It was a bit wet and dull outside but it was warm and welcoming inside as Glaswegians gathered under the auspices of Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) in Glasgow Cathedral on 12th June to celebrate primarily the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, but also the 25th anniversary of GCT – a lovely co-incidence of celebrations.
The congregation and representatives of the various churches in GCT were joined by Baillie Liz Cameron representing the City Council, members of the Scottish Parliament, representatives of the emergency services and (supporting the music of the service) the St. Mungo Singers, the Glasgow Cathedral Choir and organist, Rutherglen Salvation Army Band and harpist Carissa Swan. They were also joined by a number of tourists who had come into the Cathedral to admire the building but had decided to stay when they heard what the service was for.
The service began with the well-known hymn, Lord of All Hopefulness, as the clergy processed to the sanctuary. Dr. Laurence Whitley, the Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, welcomed everyone and expressed his pleasure that the Cathedral had been chosen for this celebration. Fr. David Wallace, Chair of GCT, read the opening prayer and this was followed by the scripture readings, the singing of The Lord’s My Shepherd (Crimond) and James Quinn’s O Light from Light, before the Gospel reading.
Professor Sir Kenneth C Calman, Chancellor of Glasgow University, gave the address, noting that not only was this a service to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, but it was the annual Glasgow the Welcoming City service as well. He recalled, as a child, watching the Coronation on a TV hired for the occasion by his church. He reminded everyone of the Queen’s strong and openly professed Christian faith, and her commitment over her long life to work, duty and values.
Turning to GCT, he summarised its purpose as firstly bringing together issues of faith and worship, and secondly emphasising how the churches can come together to help the wider community. This brought him to a third theme “Glasgow the Welcoming City”. He invited the congregation to think of the citizens of Glasgow who proved themselves welcoming to visitors all the time, and in particular at events like the Commonwealth Games.
Sir Kenneth reflected that so many Glaswegians volunteer to help others and in doing so not only could make themselves happy but could find a purpose in life. He recalled the many Church contributions to the welfare of Glasgow and mused, in passing, on whether even greater benefits could be gained from sharing experiences.
The problems which the churches had sought to address over the decades had unfortunately not gone away, he said, and the role of GCT was more important than ever in working with the City and other organisations to make the love of God real for people by action. In concluding, he suggested that the Queen’s anniversary and her own faith, should encourage us to work in unity for the happiness of the citizens of Glasgow.
After a gentle harp mediation, the Cathedral choir sang the very appropriate “Zadok the Priest”. Intercessions followed for the Queen, the country, the city, the parliaments and for the work of GCT, introduced by the lovely Taizé hymn O Lord, Hear my Prayer. Everyone then joined in the Lord’s Prayer.
At all Glasgow the Welcoming City services, a collection is normally taken up for a charity and this year was no exception. The beneficiary was CHAS (the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland). Its Chief Executive Maria McGill spoke briefly to explain the work of CHAS and something of its history.
Baillie Cameron brought greetings from the City Council and expressed her personal sense of honour to be present at this celebration to mark both the Queen’s birthday and the work of GCT. Describing the Queen as a wonderful mascot and a shining example of public service, she suggested that the theme of the day could be described as “service for others”.
The Salvation Army then led the congregation in the National Anthem before the service ended with a sung and spoken blessing, and the recessional hymn Let’s Give Thanks to God our Father. The sense of appreciation (& even enjoyment) of the service showed as people stopped to talk and exchange memories in the Cathedral before leaving with a real sense of a celebration for all.