Choral Matins & Holy Eucharist Rite II
Sunday October 22, 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan Service is celebrated by Scots—and those who would be Scots—and is truly a Scottish-Americ
The Highlander patriotism, faithfulness, and strong independence are remembered by the displaying of tartans. Please feel free to wear or carry your tartans to church to be blessed in a simple act of dedication to acknowledge the importance of the Kirk in shaping Scottish heritage and culture.
A history of this tradition:
Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan
After the defeat of the Scots by the English at the Battle of Culloden 1746, the Act of Proscription banned the wearing of tartans and kilts, speaking Gaelic, and other Highland ways in hopes the rebellious Scottish spirit would be subdued. But the canny and defiant Scots preserved their traditions underground. According to legend, one way was to hide pieces of tartan and bring them to church to be secretly blessed at a particular point in the service. Kirk is the Gaelic word for church.
The American roots of the Kirkin’ service are well documented. The Reverend Peter Marshall, born in Scotland, was the minister of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and served as Chaplain of the United States Senate before his death in 1949. (He was the subject of the 1955 movie A Man Called Peter.)
During the Second World War, Dr. Marshall held prayer services at New York Avenue to raise funds for British war relief. At one of the services, in 1941, he gave a sermon titled The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans, and a legend was born. Dr. Marshall was a member of the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C., which assisted with the first Kirkin’ services. In 1954, the Kirkin’ was moved to the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington, D.C. where it continues to be held today.
Across the United States and Canada many Scottish, Caledonian and St. Andrew’s Societies hold Kirkin’ of the Tartan services. Many are in Presbyterian churches, but they are also found in Episcopal and Roman Catholic churches as well as other denominations.
Celebrations of Scottish roots are especially appropriate for Episcopalians, who owe a debt of gratitude to the Scottish Episcopal Church for its help in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The clergy of Connecticut elected Samuel Seabury as their bishop in 1783, but there were no Anglican bishops in America to consecrate him. He sought consecration in England, but as an American he could not make the required oath of allegiance to the Crown.
Seabury went to Scotland, and Scottish bishops consecrated him in Aberdeen on November 14, 1784. In return, the bishops requested that Seabury study the Scottish Rite for the Eucharist and work for its adoption rather than the English rite of 1662. Seabury honored this request, which in turn has had a great influence on Eucharistic worship in the Episcopal Church.
Today we celebrate our second Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan at St. Mark’s. Our worship consists of Choral Matins and Holy Communion with Members of Tunes of Glory Pipes and Drums playing for us at various points in the service. For those who have never been around bagpipes, we easily will be heard outside, even with the doors closed.