Glasgow Churches Together (GCT) hosted a beautiful ecumenical service in honour of St. Andrew in Renfield St. Stephen’s church on 29 November. The atmosphere and the welcome were warm. Representatives of the member churches of GCT were joined by Bailie James Scanlon representativing the Glasgow City Council, the St. Mungo Singers, instrumentalists Dr. Noel Donnelly on clarsach and John Allan on whistle, and fittingly the St. Andrew Secondary School Chamber Choir under their conductors Des and Susan.
From the beginning, there was a feeling of inclusiveness in the service, with the congregation being welcomed by piper Willie Park at the entrance and by the instrumentalists inside, and the chairs being set in a circle round a centrepiece of saltires and candles.
The service began with a prayer which ended with the words:-
May our country be a community in which everyone matters
Everyone has an honoured place
And the dignity of each is assured by our faith in you as Father of us all
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Fr David Wallace, the Chair of GCT, welcomed everyone, particularly the students from St. Andrews Secondary, and reflected on how beautiful it was to be able to gather together to celebrate St. Andrew, and so many other feasts now, and to be joyful in our celebrations, whereas so many across the world are unable to be so. The words of Bernadette Farrell’s hymn “Christ be our Light” which followed were very apt in their invitation to us to be bread and shelter and servants for others in their needs.
After the first reading, the students of St. Andrew’s sang the Celtic Invocation with beautiful gentleness, leading into the second reading in Scots from the Apocalypse with its comforting words “He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes”.
After the Gospel reading of the call of Andrew and his brother as presented in Matthew’s gospel, Moderator Rev. Jeanne Roddick gave the reflection. She reminded the congregation of the history of St. Andrew’s adoption as the patron saint of Scotland (and of golfers!) but reflected on the fact that his is rarely the first name which springs to mind if we are asked to name an apostle. He was never famous in his lifetime but seems to have been content to let others have the spotlight and to work away behind the scenes. He had a lifetime of following Jesus and was faithful to the end. He was perhaps an example of the power of love rather than the love of power. He could see in Jesus the power of God at work and he abandoned everything to follow him.
His leap of faith was one of action not just thought, even as the presence of the congregation at this service is a testimony to unity of faith. Rev.Jeanne reminded those present that quiet unassuming followers are just as vital for the church, and she quote John F Kennedy’s words regarding the ability of each one to work to change a small portion of events, to cause a tiny ripple of hope which will build to a big current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression. Andrew reminds us of the importance of serving and loving.
The intercessions were read by representatives of the various churches present and included prayer for workers, the Christian churches in Scotland, the country and its people and our world at this time of so much trouble. The St. Mungo Singers completed the intercessions with the singing of Handel’s “Lord, I Trust Thee”.
The final part of the service began with the singing of the ecumenical (ELLC) version of the Our Father, a spoken blessing and a lovely sung blessing (Rutter’s Irish Blessing) by the St Andrews students, and a greeting from Glasgow City Council. In giving this greeting Bailie Scanlon reminded everyone that Andrew’s name meant strong, and his aid had been prayed for by William Wallace and Robert Bruce. On his feastday, we should have hope and pride in our country.
The familiar words of “When Christ our Lord to Andrew Cried” finished the service but no GCT event would be complete without an opportunity to give hospitality and to chat, and the congregation had the pleasure of enjoying the surroundings of the Oasis Café for tea, coffee and shortbread (of course).