What a great way to mark the end of the old year and celebrate the start of the New Year! The Hope Alba ecumenical Watchnight Service which took place in Glasgow Cathedral at 11 pm on Hogmanay provided an opportunity to reflect on the year past, rejoice in Christmas, and pray for the year to come.

The instrumentalists under Donald McLeod

With these thoughts in mind, as the congregation arrived, they were given a prayer sheet and invited to express in prayer what was in their hearts at this time. These prayers were gathered up later in the service, to be placed before God at the altar.

A group of musicians, led by Donald McLeod, played as people gathered and then David Currie of Hope Alba welcomed everyone to the service. The instrumentalists led the singing of the joyful carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” followed by “Be Still, for the Presence of the Lord”, as church representatives processed in. Unfortunately Archbishop Conti was unwell and unable to be present but he was represented by Mgr. Peter Smith.

Each year the service has been graced by inspiring soloists and this year, the soloist was Terence Ayebare who added much to the service with two pieces, the second a lovely setting of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

Jim McNair of Hope Alba explained something of the current work being undertaken by Hope. The offering to be taken up at the service would be used partly for Hope’s latest project – the production of the “Hope at Easter” resources for parishes – and the temporary night shelter being run for the homeless over the Christmas holiday season.

A Scripture reading from Isaiah Ch.9 was given by Mgr. Fitzpatrick, the Chair of Glasgow Churches Together, and Alan Donaldson of the Baptist Union used themes from it as the basis of his reflection. He invited the congregation to recognise that God gives us hope through the most unlikely or inauspicious of circumstances – the Messiah coming from the ill-regarded district of Galilee, salvation coming through the birth of a child – and to take comfort and hope from this for the coming year.

In the final moments of the old year, the Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, Dr. Laurence Whitley reminded those present that one of the most familiar phrases in the Bible was “Do not be afraid”, a fitting word to keep in mind as they journeyed through the New Year. As the bells rang to welcome the New Year, people shook hands and wished each other all the best for the coming months.

The service ended with the singing of “Lord, for the Years”, a hymn whose final words gave the congregation a message to take with them as they went out into the New Year in Cathedral Square with its brightly lit trees:-

Some of the congregation at the end of the service

“Past put behind us, for the future take us,

Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.”