To mark the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero on 24 March 1980, Marie Cooke of the Archdiocesan Justice & Peace Commission in Glasgow organised an ecumenical service of prayer and reflection at St. Anne’s parish in Dennistoun on 21 March.
This proved a truly inspirational celebration, with a mixture of prayer, scripture, readings, and music, supported by Powerpoint presentations, YouTube clips and film as visual aids. Musical support was provided by the East End Deanery choir under their Musical Director, Patricia McGlinchey and organist Mark O’Neill. Two students from St. Mungo’s Academy were the prayer leaders. Representatives from Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) and Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) were present in the congregation, as was Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti and MSP John Mason.
The service began with John Bell and Graham Maule’s “Will you Come and Follow Me”, followed by an invitation to everyone to greet the person next to them with a sign of peace as they became a worshipping community, and a reminder that we do not need to go to El Salvador to find deprivation, lack of respect for human rights or marginalisation. We can find these uncomfortably close to home.
The Romero Way of the Cross was read by Honor Hania of the Commission, as the moving and challenging images of this meditation were shown on a screen. A scripture reading followed – the well-known passage from Isaiah 61 which had been read by Jesus himself at the beginning of his ministry. Psalm 34 (a YouTube excerpt in images and music) – The Lord hears the cry of the poor – was a fitting response. The congregation spontaneously joined in the psalm response and the effect was so moving, a moment when the power of music in the liturgy was clear.
Before the reading of the Gospel – Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes – the very appropriate Gospel acclamation from Micah 6:8 was sung
“This is what the Lord asks of you, this , only this.
To act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.”
After a time of silent reflection the congregation then joined in the singing of “Come back to me”.
As a reflection, Archbishop Conti read an extract from Archbishop Romero’s last Sunday homily. Then to the accompaniment of Romero’s own voice and Salvadorean music, the congregation came forward to light and place a candle before
the altar as a sign and pledge of their personal commitment to peace and justice. This part of the service was completed by the singing of the passionate words of the hymn “To the Victims” to the glorious music of Finlandia.
Intercessions followed: for peace, for people and organisations working for peace and justice, for the martyrs of our own time, for our new pope and for all present. The service ended with the “Romero Prayer” and the singing of a final hymn of determined affirmation “We shall go out with hope of resurrection” There was a feeling of inspiration in the air as we left St. Anne’s to go out into the cold evening, and a desire to meet and celebrate again next year.