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Fr. Oprisan reads the opening prayer

The ecumenical service was well attended despite the cold and the threat of snow as the congregation began to gather. Piper Willie Park braved the weather to greet them at the door of the Cathedral and, inside, the Parkhead Salvation Army Band played. Representatives of the churches processed together into the Cathedral for the start of the service, before Deputy Lord Provost Gerald Leonard led the proclamation of Glasgow’s city motto “Let Glasgow Flourish” to which the congregation responded “By the preaching of His word – by the praising of His name!”. This was followed by the singing of the hymn for peace “O Day of Peace”.

Dr Whitley, minister of the Cathedral, warmly welcomed everyone to this, the seventh year of this service, part of a celebration which has now expanded into a week of events, thanks to the City Council and Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick, among others. He welcomed representatives of the Universities, the legal profession and the arts (including Julie Currie of the Commonwealth Educational Trust who had given support to the Visual Arts group who would be taking part in the service), as well as thousands of others who would see the service live on the internet.

The opening prayer was read by Fr. Marcel Oprisan of the Romanian Orthodox Church– a reminder of the many national groups who are now represented in Glasgow. He gave thanks for St. Mungo who had planted the seed of the Gospel and the community of Glasgow and prayed that all who visit the city this year may know that they are welcome.

The prayer was followed by the singing of Psalm 114 (setting by Noel Donnelly) and a reading from Isaiah (52:7-10 – how beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news) proclaimed by Fr. David Wallace.

Russkaya Cappella with their director Svetlana Zverevska

Russkaya Cappella with their director Svetlana Zverevska

The next part of the service presented a change in both music style and language, as the members of Russkaya Cappella sang a cappella three pieces: one in honour of St. Mungo , with the simple chant, repeated with a harmony version by Nikolay Kedrov; a hymn “Only-begotten Son” by Dimitry Bortnyansky; and a lovely Ukrainian carol “Bells rang early in Jerusalem”, arranged by Yakiv Yatsinevich.

The musical texture changed again as the St.Mungo Singers led the congregation in the singing of the Glasgow Anthem “Let Glasgow Flourish, before Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick introduced a short dance piece by the young dancers of East End based Visual Statement. As the River Clyde and the Molendinar have been central to Glasgow’s story, it seemed appropriate that their presentation was an interpretation of an excerpt from the “River of Stories”, and the Cathedral was indeed awash with colour as well as music as they danced.

The water theme was continued in the Gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11) given by Cllr Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, with its telling of the miraculous catch of fish in response to the instruction of the Lord “Duc in Altum”

The address this year was given by Professor Tom Devine on the theme “Christianity and Glasgow’s Enlightenment”. Referring to the Scottish Enlightenment which was the country’s greatest gift to the world – an explosion in so many areas of knowledge – he suggested that the habit of regarding this as an Edinburgh enlightenment was perhaps an Edinburgh conceit. Much had come from Glasgow, with people such as Francis Hutcheson, Thomas Reid, James Watt and Adam Smith.

There were two characteristics of the Glasgow Enlightenment. The thinkers were lodged in the University and it was a Christian enlightenment. Unlike that in Europe, Christian values were at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, and there would have been no Enlightenment here but for the Christian religion. A substantial number of those involved were either ministers or sons of the manse, and both the pre- and the post-reformation churches were important in its development.

Professor Devine during his address

Professor Devine during his address

The number of schools in pre-Reformation Scotland has been underestimated, as has the internationalism of the intellectual community of that time. For example, there were 17 Scottish rectors of the University of Paris pre-Reformation. Grammar school flourished post-Reformation and the average age for entry to University was 13-14 years. He joked that he now understood Adam Smith’s work which had been written for university students and reflected the level of training that they had undergone, rather than any genetic decline in current students!

The post-Reformation aim of a school in every parish was intended to give everyone access to the Scriptures. It became part of the culture of Scotland that there could not be children who could not read, and Scotland had the largest number of school places proportionally in Europe. This reverence for learning was the foundation of the Scottish Enlightenment. When the founding fathers of the United States were seeking the philosophical foundations for their country, they turned, not to France with its anti-clerical basis, but to the Scots Hutcheson and Reid. We should remember that the tobacco trading ships took abroad ideas as well as trading goods.

Carissa Bovill gave the congregation time to muse on the challenging ideas presented by Professor Devine, as she played a clarsach meditation. Then the Intercessions were read by representatives of the churches, as we prayed for the courage of Simon Peter and St. Mungo in our lives and for our city and fellow citizens. The congregation responded to each intercession with the Taizé chant “O Lord, Hear my Prayer”, as the reader lit a candle. The intercessions ended with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer.

An offering was taken for the Lord Provost’s Fund for charity, while the Salvation Army Band played. The congregation then stood for the final hymn, the rousing “Thine be the Glory”. Archbishop Tartaglia read the final prayer and led the church leaders in the blessing. The service ended with the traditional procession to the tomb of St. Mungo for the laying of the City Council’s wreathe there, while the St. Mungo Singers sang the traditional Irish blessing “May the Road Rise to Meet You” in the setting by Chilcott – a lovely finish to a beautiful service.