St. Andrew's Sunday: A brief history

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Upon entering church ahead of 10:30 a.m. worship services on Nov. 26, things may look a little different than a customary Sunday at Grace.

In large part, because the church will be celebrating the annual custom of St. Andrew’s Sunday, a day reflecting St. Andrew, the first disciple of Christ, but also his impact on early Scottish Presbyterianism as the first patron saint of Scotland. But along with the bagpipers, kilts and special liturgies and songs one can expect to hear Sunday, there is a bit of history behind this important service.

So before you head out, here's five little nuggets of information to bring you up to speed on the impact of St. Andrew’s Sunday in Presbyterian life and here at Grace. 

I. Much of St. Andrew’s Sunday revolves around what is called the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, a celebration of Scottish clans that demonstrated unity and family regardless of whether someone was a member of their own clan. During English monarch rule over much of Scotland, clansmen were banned from wearing tartan design or kilts that represented their homeland. It’s said that in rebellion, clansmen would take pieces of their banned cloth to clergy, who would slip a blessing on behalf of that clan during a worship service.

II. While the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan ceremony revolves around the history of Scottish brotherhood and faith, the custom is largely Scottish-American, perhaps best known for its creation by Rev. Peter Marshall, a former chaplain of the U.S. Senate and longtime pastor at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church (1939-45).

III. It also noted that the early days of the Kirkin’ service raise funds to assist the efforts of Scottish churches during World War II, evolving later into the larger Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan service, that has been held also inside the National Presbyterian Cathedral in Washington, D.C. since 1954.

IV. When St. Andrew was martyred, he demanded a cross in the shape of an X; it was this notion that led to the design of Scotland’s flag: a white X sitting within a blue backdrop.

V. During the Nov. 26 worship service at Grace, a Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan blessing will take place, with a presentation of tartan before Almighty God asking His blessing. In addition, there will be a bagpipe procession featuring the Acolyte carrying the “Light of Christ,” and the Banner of the Scots. Rev. Judy Dwyer will lead the sermon, entitled: “How to Find Milk in the Fridge,” and we invite all of you to stay after church, enjoy refreshments as we look to “Deck the Halls” in spirit of the holiday season leading into the first week of Advent on Dec. 3.