First Presbyterian Church celebrates Scottish heritage

Published: Sunday, Oct. 30 2011 4:00 p.m. MDT

The Salt Lake Scots perform at the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The church held a special Kirkin' O' Th' Tartan worship service to celebrate the Scottish heritage of the Presbyterian church.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The First Presbyterian Church was filled with people and the sounds of bagpipe music Sunday in celebration of the faith's Scottish heritage.

The downtown church hosted its annual Kirkin' O' Th' Tartan worship services, a tradition that church officials say is rooted in 18th century Scottish faith and patriotism.

Kirkin' O' Th' Tartan, which loosely translates as "blessings of the families," is an opportunity for Christians to recommit themselves to serving Jesus Christ. Kirk is the Scottish word for church, and a tartan is a plaid-patterned wool fabric that Scottish families — or clans — used to distinguish themselves.

"I'm so glad we do this every year," the Rev. Michael Imperiale said. "It's the Lord's ultimate purpose for all of us to be united by faith in Christ as one family, as one kirk, one clan."

Kirkin' O' Th' Tartan services have been held throughout North America since the early 1940s, church officials said. Its roots, however, are traced back to 1745, when English conquerors banned the wearing of the tartan. So Scottish clansmen began carrying pieces of the material to their church services, concealing them under their clothing. When clergyman would offer a blessing, the clansmen would touch their pieces of tartan.

Representatives of clans identified by the Utah Scottish Association received individual blessings during Sunday's service.

"May we all receive God's rich blessings today as we remember our Scottish forebears," Elder George Wright told the congregation.

Lt. Gov. Greg Bell was among those in attendance for Sunday's services, which featured the music of the Salt Lake Scots bagpipe band and Old Testament passages read in both English and Scottish Gaelic.

"The word is spreading about what a terrific service this is," said Elder Pamela J. Atkinson.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com

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