When I came to St Mary’s (yes, nearly 7 years ago) I was installed at a splendid service at which my former bishop, the Rt Rev David Chillingworth (now our Primus) preached. In his sermon, he referred to my time at Bridge of Allan and how the people there described my ministry when he went to meet them after I had left.

The thing that he commented on in that sermon was that people had said, “Oh, the thing about Kelvin is that he knows how to throw a good party”. One or two people got the wrong end of the stick at that comment (yes, choir members, that’s you I’m talking about) and thought that my life in Glasgow was going to be all about parties in Praepostorial Towers.

What they didn’t realise at the time was that Bishop David, and indeed my former congregation, were referring to the liturgy. For various reasons, St Mary’s wasn’t a terribly celebratory church when I came here and I’m guessing that folk just couldn’t imagine that Bishop David was talking about What Goes On In Church. My installation service was a burst of great joy that people still sometimes talk to me about and I hope it was a great sign of things to come. That was the intention anyway. The truth is, I think that we’ve got something worth celebrating in church and I get no greater delight than being around when the people of God are enjoying what they’ve got to celebrate.

Thus, though I love the greater feasts of the church and try to wind everyone as far up the candlestick of joy as I dare, it is often the lesser feasts that give me the greatest kick. Generally speaking, I think that if all is well in a congregation, it is the duty and the joy of the clergy simply to let the joy out of the box and not keep it stuffed inside. Sometimes you don’t need to do much either – just let it happen. We’ve a God who says “yes”, after all.

It was only really on Thursday evening that I realised that this weekend was going to be as special as it was. Saying yes to people gets you a long way.

We had a visiting choir, from Groton School in Massachusetts. It wasn’t just that though as it is a choir run by someone who was on the musical staff here at St Mary’s when I came here – Chris Hampson. So there were friendships to be renewed and new friendships to be made. Frikki Walker, our musical maestro put them all through their paces in his own bubbly style and we were all set for a great Sunday.

But then somehow, Sunday – Refreshment Sunday, took wings. Our choir sang with the American choir and so the congregation was treated to a procession of 70 odd singers, most of whom were under twenty. I don’t know whether it was because word had got out, but we soon started to have to ask people to share service sheets and by the time we got to communion we realised we hadn’t allowed for enough communion hosts. The God of surprises had turned Refreshment Sunday into a foretaste of the Great Feast that will come to us. Well, will come to us, if He rises.

We had the Return of the Prodigal as the gospel reading and a cracking sermon from Cedric Blakey the Vice Provost. (You can watch it again online here: Then we had visitors from Malawi to welcome who were here to talk about subsistence farming. (They are the people directly connected with the rice we sell on the Fair Trade stall every week). And there was the God Factor going great guns with a session on the Bible and the news of people being confirmed and baptised at Easter.

It was a Sunday which was more than the sum of its parts though. The snow was blowing around outside the church yesterday. Inside, I think it was angels.

Dear Lord.
When I get cynical about the church,
help me to remember Sundays like this one.


  1. Rosemary Hannah says

    I do like ‘try to wind everyone as far up the candlestick of joy as I dare’. St Mary’s does have natural advantages, which let it succeed as it does. However, I really do not think other churchs need to make so much of their natural disadvantages…

  2. …And don’t forget Evensong, which for me (as you’d expect) was even more glorious. I even felt moved to blog about it in the first of a ‘Guilty Pleasures’ series!

    It was particularly wonderful for the Boston choir to be singing Frikki’s great setting of Newman’s poem/hymn ‘Lead Kindly Light’

    A fabulous end to a remarkable day in the Cathedral. Truly uplifting.

  3. Marion says

    Sounds as if everybody had great time. On occasions, such as this, I wish you could record the whole service, as you do with the Sermon, for people to watch on line.

  4. The prayer at the end – pretty good.
    Our congregation recently decided to introduce an Evensong service once a month so I’m looking forward to that.

  5. Bro David says

    I went looking and I found the evidence. Who is that there listening intently in the bottom right corner?

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