Glasgow The Welcoming City 2023 – initiated by Lord Provost Liz Cameron and Glasgow Churches Together more than 20 years ago
Still organised by Glasgow Churches Together (GCT), this year the themes were the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St Columba, the Year of Historic Scottish Women and Peace for Ukraine.
To help mark these themes, we had the St Mungo Singers, members of the St Mungo Ensemble, the St Denis’ Bairns from St Denis’s Primary School , The Govan Salvation Army Band and singers from the Ukrainian community in Glasgow.
Our piper, Willie Park, played at the entrance to the City Chambers to welcome guests, and Carissa Swan met them with harp music on the grand staircase. The City Council and Lord Provost were represented by Deputy Lord Provost Bailie Christy Mearns who was pleased to join us despite being 8 months pregnant. She said later that baby had clearly enjoyed the service, if its reactions were anything to go by. (Baby Mearns, a little girl, arrived on 2 July, a little early but safe and well.)
In welcoming people to the event, Bailie Mearns described it as the highlight of the ecumenical calendar in Glasgow – one known for warmth, wit and wisdom – and GCT deserved credit for arranging it and showing that we have more in common than what divides us.
The St Denis’ Primary School Bairns got the service off to a lively start with a tribute to Mrs Mary Barbour, a political activist who is probably best remembered for leading the Rent Strikes in Glasgow in 1915. They sang Alistair Hulett’s song “Mrs Barbour’s Army”, marching into the douce Satinwood Suite in pinnies and turbans, armed with pots and pans.
They followed this with an environmental poem “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” led by Kamsi Tibulu, addressing a more modern concern for our city.
Readings from Isaiah 55:12-13 and John 14:1-6 followed, with a setting of Psalm 121 “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”, a reminder of the great need for peace in our world today.
Rev. Prof. Roger Sturrock , the Moderator Designate of Glasgow Presbytery, reflected on the themes of the service so far. Isaiah spoke of the desire for comfort and security for the people of his time. Mary Barbour in her time saw the needs in her area and got up and did something. The Gospel reading tells us that all should be included. He finished with a quote of Jesus “I come that they may have life and have it abundantly!”.
After the St Mungo Singers led the singing of the Hymn of Columba with its theme of enfolding in love and encircling in peace, Fr Andriy Chornenko, Vicar for Ukrainians in Scotland led prayers for Ukraine and spoke briefly to thank the churches, the City Council and the Scottish Government for their support. He made the point that war does not bring unity but divides, a sad reflection.
The service continued with prayers for Glasgow, Scottish women like Mary Barbour, peace in our world, and finally our City Council and its staff. A collection was taken up for Glasgow The Caring City to support its work, while Carissa Swan played some gentle background music.
Then we were given some lively songs to join in with by the St Denis’ children – the “The Barras” and “When Mandela Danced in the Square”. In a completely different mood, we were then treated to some stunningly emotional a capella singing by members of the choir of the Glasgow Ukrainian Parish of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Their two hymns begged God’s mercy and help for their homeland.
The service finished with the praying of the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing for all present, before the St Mungo Singers led the singing of the Canticle of Ezekiel. Refreshments followed and gave people the opportunity to chat and to congratulate all the musicians and singers for their contributions to a wonderful and emotional event.