Our third event was our ecumenical service at Glasgow Cathedral on 12th January, hosted by the Cathedral community and Glasgow Churches Together (GCT). The weather was much more clement than the previous day, and it was possible for the church and civic leaders, led by piper Willie Park, to walk in procession from the St Mungo Museum to the Cathedral behind a church officer carrying a copy of the Bible and representatives of the Russian Orthodox community carrying the St Mungo Icon and Candle.
There they joined the congregation as the St Mungo Singers sang the Evening hymn O Light from Light. The Icon and Candle were placed on the communion table and Deputy Lord Provost Philip Braat led the proclamation of the motto of the city: Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of His word; let Glasgow flourish by the praising of His name.
The new Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, Rev Mark Johnstone welcomed everyone to the service with clear pleasure, before the choir led the singing of the first hymn, based on the Canticle from the Letter to the Colossians Let’s give thanks to God our Father, set to the well-known tune Hyfrydol.
After the first reading, proclaimed by Archbishop Tartaglia, the congregation responded with the thought provoking and challenging words of A Touching Place, a hymn by John Bell and the recently deceased and much missed Graham Maule of the Iona Community.
A change in style of liturgical music followed with the singing by Russkaya Cappella of two pieces of Russian church music which sounded quite at home in the space of the Cathedral. This section of the service was concluded with the reading of a passage from the Gospel of St John (15:12-17) by Rev Dan Carmichael, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery.
A feature of this service is a reflection given on a topic relating to Glasgow. This year the speaker was Professor Stephen McKinney who spoke on “Education, the legacy of Mungo in the formation of the city”. One of his research aims has been to identify the impact of the churches on education in Glasgow and he took the opportunity to express his thanks to Dr Mary McHugh, the Archivist of the Archdiocese of Glasgow and Roger Edwards (a leading historian of the Episcopal Church) for their help in this work.
Professor McKinney pointed out that the churches had a long history of contributing to education in Scotland, from the time of Ninian, Mungo and Columba with the monastery schools, then schools attached to parishes. The oldest Scottish universities themselves owed their foundation to the church.
He identified 1817 as a key year for education in Glasgow when the problems of the parish schools system led to three initiatives – from the city magistrates, the Church of Scotland with its Sabbath schools (not to be confused with Sunday schools) and the Catholic Schools Society. Fascinatingly the last mentioned was chaired by a member of the Church of Scotland and supported by a Church of Scotland minister preaching to help its fundraising.
A further stage for both the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church was the provision of teacher training to ensure that certificated teachers would be available. In another early example of inter-church co-operation, one of the trainees at the Church of Scotland college was a French Marist brother.
Eventually the schools and, later, the teacher training colleges, were taken over by the State. However the culture of the training colleges in Glasgow were marked by their origins, having an emphasis on the personal foundation of the students and their spirituality, and a clear belief that teachers should be role models for and concerned about the children they taught. Glasgow’s pride in its schools and education system should include an acknowledgement of its debts to the churches.
As the congregation digested these thoughts, Carissa Swan played a quietly reflective air on the harp, leading into the Intercessions, which were read by church and civic representatives. Prayers were said for:
the City Council and all who provide the services that the city depends on;
our national leaders in Holyrood and Westminster;
church leaders and leaders of other faith communities in Glasgow;
the citizens of Glasgow;
solutions to the issues of climate change ( and special mention was made of S E Australia as it battles bushfires);
the developing crisis in the Middle East
those who have died recently and in particular Graham Maule of the Iona Community
The Intercessions concluded with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer before a collection was taken up for the work of Emmaus Glasgow, a charity working with homeless people. A representative explained a little of the history and purpose of the charity which had begun in 1949 in France as a result of the inspiration of a French worker priest, Abbé Pierre. The name comes from the central concept of the charity which is an accompanying of people on the road through life. The collection, he said, would go to their “solidarity fund” which pays for furniture packs for refugees and asylum seekers and their soup kitchen in Cadogan Street.
The final part of the service began with the reading of Glasgow Poet Laureate Jim Carruth’s poem A Flourishing by Jean Swinbank. Bailie Braat brought greetings from the City Council, recognising the centrality of St Mungo in defining Glasgow, and the importance of the festival service in celebrating his life and work.
Picking up on the theme of education in Glasgow, he noted with pride Glasgow’s inclusive and nurturing approach to education now which aims to keep all children in education rather than exclude them, and so reduce the dangers of them becoming involved in crime. He did not doubt that St Mungo would wholeheartedly approve.
The service ended with the blessing pronounced by the church representatives before they and the civic representatives, as well as student representatives from St Mungo’s Academy, went to the crypt to lay wreaths on St Mungo’s tomb.
Special thanks are due for musical support at this service to the Rutherglen Salvation Army Band and to the Cathedral
Director of Music, Andrew Forbes who played the organ for the service.