LIMA — Market Street Presbyterian Church will be holding its fourth Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan service Sunday, starting at 10:30 a.m.
The first Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan service was held by the Rev. Peter Marshall on April 27, 1941, in an effort to raise funds for British war relief at his church New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. After the United States entered World War II, Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan worship services became popular and since that time have spread throughout the United States and Canada.
The word kirk is a Scottish term for church and kirking means blessing. Tartans were the specific plaids of the Scottish clans or families. The idea of kirking a tartan has its roots in Scottish history. In the 1700s, the English monarchy and parliament banned the wearing of tartans and kilts in Scotland. Legend has it that the Scottish people would secretly wear a small piece of their tartans to their kirk or church where the pastor would slip in a blessing for the clan.
“The idea is not blessing the skirt,” said Natalie Heil, long-time member of Market Street Presbyterian Church and co-chair of the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan committee. “It is a symbol to represent a sense of belonging for families. The clans were just family groups that lived in a certain district. Each one had its own tartan or plaid.”
Market Street Presbyterian Church first held this special service in 1995 after Heil visited her son’s church in Dayton. “My son is a minister,” said Heil, “I went down to listen to him and they had it there. It was so exciting, I decided I wanted to bring it up here.”
The services were also held in October of 2008 and 2010. “It is not an annual event for us,” said Ruth Hardesty, chairman of worship and music and on the board of elders at Market Street Presbyterian Church. “We have to bring in a band, and the band has 10 or 11 people in it with bagpipes and drums. They all wear Scottish garb. They are called the Cincinnati Scots Band.”
Market Street Presbyterian Church will be incorporating the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan into their regular worship service. “We will have 14 clan flags here,” said Hardesty, “The band brings the flags up with them.”
Heil said that despite its Scottish origins, the service is not exclusive to Scottish people. “It has more to do with the origins of the Presbyterian church,’ she said, “not so much the congregants.”
The service will start with a procession that includes the U.S. flag, the Presbyterian flag, and the Scottish flag. After everyone is seated, the band will come down along with the clan flags. The flags will be placed in stands that were built by now deceased congregant Jack Bilen. “He did all kinds of things,” said Hardesty. “He built the platform around the pulpit with the containers to hold the flags. They are at an angle so there is enough room for them to be unfurled.”
At the end of the worship service, there will be a roll call of the clans. Heil explained that despite the focus on the Scottish clans, the service is meant to be inclusive. “At the close of the service, they will do the clan roll call,” she said. “There will be 60 different clan names called. When a person hears their clan, they will stand up and keep standing until all the Scottish people are all standing. The last name called is the Clan Dia which means God’s family.”
She went on to explain, “At that point, everyone else rises. We will celebrate a blessing that signifies universal membership of everyone as children in God’s family. It doesn’t matter if you are Presbyterian or Scottish. It’s for everyone.”
After the roll call, the band will give a 20 minute concert which will be followed by refreshments. “Our committee focused on doing authentic Scottish treats,” said Hardesty.
The Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan committee, which was made up of 15 people and helped by the hospitality committee, began planning the event three months ago. “We have to start three month before to reserve the date for the band,” said Heil. “This is very popular in Dayton and Cincinnati, where churches do it every year.”
Heil and Hardesty are expecting a good attendance this year. “We’ve had a full house in the past,” said Heil.
Hardesty added, “We’d like it to be a community event. There are very few times you get to hear bagpipes. This is a very unique thing.”
Heil said that planning the event this year and in the past has been very enjoyable. “It’s really easy and fun,” she said. “I don’t think of it as work. The service is so colorful. It’s exciting, yet reverent.”
The Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan
When: 10:30 a.m. Sunday
Where: Market Street Presbyterian Church, 1100 W. Market St.
For details call 419-229-9040