The Norman Transcript

November 19, 2012

St. Michael’s celebrates Kirkin’ of the Tartans

By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums band raised the roof and the spirits of congregants Sunday at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church when they celebrated the Feast of St. Andrew.

Tears welled in eyes when the band played “Amazing Grace,” perhaps in memory of those gone before. Still others sported goosebumps and smiles, possibly due to simply hearing the song and the fun of singing it with a real pipe band. No matter the reason or reaction, drums sounded and drones hummed along with the congregation as they sang the tune.

This is the second year Fr. Alan Sutherland invited the band to play at St. Michael’s, 1601 W. Imhoff Road. Clad in Scottish National tartan kilts, the band and choir led congregants — some of whom wore kilts or otherwise displayed their clan tartans — into the church while playing the “Oklahoma Scottish Pipe and Drum March.”

“It’s just a fun, special service we have,” choir member LaVetta Dent said. “I like the way it honors families.”

Although Dent doesn’t have a single plaid, she said her heritage ranges from Ireland and Scotland.

Church member David Hallum said he liked the service.

“I really liked the way the bagpipes were incorporated into everything,” Hallum said. “The conjoining of the two cultures — the church and Scottish heritage.”

Sutherland spoke of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, and held him up as an example of an ordinary man who wasn’t as famous as his brother, Simon Peter, or their friends James and John.

“In our society, we only get excited about the very big and important things,” Sutherland said. “Andrew wasn’t a public speaker, a theologian or writer, but God cared the same for him as he did for his brother, Simon Peter …

“If he wrote any of the New Testament, we don’t know. Andrew was a fisherman, a plain, unassuming guy. Jesus chose him as his first disciple” — a fact, Sutherland said, that should be “incredibly encouraging” to everyone. “Andrew shows us the glorious possibilities of the ordinary.”

Like God’s love for Andrew, Sutherland extends a caring hand to his congregation. When the band filled their bags in preparation for playing another tune, young congregant Nathan Gray, 3, ran up the aisle into Sutherland’s arms at the altar to watch the band up close. Resting his head on Sutherland’s shoulder, the pair listened intently.

Churchgoers and band members participated in the service. Band members come from all walks of life, and some have been with the band for a decade or more.

Martha Griffith, tenor drummer, is the band director at Longfellow Middle School by day. She’s been with the band for two years.

Richard Witt, drummer, said he joined the band because at the age of 14, his son, Hunter Witt, wanted to learn to play the pipes. Father and son have been members of the band for 10 years now.

Benny Hughes, drum major for the band, has been a drum major for more than 50 years. Hughes emigrated from Scotland to Canada in 1956, then to Oklahoma City, where he played tenor drums for a couple of years. Later, he served 40 years with the Highlanders Pipe and Drums before joining the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums about 15 years ago.

Southerland, originally from Middlesborough, England, had participated in Kirkin’ of the Tartans services on the other side of the Great Pond and decided to bring the tradition to St. Michael’s. The word “kirk” means “church,” so the Kirkin’ of the Tartans is the “churching” or blessing of the tartans, sometimes accompanied with a roll call of the clans.

Sutherland said he plans to have the band help celebrate St. Andrew’s Day on the Sunday before Thanksgiving each year “to give thanks for heritage and for the church of God.”

For more information about St. Michael’s church, visit www.stmichaelsnorman.org. For more information about the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums, visit www.okscots.com.

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