by Michael N. Jagessar
At Glasgow airport and around the city one cannot miss the bold claim, “People make Glasgow. Let us celebrate”. It felt like a message Churches should boldly declare, if we are daring enough! I was glad for this bold welcome as I awaited my ride for the manse of the Revd William Young. On this occasion I nearly missed my flight because I had etched in my mind the wrong airport (Luton when it was Gatwick), and a train moving at the pace of a snail created more anxiety. I arrived at the airport when the gate was supposed to be closed and the security staff and the many patient travellers were kind to allow me VIP access. “People make travelling a joy” and it was certainly the case as I raced down to the departure gate to find that the Divine had further intervened to delay EasyJet. The waiting passengers may have had a different view!
It was Drumchapel Essenside URC’s 60th anniversary homecoming service with a packed-out church – members and adherents travelling in from all directions. Spirit-filled and committed people make Drumchapel! This is the story I heard, saw and experienced as I joined the congregation in celebrating 60 years of ministry at Essenside.
The sun was out in full force, a rarity associated with my arrival. It was a glorious day for the overflowing congregation to respond to Revd William Young’s Easter Sunday greetings, “the Lord is risen!” with a roaring response of “Risen indeed! Alleluia!” The lively singing of Easter hymns (traditional, contemporary and very new) accompanied with music from a 87 years old expert musician (the church organist) and groovy soul music by Tina Freeland and the “Groove” band created an atmosphere of “jazzed-up resurrection”! The music and words of “we’ll go out with joy”, as pianist, guitarists and drummers spoke to each other across generations evoked a “rising experience” as we shared bread and wine.
Essenside was founded as a Congregational Church in 1954, to minister to the residents of the then new housing estate of Drumchapel. Members elected to change its name to Drumchapel Essenside URC when the Congregational Union of Scotland united with The United Reformed Church. While a number of ministers have served in this congregation, most people speak of the significant work of the Revd Isabel Sheddon – her dedication, walking the roads and knocking on doors, inviting people to church – a minister with a genuine heart for the community. And all of the nine ministers who followed demonstrated this ‘heart’ for the community. Two were present at the celebrations. And among others, I met the daughter of one of the oldest woman in Scotland (107 years old) who sent her greetings as she was unable to be there. And, as the minister prayed…..
On this occasion, while I stuck to the gist of my Easter message, I was led to move off the script and respond to the energising signs of “resurrection” all around the gathering. For Drumchapel, three words “Christ is risen” sums up their ministry. For them nothing makes sense without these words. I took the opportunity to remind the gathering that the power of the resurrection is not in what happens after death, but what the knowledge of the resurrection does for our lives before death; that God is creating a new heaven and a new earth, with love working overtime, and that biodegradability is not the final word. For Christ is risen and that God is on the loose!
As we gathered around the table in church and in the hall to eat, drink, remember, share in conversations, plant poppy seeds my heart, to quote Wesley, “felt strangely warm” (and it was not the glorious sun outside). People – faithful, committed and loving people – make Drumchapel! What a blessing! Let us celebrate!
May the God of ‘always springing hope’ and new life help us, like Drumchapel – a church at the heart of community, to be the hopeful, generous and trusting people we are called to be, for Christ’s sake.