St. Andrew’s Cathedral was re-opened and its new altar dedicated on 10 April 2011. On the evening before, an ecumenical service of Vespers to celebrate the completion of the restoration work was held , attended by an invited congregation which included church leaders, national and local politicians (including the First Minister Alex Salmond), consular representatives, members of civil and educational organisations, and representatives of parishes throughout the Diocese. As the guests gathered, a trio of instrumentalists played on violin (Clare O’Neill), clarsach (Carissa Bovill) and whistle (John Allen) a selection of Celtic melodies.
The first section of the service was devoted to an outline of the history of the cathedral, and a formal acknowledgement of the contributions made by so many to its restoration. Mgr. Chris McElroy welcomed the congregation to the Cathedral before the opening hymn “All people that on earth do dwell” was sung, led by members of the St. Mungo Singers and the Cathedral choir.
Ronnie Convery, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese then began the history of the Cathedral. Referring to the appropriateness of the opening hymn, he outlined the revival of the Catholic church in Scotland and the work of Fr. Scott (later Bishop Scott) who had been responsible for the building of the Cathedral (or St. Andrew’s Chapel as it was at its inception) in 1814 to accommodate the increasing numbers of Catholics in Glasgow, due to immigration from the Highlands and from Ireland. For many at the time, this seemed an act of foolishness rather than optimism and hope, a point beautifully brought out in a short drama presented by members of AGAP.
This was followed by the singing of the very fitting motet, Locus Iste by Bruckner, the words of which were in fact the prayer recited at the first opening of the Cathedral. Ken Crilley then introduced individuals and representatives of companies involved in the restoration work, and Archbishop Conti presented them with a memento of the occasion.
As the clergy vested for the second part of the evening, the instrumentalists again played, helping to set an atmosphere of recollection and preparation, and the choirs sang the Bach Lenten chorale “O Sacred Head”. Then the formal procession took place to the accompaniment of the Newman hymn “Praise to the Holiest”.
The music for the Vespers had been chosen with consideration for the ecumenical nature of the congregation. The first psalm was the Fitzpatrick setting of Ps.23, the second the Iona setting of Ps.62/63 and the Canticle was Stephen E Smyth’s version of Philippians 2:6-11.
After the scripture reading, Archbishop Conti led the reflection. He reminded the congregation that Glasgow’s civic motto is in fact only part of the full quotation which continues “…by the preaching of the Word and the praising of His name”. There had been a Christian settlement in Glasgow from the late 6th Century. The last pre-Reformation Archbishop of Glasgow died in Paris in 1603 but the Industrial Revolution resulted in an increase in the Catholic population and the revitalisation of the Catholic Church in Glasgow and, in turn, to the building of St. Andrew’s. The motto of the restored Archdiocese, inscribed on the new Cathedral lectern, takes a fuller quotation “Floreat verbi praeconio” and this work of evangelisation goes on.
As the congregation reflected on Archbishop Conti’s words, the instrumentalists played quietly, then the short Responsory “Guard us, Lord” was sung, leading into the singing of the Magnificat (to the Amazing Grace tune). There was a moment of slight drama as the crucifix, clergy and congregation were incensed, and the fire alarm went off! However the Archbishop quipped that clearly other churches did not use so much incense.
The Intercessions followed and everyone joined in the Lord’s Prayer before the choirs sang the Newman blessing “May the Lord Protect Us”. The Recessional hymn was the well-known hymn of praise “Holy God, we praise Thy Name”, and as the congregation moved out of the cathedral, the choirs sang the Purcell “O Lord, in Thee have I trusted” and Chilcott’s setting of “Be Thou my Vision” to finish a very lovely opening service.