalists John Allan, Anne Marie Berrie, Carissa Bovill, Monica Dyer, Donald MacInnes, Jane McKenna, Annette McKirdie, Pauline McNichol and Willie Park for the celebration.
Those attending the service were welcomed at the entrance by piper Willie, while John and Carissa played inside the Chambers. As people entered the Banqueting Hall, they were given a small olive wood memento from Palestine (brought over specifically for the event) – either a dove of peace brooch or a celtic cross.
The service began with the piper leading the civic and church leaders into the Banqueting Hall as the choir led the congregation in singing the opening carols “Adeste Fideles” and “Away in a Manger”. The choir followed the opening carols with the joyful “Fanfair for Christmas Day” by Martin Shaw to set the celebratory tone of the service.
Baillie Margot Clark, on behalf of the Lord Provost, welcomed everyone with very great pleasure to a service which she described as bringing home the true meaning of Christmas. She recognised that Christmas was a season of celebration but at the same time, it could be for some a time of stress or loneliness, and it was important for us to think of them at this time.
She expressed the Council’s pride in the ecumenical record of Glasgow and in particular in the work of GCT. She also acknowledged those working within the churches, the community, at home and abroad to help those in need at this time, citing wonderful and inspiring examples in action of the precept “Love thy neighbour”. This service, she said, was an opportunity to recognise the lead being taken by the churches to work for the most vulnerable in our communities.
The service then continued with a prayer for peace, led by the Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, Rev. Stuart Smith. This was followed by a reading from Isaiah, proclaimed by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia – “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace” – and the singing of the Prologue from the Gospel of St. John.
The next carol was the well-loved one “Silent Night”, after which Fr. David Wallace, Chair of GCT, gave a short reflection. He focussed on the fact that, being caught up in the glitz of Christmas, we can miss the heart of Christmas which had been celebrated a short time before at the blessing of the Crib.
There are so many issues, he said, affecting our world, and so much suffering. Remembering our twinned city of Bethlehem, we also remember those not at peace or those not able to celebrate their faith. We should also reflect on how privileged we are, and also on the fact that Christ’s coming among us makes all things new.
As the congregation thought about Fr. David’s words, the instrumental ensemble played “O Holdy Night” and the high pure sound of the whistle, accompanied by the gentle sounds of the harp and quiet guitar accompaniment provided a beautiful and fitting background.
The St. Mungo Singers continued this quietly reflective mood with their singing of Berlioz’s classic Christmas piece “The Shepherds’ Farewell” . Then they led the congregation in the singing of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, reminding us again of our twinned town as we used our olive wood mementos as a visual aid.
Intercessions were read by church representatives for the city, the churches, for people of faith and people of goodwill, for world peace and for the relief of world hunger. At the end, everyone joined in singing the Lord’s Prayer.
As always at this service, a collection was taken up for the Lord Provost’s Fund, while the Salvation Army Band played. Dr. Lawrence Whitley then gave a greeting on behalf of GCT to all present. He expressed his feeling of privilege at being involved with GCT in its work, and his appreciation of the warmth, friendship and support he had experienced in it. The support of the City was also much appreciated. He finished by promising a great deal would be happening through GCT in the coming year.
The service ended with a spoken and sung blessing and the singing of the final carol – the joyful “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”. The City Council provided their usual hospitality in the adjoining Satinwood Suite rooms, and the children of the Southside Fiddlers gave us a cheerful and suitably festive ending to the service as they played both Christmas and traditional music for us.