To mark the end of the 2010 West End Festival, St. Simon’s and St. Peter’s Parishes held a Sung Vespers in St. Peter’s Church on Sunday 27th June. The Vespers were advertised as part of the Festival events being hosted in the church and as such open to all who wished to attend. A particular invitation had been issued to members of the other churches in the area and the choir were delighted to meet old friends in Rev Tom and Mrs Christina Moffat, recently of Culross Abbey Parish Church and currently serving in Partick.
The music of the Vespers was led by the St. Mungo Singers under their Director, Mgr. Gerry Fitzpatrick and before the service began, Mgr. Gerry held a short workshop to familiarise the congregation with the planned music of the liturgy. The St. Mungo Singers also sang motets (God be in my head by Walford Davis and Palestrina’s Alma Redemptoris Mater) and Dr. Noel Donnelly played clarsach to set the mood.
The service was presided over by Fr. Jim Lawlor and began with the singing of Noel Donnelly’s setting of the Celtic Invocation: “Christ be near at either hand”. As candles were lit on the altar, the choir then led the congregation in singing Catherine Walker’s setting of the beautiful prayer of Columba “My Dearest Lord”. Fr. Lawlor welcomed everyone on behalf of himself and his colleagues and expressed the hope that participation in this sung Vespers would enable those present to “touch the hem of the garment of God”.
A change of tone and colour followed with the singing of the well known hymn “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus!”. The congregation then sat for the singing of the psalms and canticle – Psalm 32 “He fills the earth with his love” in responsorial style, with the verses sung by the St. Mungo Singers; Psalm 62 “O God, you are my God” in the metrical setting by John Bell to the Appalachian hymn tune “Resignation”; and Noel Donnelly’s setting of the Canticle from Ephesians 3 “I bow my knees before the Lord our God”.
The Scripture reading was from the Gospel of Mark, the story of the woman who was cured of a haemorrhage. In his reflection, Fr.Lawlor referred to the power of the arts in opening us up to a sense of what is both deeply human and sacred, and re-iterated his opening theme of “touching the hem of the garment of God”. The woman in the Gospel passage was seeking access to God through touching Jesus. It reminded him of the custom he had seen in one parish where people touched a piece of rock which had come from Massabielle, Lourdes. He had come to understand that for them this was a way of seeking to touch God and, as Cardinal Newman had said in one of his sermons, any route of access that leads to God can never be bad.
After the reflection, the congregation joined in singing the Magnificat to the tune of “Amazing Grace”, followed by Intercessions for the church, the community and the world, and the praying of the Our Father. Then the traditional Marian anthem “Salve Regina” was sung in plainsong before the final prayer and blessing. Fr. Lawlor thanked everyone for coming and invited them to join the parish community for refreshments in the parish hall. He also asked if they would consider giving support to a petition for a 17 year old refugee, Dorothy, from the Congo, who had been received into the community of St. Peter’s at Easter and whose application for asylum had been rejected.
The service ended with a sung blessing “God to Enfold You” (John bell of the Iona Community) and a fitting hymn for the end of Vespers, “Before we end our day”. As the congregation made their way to the parish hall, the St. Mungo Singers sang Lotti’s joyful anthem “Regina Coeli” to provide a beautiful end to a lovely service.