Glasgow Cathedral was full for the 1st Anniversary of the Queen Street tragedy on 22nd December. The names of the victims on the “reserved” signs at the end of the pews were a poignant reminder of why we were there, if any was needed. Joining members of the families of those killed or injured were local and national politicians, representatives of the member churches of Glasgow Churches Together (GCT), members of the emergency services which had been involved on the day and members of the public who felt the need to mark the anniversary. Musical support was provided by the St. Mungo Singers, Dr. Noel Donnelly (on harp) and Cathedral Director of Music, Andrew Forbes.
The service was emotional yet consoling, with prayer, scripture reading, music and poetry, and reflective symbolism. The opening hymn was John Bell’s beautiful “We cannot measure how You heal” with its so appropriate final words:
“Lord, let your Spirit meet us here to mend the body, mind and soul. To disentangle peace from pain and make your broken people whole.”
It was followed by the gentle “Lord of all hopefulness”, as the church representatives processed to the sanctuary.
Dr. Laurence Whitley, minister of the Cathedral, welcomed everyone to the service which was, he said, an opportunity to be in solidarity with those affected by last year’s tragedy. Fr. David Wallace, Chair of GCT, then read the opening prayer and quoted from St.Paul’s Letter to the Romans the comforting words “Nothing can separate us from the love of God”.
The reading from scripture, from the Book of Wisdom, was given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. This led into the singing of Psalm 23 to the tune Crimond. It was followed by a reading from one of the poems of Ruth Pitter “For sleep or death” from the collection of resources for times of remembrance “Beyond our Tears”.
The reflection was given by Rt. Rev. Gregor Duncan Episcopal Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway who began by quoting from St. Augustine on the poverty of human language to express thoughts yet its need to avoid silence in relation to important issues. He would not pretend to explain why the world was the way it was. He himself had been an accidental by-stander of the tragedy one year ago, which he described as an accident waiting to happen. Accidents would continue to happen but God had been present that day in those who ran to help, in the emergency services, and in every action and tear then.
God is there, he said, to take our outrage and anger and disbelief, and in our actions to try to prevent a repetition, and he will be there when our actions fail. Sometimes he is most particularly there in times of darkness, for those lives affected by loss and grief and questioning.
In the quiet which followed Bishop Duncan’s words, Dr. Donnelly played Karl Jenkins beautiful “Benedictus” and then the St. Mungo Singers led the singing of the words from the Book of Job “I know that my redeemer lives … and in my flesh I shall see God”.
Intercessions for all those affected by the tragedy – the dead, the injured, their families, the emergency services, for all who offered support and help on that day, and for healing and peace in our city and out world – were now read by Lord Provost Sadie Docherty and others.
The congregation then stood in silence as the names of those who had died were read out one by one, and members of their families brought up candles to the altar table in their memories. It was particularly emotional to watch the two young grandchildren of one victim, Jacqueline Morton, bringing up the candle in her memory. The candles were placed on bases which contained pressed flowers from the floral tributes which had been given by Glaswegians at the site of the crash the previous year. After a period of silence, the congregation joined together in saying the Lord’s Prayer.
This was followed by a further quietly meditative harp piece and the reading of the final prayer by Archbishop Tartaglia, before the church representatives jointly gave the blessing. The closing hymn sounded a positive note of hope for the future – Tell out My Soul – as the congregation left to face what the future would bring together.
Strathclyde University hosted refreshments afterwards in the Lord Todd, giving people an opportunity to meet, chat and reflect.