The Norman Transcript

November 21, 2013

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Norman to host third annual Kirkin’ of the Tartans ceremony Sunday

By Jocelyn Pedersen
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 1601 W. Imhoff Road, invites everyone who enjoys the humming of drones and the melodies of pipes mixed with the flourish of drummers to join them as they march through the parking lot and raise the roof in song and praise at their Kirkin’ of the Tartans service Sunday.

At 11 a.m., the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums will join congregants as they celebrate St. Andrew’s Day and the tradition of blessing the tartans. This is the third annual Kirkin’ of the Tartans service at St. Michael’s. Congregants anticipate the annual event.

Bob Mansfield, local musician and St. Michael’s congregant, said the event takes him back to Scotland.

“I love the whole scene,” Mansfiled said. “I love it. It’s great because it reminds me of when I went to Scotland.”

Mansfield recounted having awakened to the strains of a 16-year-old piper in full regalia. As for the service at St. Michael’s, Mansfield said he looks forward to it every year.

“I find it very powerful,” he said.

“It’s very stirring,” choir member and congregant David Zittel said. “It harkens back to our Scottish roots.”

Judy Lewis, University of Oklahoma history professor and choir member, said, “The Episcopal church in Scotland does things a little differently than the English church, and our (Episcopal) traditions follow the Scots.”

Tim Phillips, a longtime St. Michael’s member and church scholar, said each Anglican prayer book since the 1700s has included Scottish elements.

In Scottish tradition, those who know tartans can tell what clan a tartan-bearer belongs to.

At St. Michael’s inaugural Kirkin’ of the Tartans service in 2011, Fr. Alan Sutherland, rector, had a roll call of the clans where he invited all who were members of a named clan to stand. At the end of the roll call, he called for all of God’s children, regardless of heritage, to stand.

Since then, every year on the Sunday closest to St. Andrews’ Day, St. Michael’s has hosted a Kirkin’ of the Tartans service. The service incorporates pipes, drums and organ music.

Jon Roberts, who was recently named organist and choirmaster, said this will be his first time to play at a Kirkin’ of the Tartans service.

“I think it will be lovely,” Roberts said. “I’ve got lots of Scots in my bloodline. I love the bagpipes. I think it will be fun.”

In his sermon last Sunday, Sutherland, originally from Middlesborough, England, said the people of St. Michael’s are “people of mission to share with others.”

In keeping with that sentiment in inviting the public to the Kirkin’, he mixed the old and new together when he grinned and said, “Y’all come,” in his English accent.

Although there are several accounts of the origin of the Kirkin’ of the Tartans, or the churching or blessing of the tartans, it is known that in the 18th century, the wearing of tartans was banned in Scotland.

It is said that Scottish highlanders would hide pieces of tartan and take them to church to have them blessed during a secret service. Later, during World War II, the Rev. Peter Marshall of the New York Avenue Presbyterian church in Washington, D.C., had a Kirkin’ of the Tartans ceremony.

Some say Marshall was drawing attention to the problems war would bring to the British people, others say it was a fundraising venture, while others claim it was simply a way to promote Scottish-American pride.

For more information, call the church at 321-8951 or visit stmichaelsnorman.org. More information about the Oklahoma Scottish Pipes and Drums can be found at okscots.com.

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