St. Matthew’s, Bishopbriggs, hosted the Annual Ecumenical Vespers for Easter on 24 May. The service was attended by Archbishop Conti and the Very Rev. Gregor Duncan (Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway), and a full congregation, despite the difficult weather.
Before the service, Dr. Noel Donnelly on clarsach and the St. Mungo Singers created a quietly reflective atmosphere before leading the congregation in the processional hymn, “Alleluia, sing to Jesus”. As the candles were lit on and around the altar, the choir sang the Geoffrey Shaw motet “Hail, Gladdening Light”, and Archbishop Conti then led the congregation in the beautiful opening prayer:-
“Jesus Christ, risen in glory, You are the light of the world: The light no darkness can overcome. Stay with us now for it is evening and the day is almost over. Let your light scatter the darkness, and shine among your people here.”
In welcoming everyone to the service, the Archbishop explained that, while previously this service had been celebrated in the Cathedral, the appreciative response to last year’s service in St. Joseph’s, Tollcross had prompted the decision to continue to hold it in a parish church. St. Matthew’s was an obvious choice because of its warm ecumenical spirit, and he thanked everyone in the parish for making the preparations for it, and the St. Mungo Singers for their musical support.
The Vespers then continued with the singing of Ps.20 (in the setting by Br. Stephen Smyth and Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick). Ps.22 (Crimond) and the Canticle from Ephesians (setting by Noel Donnelly).
The scripture reading was from 1Peter 2:4-5.
Dr. Duncan gave the reflection. He began by expressing his thanks for the invitation to participate and to speak. His experience of working with the other churches in Glasgow had always included laughter which was very important in ecumenism. Drawing the attention of the congregation to his beautiful pectoral cross, he explained that this had been presented to him in 2010 by the congregation of St. Albert’s Catholic church, Pollokshields, after an ecumenical Stations of the Cross, and it was, for him, a visible sign of the true fellowship which existed among the churches, even while there remained divisions.
Turning to the scripture reading which talked of a “royal priesthood”, Dr. Duncan suggested it was good to take time to reflect on who we are called to be. What does this “royal priesthood” mean? The priestly character of the church is a fundamental good – to bring the things of the world to God and to bring God to the world, to keep alive the idea that God rejoices in his creation and his creation (including ourselves) should rejoice in Him.
We should bring our communities to God and represent God to them but to do this, we need to know and love God and be involved with Him, and equally we need to know, love and be involved in our communities. Both things are needed; we cannot be a “holy huddle”. In concluding his reflection, Dr. Duncan invited us to recognise that this is our common calling as Christians: to bring together God and our communities in a wonderful exchange.
As we reflected on his words, Noel Donnelly played a gentle harp air, then all sang the Responsory for Easter and the Dalreoch Magnificat.
The final part of the service comprised the prayers of Intercession and the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, before the choir sang the Marian anthem “Regina Coeli” (Lotti). The church leaders said the Blessing to which the choir and congregation responded with the sung blessing “God to enfold you”. The final hymn of the service was “Before we end our day, O Lord”.
As the congregation left the church to enjoy the generous hospitality of St. Matthew’s in the parish hall, the St. Mungo Singers sang R.S.Thatcher’s joyful Easter anthem “Come Ye Faithful”, an appropriate end to a warm and inclusive service.