A large ecumenical congregation saw out the old year and welcomed in the New Year at Glasgow Cathedral at the annual Hogmanay Watchnight service organised by Hope Alba, which is now well-established in the festive calendar. The Cathedral community, under its minister Dr. Laurence Whitley, hosted the service. As people arrived, they were given a card on which they were invited to write a prayer for the coming year. These prayers were subsequently collected to be kept until Easter.
Setting the mood for the service, the Cathedral Strings under their conductor, Donald McLeod, played a mix of carols and reflective music. Dr. Whitley then welcomed everyone to sixty minutes of time to reflect and look forward. “We come” he said “with so many different thoughts and memories but we have no cause to be afraid for the future because God holds us in the palm of his hand”.
Jim McNair of Hope Alba then introduced the opening hymns “Joy to the World” and “Be still and know” before Archbishop Conti gave the opening prayer, quoting from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians and one of St. Leo the Great’s Christmas homilies, and inviting everyone to reflect on God’s great gifts to each of us.
The soloist, Marjorie Fullarton, sang a beautiful, reflective piece “People need the Lord”. Then Robert Donald, the organiser of Glasgow City Mission’s Night Shelter, was interviewed about the work of the Night Shelter which operates for the winter months to give secure accommodation for homeless people in Glasgow – people who slip through the social care net or who are unable to work with the system. Half of the offering taken up at the Hogmanay Watchnight service would be given to the Night Shelter.
A reading from 2 Corinthians followed, with the congregation responding with the singing of “Lord, make us servants of your peace”. The offering was taken up as the Cathedral Strings played and Marjorie Fullarton sang again.
The reflection was given by Rev. Ramsay Shields from St. Luke’s Milngavie who reminded the congregation of the makeover which had turned the centre of Glasgow into Philadelphia for the Brad Pitt film! He mused that people today are keen on changes, many for the good, but the change that the Bible invites us to is a complete change of life. However as we know from our short lived New Year resolutions, the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. We can’t make the change by ourselves but God has given us the perfect gift in his Son.
The congregation then sang the thought provoking but joyful hymn “Christ, be our Light!” and as the last minutes of 2011 ticked away, Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, Chair of Glasgow Churches Together, gave a brief reflection, reminding those present that, while there had been many tragic events in 2011, Christians are people of hope and trust in God – in the closing words of the Purcell Te Deum “O Lord, in Thee have I trusted, let me never, never, never, never, never be confounded”. He also took the opportunity to remind people that one of the things to look forward to in 2012 was the St. Mungo Festival which would be a special one as 2012 is the 14th centenary of the death of Mungo.
The service concluded with the powerful and rousing hymn, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah!” before people made their way out into a new year.