St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow. Thursday April 30th 2009. This service was planned as part of a series of meeting and visits in Scotland by Sr. Beatrice Chipeta and Br. Peter Daino of the Lusubilo Community Based Child Care Project (“LCBCCP”), Malawi.
The Project is supported by St. Columba Gaelic Church in Glasgow, the Iona Community and the Xaverians, and members of both Catholic and Presbyterian communities gathered with Archbishop Conti and Rev. David Lunan, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in St. Andrew’s Cathedral to give thanks for the work of the Project. It was also an occasion on which the Archbishop was able to extend a warm greeting to the Moderator on behalf the Archdiocese of Glasgow. It proved to be a moving and inspirational experience.
After the welcome by Archbishop Conti, the Vespers began with a service of light as the Paschal Candle and other candles on the sanctuary were lit, while the St. Mungo Singers sang Geoffrey Shaw’s setting of “Hail Gladdening Light”. Following the traditional format of Vespers – 2 psalms and canticle – the choir then led the congregation in the singing of Psalm 117 which had been set responsorially, the John Bell arrangement of Psalm 62/63 to the well loved tune ‘Resignation’, and Stephen Eric Smyth’s version of the Canticle from Ephesians 1 to the tune Bunessan.
The Rev David Lunan had chosen the readings for the service – Micah 6:6-8 and Luke 4:14-21 – and in his homily, he explained that he felt these were particularly appropriate to celebrate the work being done by Sr. Beatrice and Br. Peter. Jesus’ first point of contact with people was in their suffering not their sinfulness, and his approach had been one of powerlessness, not of power and prestige.
He and his wife had just returned from visiting Malawi to take part in the national David Livingston celebrations and had seen the problems there firsthand. David Livingston is seen as a founding father of Malawi, its first freedom fighter! The themes for the celebrations in his honour – “the Gospel, freedom and fair trade” – remind us of Jesus’ words that he had come to bring mankind life in its fullness, and of his parable of the Last Judgement.
The Moderator then invited Sr. Beatrice and Br. Peter to tell the congregation of their work. Sr. Beatrice explained the problems arising from the large numbers of children orphaned by HIV/Aids. These were children from the towns but their nearest relatives were in the villages. The children could not adapt and were living rough on the streets. Sr. Beatrice explained that the best solution was to enable these children to be integrated in some way in their village communities, and she organised the grandparents to come together and agree how to help the children and each other.
The link with St. Columba’s and the Iona Community had come about through a meeting between Anna MacDonald (who had been in Malawi for a quite different purpose – the opening of a girls’ secondary school) and Sr. Beatrice, and this started a relationship which has lasted over 10 years. The Project now supports more than 9,000 orphans and provides feeding and education, as well as training and income generating activities. As David Lunan said in conclusion “This is Church”.
The service continued with a period of reflection while Noel Donnelly played a Clarsach piece, then an African responsory “Mayenziwe” led into the intercessions, to which the response was “Jesu, Tawa Pano” (Jesus, we are here for you) by Patrick Matsikenyiri, with the concluding response “Thuma Mina”- ‘Send me, Jesus’. These were spoken and led musically by Christine Reid, the Rev Ian and Linda Fraser, and the Rev John Harvey, members of the Iona Community, and sung with enthusiasm by the congregation.
An offering was then taken up for the Project, to the accompaniment of the clarsach, played by Noel Donnelly, and the service ended with the choir’ s rendering of ‘Newman’s Prayer(May the Lord Protect Us), a share Blessing and a joy-filled recessional hymn “Christ be Our Light”.