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Church goes back to roots with tartan service
First Presbyterian holds first "Kirkin' O' the Tartan"
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Henry Frantz leads the processional during the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan ceremony at First Presbyterian Church Sunday. - photo by Tom Reed

First Presbyterian Church got in touch with in its Scottish roots Sunday.

The church at 800 S. Enota Drive held its first “Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan,” featuring flag and tartan bearers opening and closing the service.

Also, Henry Frantz played bagpipes and his wife, Fran Frantz, twirled tenor drumsticks as she played drums. The kilt-wearing couple, Decatur residents, are members of Clan Donald.

“We raise these tartans before almighty God in gratitude for our heritage and pray God’s blessing on this servant people in all lands,” the congregation said as part of the Blessing of the Tartans.

The Rev. Peter Marshall, a Scotland native and American minister in the 1930s and ‘40s, began the tradition to recognize the Presbyterian Church’s Scottish heritage, said Michael Henry, First Presbyterian’s music director.

The ceremony of Kirkin’ O’ the Tartan (“kirk” is Scottish for church) is based on Scottish history and legend.

In 1746, following the defeat of the Scots by the English at the Battle of Culloden, Scotland once again fell under British rule, according to the program for the service.

The British banned the Scots from wearing kilts, plaid or any other tartan garment.

The Scots secretly brought a piece of tartan with them to church, where the minister “slipped a blessing (a kirkin’) into the service for the tartans,” the church’s program states.

“The tartan itself is ... the material that’s made into the kilt and represents the families and clans,” Henry said.

“Not everybody in any Presbyterian church has Scottish forebears, but a lot of them do.”

First Presbyterian “put up a display chart several weeks ago where people could identify Scottish families in their (ancestry) and I think we have come close to 100,” Henry said.

All the music in Sunday’s service was influenced by Scottish tunes or written by Scottish composers, he said.

“It’s been fun putting it together. We have had help from some other churches that put this on a regular basis,” Henry said.

Apparently, it was quite a job.

“I feel like a wedding coordinator today,” said the Rev. Paul Evans, associate pastor, at the beginning of Sunday’s service.

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