GARDINER — Scots are invited to bring their tartans to the Christ Church Episcopal on Sunday to be blessed during an ancient Scottish Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan.

The service, which is open to the public, will begin at 10 a.m. when St. Andrew’s Society bagpipers lead kilted men bearing appropriate, colorful flags into the sanctuary.

The Rev. George Lambert said kirkin’s were held in the church on more than one occasion more than a decade ago, so it will be a reunion of sorts for the parish and the society.

“It being a special ceremony and having a community of Scots — I think we have a fair amount of them around — this would bring them out of the woodwork,” Lambert said. “People are invited to come share worship, and share coffee with us and hopefully the Scots will bring some shortbread.”

Kirking, from the Scots Gaelic word for church, kirk, means blessing.

George Pulkkinen of Scarborough, the St. Andrew’s Society’s official piper, said during a kirkin’ ceremony, members of clans are encouraged to respond to the calling of their clan names by shouting their clan motto while proudly displaying their tartans for the blessing.

The ceremony has its roots in revolution. Prince Charles — Bonnie Prince Charlie — led an unsuccesful uprising and was defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746. After the battle, England passed the Act of Proscription, which banned Scots from wearing the tartan, speaking in Gaelic, playing Scottish music, dancing or playing the bagpipes.

“They were disallowed the wearing of tartan so they used to sneak a little piece in church and the minister would bless it in Gaelic if any English were there so they wouldn’t know,” Pullkkinen said. “Then, 40 years later, the Act of Proscription was lifted and then Scots were free again to wear the tartan and play the pipes and this is the celebration of that freedom.”

He said the Rev. Peter Marshall, originally from Scotland, and for a time chaplain of the U.S. Senate, recreated the kirkin’ service in the U.S. during World War II to instill pride among Scottish-Americans and raise money for Great Britain war relief.

At first the ceremonies were held in Presbyterian churches of Scottish heritage, but now they are held in all denominations, he said.

“It’s a social thing now, a fun thing, but it’s always done in a church,” he said.

St. Andrews Society of Maine is an organization of Scots and Americans of Scottish descent dedicated to promoting Scottish culture and takes its name from St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]


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