This year, the annual Glasgow the Welcoming City service, hosted by Glasgow City Council and organised by Glasgow Churches Together, focussed on the three important anniversaries being marked in Scotland – Cluny 910 ( the start of a monastic reform movement which seriously affected the Church in the West), the Scottish Reformation 1560 and Edinburgh Missionary Conference 1910. The front page of the leaflet for the service, held on 13 June, had the symbol of the Federation of Cluniac Sites and a quotation from John Paul II’s Encyclical “Ut Unum Sint” on commitment to ecumenism.
Once again the groups taking part underlined the multinational, multicultural and multilingual nature of modern Glasgow. The congregation entering the City Chambers were greeted by the playing of a piper at the entrance and Carissa Bovill on clarsach on the stair landing. In the Satinwood Suite itself, the children of the Southside Fiddlers cheered us with their ability and their enthusiasm. They also added to the colour of the occasion with their instruments – at least one green and one pink fiddle!
As the church leaders and representatives processed in, the St.Mungo Singers and the Rutherglen Salvation Army band led the congregation in singing the “Altus Prosator” a hymn attributed to St. Columba, to the beautiful Celtic tune, Durrow. The opening prayer was read by the Episcopalian Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway, the Very Rev. Dr. Gregor Duncan. The opening section of the service was completed with the singing of another hymn inspired by the poetry of St. Columba, “My Dearest Lord” to a setting by Catherine Walker.
Bailie Catherine McMaster welcomed all present to the service which, she said, the City Council were proud to keep as part of the calendar of events for the city. The faith communities involved gave witness to Glasgow as a welcoming city and helped to keep it so. So many people came to Glasgow because it was a welcoming city, and its welcome was contained in its heart. Today we were celebrating our Christian culture – St. Mungo is at the roots of the city – and opening a window of welcome to all. She noted wryly that some of her colleagues were not able to join with us due to a 5k charity run in the city and perhaps also a certain football tournament, but she was sure they would get a blessing from our presence at the service. The support of the church communities for the work of the City Council was appreciated and, as we begin the recovery from recession, she invited them to continue to work with the council and to pray “Let Glasgow Flourish”.
It was appropriate that the next hymn was sung by members of the Scottish Asian Christian community who had found a welcome in Glasgow and now sang a hymn of joy “Hallelujah Amen” to the accompaniment of a portable harmonium, drum and tambourine. A lot of toes were surreptitiously tapping in the congregation during the hymn.
In a complete change of style and to mark the Cluny anniversary, the congregation now sang “Jerusalem the Golden” a translation by J.M.Neale of a hymn written by St. Bernard of Cluny. A reading from the First Letter of St.Peter followed, read by Rev. Alan Anderson, Superintendent Elect of the Glasgow Methodist Circuit who invited the congregation to reflect on the reading as Carissa played a quiet clarsach air. He then introduced the next congregational hymn “A safe stronghold our God” which was one of many written (words and music) by Martin Luther to help congregational participation in worship.
This was followed by a short movement piece by the AGAPE theatre group (part of the Archdiocese of Glasgow Arts Project) which invited reflection on the prayer of Jesus for the unity of his disciples (John 17), and which was very effective, as witnessed by the rapt attention of the congregation.
The Address this year was by Br. Stephen Smyth, General Secretary of Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) who has been on 3 months’ secondment to assist with the organisation of the 2010 conference in Edinburgh which marked the centenary of the groundbreaking 1910 conference. He noted that the 1910 conference had been arranged by Protestant missionaries who recognised that the divisions in the Church were adversely affecting the spread of the Gospel message. The conference was foundational in world ecumenism and led to the setting up of the World Council of Churches and many other ecumenical groups and yet most people in Scotland today had never heard of it!
The 2010 conference was intended to mark the importance of the 1910 conference. The event itself had been preceded by 3 years of work on the conference themes and it was hoped that the outcomes would shape the future of ecumenism. It should be viewed as a good news story, marking how much progress had been made. There were delegates from 60 countries and 80 church traditions, sharing faith and friendship – good news indeed.
The intercessions which followed were taken from the Conference prayers and were concluded by the singing of the ELLC ecumenical translation of the Lord’s Prayer.
In the final contributions to the service, Russkaya Capella sang a selection of liturgical pieces from the Russian Orthodox tradition, bringing a quite different style of music, and Liz Bovill closed the circle in a sense with the reading of a prayer attributed to St. Patrick “I arise today” to the accompaniment of the clarsach, played by her daughter.
The thanks and blessing were given by Major Stephen Huyton of the Salvation Army who is about to move with his wife from Glasgow, after 13 years working in Rutherglen and Glasgow, to a new posting in Essex. He took the opportunity to comment that he had come knowing no-one in the area but the citizens of both places had lived up to their reputations for friendliness, and he thanked everyone for the welcome he and his wife had experienced.
The service ended with the singing of “Praise to the Holiest” and, as the Salvation Army band played, the congregation moved through to enjoy the hospitality of the City and the music of the young South Side Fiddlers.