The theme of this year’s Glasgow the Welcoming City service was “Celebrating Heritage, Culture and Diversity”. The service was held, as usual, in the City Chambers and hosted by the City Council, and organised by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT). The new Lord Provost, Eva Bolander, was represented by Bailie Josephine Docherty*.
A piper played outside the City Chambers to welcome those attending and inside harpist Carissa Swan and whistle player John Allen provided more music on the main stairs and in the Banqueting Hall itself the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band played. Further musical support was provided by the St. Mungo Singers and an instrumental group.
The Banqueting Hall was full to capacity and more seats had to be brought in, a great sign that the service is fixing its place in the calendar of summer events, especially when you reflect that it was happening on Fathers’ Day and the weather outside was fine.
After the opening hymn, Bailie Docherty welcomed everyone to an event which she described as a celebration of the warmth of Glasgow’s welcome to visitors. She acknowledged that Glasgow’s citizens benefited greatly from the ecumenical actions of Glasgow Churches Together (“GCT”) and its member churches, promoting peace and togetherness. The recent terror attacks had caused great sadness, she said, so this event was an opportunity to demonstrate the friendliness of Glasgow.
Bailie Docherty welcomed in particular the representatives of the Polish consulate and also the young people present. We have only one world, she reminded us, and we needed to take good care of it and its people. In the opening prayer by Fr. David Wallace (Chair of GCT), this theme of sharing and welcoming and looking out for each, as well as welcoming strangers was echoed. In a more sombre moment, he also invited people to pray for the victims of the recent Grenfell Tower disaster.
The service moved into a lighter mood with the performance of two lively songs from St. Denis’ Primary school, introduced brilliantly by one of the young singers. The composer was the late Ian Davison and the songs were “I’m Going Home to Glasgow” and “When Mandela danced in the Square”. The children themselves were a great example of Glasgow’s ethnic diversity, and they even brought their own “Nelson Mandela” to dance in the second song, and they had everyone tapping and clapping along.
Scripture readings followed and the singing of Bernadette Farrell’s setting of Psalm 138/139 “O God, you search me and you know me” with its wonderful last verse:-
For you created me and shaped me…. For the wonder of who I am, I praise you”
The Rev. Jean Roddick, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery, gave this year’s reflection. Taking the Gospel reading as her starting point, she said that it was warm and touching to hear Jesus say that there is a place prepared for us in heaven. This led her thoughts to the idea of “home” – it can be a place of bricks and mortar or equally it can be where the heart is, a place where they (family) have to take you in, or something somehow you don’t have to deserve.
The slogan “People make Glasgow”, she said, reminds us that so many different types of people make Glasgow, and we have evidence of the benefits of free movement and migration, benefits not just economic but also of faith, brought by the many migrants to Glasgow. May Glasgow, she asked, continue to be a place which people call “home”.
The young musicians of the Southside Fiddlers provided a reflection in music to follow this lovely spoken reflection. They played, without a conductor, a beautifully haunting air, and then changed tempo to a jig, and one of the young girls surprised by putting down her fiddle and coming forward to dance, to everyone’s enjoyment.
After some words from a representative on behalf of the Polish community in Glasgow, both old and new citizens, intercessions were read for the city in this Year of Culture, Heritage and Diversity, for its rich tapestry of influences on its community, its heritage and its diversity of sources, and its shared faith.
An offering was taken up for Children 1st ( formerly the RSSPCC), a Scottish charity whose aim is to give every child in Scotland a safe and secure childhood. As the collection was taken up, the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band played for us, then the St. Mungo Singers sang Liam Lawton’s beautiful “The Cloud’s Veil”.
The service ended with the blessing by the GCT representatives, led by Dr. Laurence Whitley, and the rousing “Tell out, my Soul, the Greatness of the Lord!”. All present were invited to stay for refreshments, while the young Southside Fiddlers treated us to more of their lively music – Glasgow a Welcoming City indeed.
*We note with sadness the sudden death of former Deputy Lord Provost Gerry Leonard who attended many of the GCT services as representative of the Council