About six years ago, the Folk Choir received an email from someone across the Atlantic: "We're doing a setting of Psalm 104," said the post, "and I'd like to know more about the group that sang it." Thus began a dialog that led our choir to Edinburgh in 2008 – and that dialog continues next spring, as we will make pilgrimage there once more in May/June of 2012.
The parishioners we've met in Scotland - at St. Kentigern's Catholic Church, to be precise – became extensions of our own family from the outset. They welcomed us into their homes, their churches; even the Lord Provost's (Mayor's) chambers hosted a luncheon for us! So we look forward to our collaboration with great joy this year, as we begin to set our sights on Scotland.
Last weekend, we Skyped with our principal hosts, led on the Scottish side by Dr. Maureen Bruce. We're planning a great set of experiences while the Folk Choir is there, but one of the things most important to all of us is to make sure we leave something tangible behind. By this I mean, not just a concert program or a great musical experience. Rather, a chance to empower the young adults of Scotland to form musical ensembles of their own, to help them find their own voices. To that end, our hosts in Edinburgh have many high goals set before them, ones that we embrace with great enthusiasm.
The Catholic Church of Scotland is as besieged as her neighbor in Ireland at present. Last year, they closed their only seminary. But unlike Ireland, Catholics are a minority in Scotland, so our presence and companionship with them on their faith journey is all the more keenly felt.
We will, as well, be working hard to offer our services to both the Catholic Archdiocese of Edinburgh and, with a little bit of planning, bring the Presbyterian, Anglican and Catholic families together for an ecumenical service in the heart of Edinburgh. We have much work to do!
All of this prefigures a huge gathering that will be taking place in Dublin a few weeks after we leave Scotland's shores – the International Eucharistic Congress, which will be hosted in Ireland's capital city in the middle of June. We'll be taking along plenty of music for Eucharistic celebrations, as this will be on the minds of many while we travel.
Pictures can tell much of how a nation spreads the welcome mat: Here's one of the reception we were given when we pulled up to that wonderful parish in Edinburgh almost four years ago.
May we keep on singing!