By Sally Neel
Special to The PREVIEW
This Sunday, Dec. 3, at the 10 a.m. service, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with the Feast of St. Andrew and the kirking of the tartans.
“Kirking” is a Scottish word for “churching” or “blessing.” In Scotland, the kirking of the tartans signifies a special blessing on the family clan and their heritage.
St. Patrick’s invites all with Scottish ties to bring their family tartans to church on Sunday to be blessed at the altar. The service will include music by resident piper Jim Dorian, who will lead the procession into the church.
The Episcopal Church in the United States owes a special debt to Scotland and holds the Scottish Episcopal Church in very high regard. At the time of the American Revolution, the Anglican Church was in danger of disintegrating altogether. Many of those who worshipped as Anglicans were Tories, loyal to the British throne. Many Anglican priests, torn between their loyalty to the British throne, sworn to before God at their ordination, and their new country’s independence from England, chose to renounce their priesthood altogether or flee back to England or Canada rather than to break their vows.
There were notable exceptions, religious patriots who preached support of the war against the tyrannies of England. Among them was John Witherspoon, who represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Gen. George Washington was a devout Christian and member of the Church of England who led the Revolutionary troops against England and became our first president. Many other signers of the Declaration of Independence were members of the Anglican Church.
Once the war was won, there became a significant dilemma. Due to the separation from English rule and the loss of many of their priests, the Anglican Church in America was in desperate need of new American priests in order to survive. England refused to consecrate a bishop to serve the American church unless he swore loyalty to the throne, unacceptable to the Episcopal Church in America.
Without an American bishop, someone loyal to the independence of the USA, new priests could not easily be ordained and England would still have a religious hold on the states. Those called to the priesthood would be forced to return to England to study and be ordained, a process that took years to accomplish. The church was suffering from the lack of leadership and their commitment to loosen ties with England. They needed a solution.
The Church of Scotland came to the rescue. In 1784, it agreed to ordain Samuel Seabury the first American Episcopal bishop. With a newly ordained bishop and the consequent ordination of new priests in the United States, the Episcopal Church of the United States of America was formed and the church was revived from near extinction.
St. Patrick’s and other Episcopal churches in the United States celebrate the patron saint of Scotland, St. Andrew, in honor and appreciation to the Church of Scotland for keeping the Episcopal Church of the United States of America alive.
Guests are welcome to come and participate in this historical celebration at St. Patrick’s this Sunday morning at 10 a.m. St. Patrick’s is located at 225 S. Pagosa Blvd. And, don’t forget to bring your tartans or wear a kilt.
By Sally Neel