As Lord Provost Eva Bolander reminded us, this was the 17th year of Carols for Peace, a service begun when then Lord Provost Alex Mosson invited Glasgow Churches Together to develop a suitable service to pray for peace in Glasgow’s twin city Bethlehem.
This year the Banqueting Hall was filled to overflowing for the service. The music was provided by the St. Mungo Singers, Rutherglen Salvation Army Band with their bandmaster Donald Orr, instrumental ensemble (John Allan, Ann Marie Berry, Monica Dyer, Annette McKirdie, Marita McMillan, Pauline McNichol and Carissa Swan (who brought along new baby Grace for the occasion)), organists Jane McKenna and Jacqueline Barrett, the young members of the Southside Fiddlers and students from St. Denis Primary School.
Piper Willie Park led the Lord Provost and church and civic leaders into the Hall, and the service began with the joyful carol O Come, All Ye Faithful. Then Lord Provost Eva welcomed everyone to this happy event. However, she reflected, for many this time of year is stressful. Violence and austerity dominate the headlines but there is help from the compassion of the churches and other organisations, and she was proud of the ecumenical life of the city and in particular of the input of Glasgow Churches Together.
She recalled with pleasure at this service for peace that she had signed ICAN’s pledge against nuclear arms, and she took the opportunity to express the thanks of the Council to all those who work to help those in need, and those without whom this service would not happen.
This year, in addition to a wide selection of well-known carols, we had a reading from Isaiah 52 proclaimed with feeling by Rev Alan Donaldson; a beautiful offering of singing and poetry from the St. Denis students (who brought Our Lady, St Joseph and the Three Kings with them) with an impressively clear and confident linkage provided by one young lady from the school; the Christmas Proclamation sung by David Harris which sets the birth of the Lord in its historical context; and two sets of music from the flying fingers of the young Southside Fiddlers. There was also a lovely instrumental version of O Holy Night and some lively carols and other Christmas music from the Salvation Army Band (without which a Christmas celebration would not feel like Christmas) which had the congregation joining in.
The address was given by Rev George Cowie, Clerk to Glasgow Presbytery, who got everyone’s attention by asking if we had seen the BBC Christmas short film “The Supporting Act” which featured a young girl practising for a talent show while her father apparently shows no interest…but on the day when she freezes, he mimes her dance. He was with her all the time. And so it is with our heavenly Father. He is right here with us and loves us as though there was no-one else. God’s attention never slips and his desire is that we might receive his love. Bethlehem shows that God is not a distant father. He is Emmanuel. In our world of violence, no-one is forgotten or ignored.
The Intercessions reminded us that there was a serious purpose behind the service. Those present joined together to pray for the city and its citizens; those who provide it with services; the church members and those of other faiths and people of good will who work for the wellbeing of their neighbours; for all who struggle against violence, war, poverty and lack of
education; for migrants and refugees; and last but not least for Bethlehem and the Holy Land, for Syria and Iraq. The response for each prayer was a heartfelt plea Peace for your children, let there be peace.
As always at this service, a collection was taken up for the Lord Provost’s Fund, while the Salvation Army Band played. The service finished with a blessing from the church representatives present. Then it was time to enjoy mince pies and tea or coffee and chat, or listen to the young fiddlers playing with enthusiasm in the adjoining room.