Church will celebrate Scottish heritage

NEW CUMBERLAND – The members of First Presbyterian Church in New Cumberland will be showing their true colors on Sunday.

The colors crisscross and border each other in plaid patterns that signify the family heritage of some of the founding members of the Station Hill church, chartered in 1851.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the church’s annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans ceremony in which the various family banners, known as tartans, are blessed. The Rev. Franklin E. Lewis will officiate at the Kirkin’ service at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The Kirkin’ service, which takes its name from the Scottish word for church, celebrates the church’s Scottish heritage, said member and organizer Cindy Webster.

“The Scotch-Irish people are really strong in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. A lot of them came from the lowlands of Scotland, and they started the church,” she said.

Following a 10 a.m. concert on the green, members will line up with the Christian flag, the American flag and their respective tartans and form a procession into the church. There, during a service that includes holy Communion, there will be a roll call and blessing of the clans, accompanied by bagpipes and drums.

“Tartans are the identifying plaids that the family carried – in battle and in fun. Each tartan is different, and each is representative of the family name,” said Webster, whose maiden name is Patterson and who uses the Clan Farquharson plaid.

For those who are not of Scottish descent, there is a blessing for Clan Dia, or the “clan of God,” she said.

Although the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans ceremony is believed to be centuries old, it was introduced to the 20th century American context by the Rev. Peter Marshall, a native of Coatbridge, Scotland, and pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

Webster said the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans service harks back to a time when people “lived their religion” and celebrated the family religious heritage.

“We just want to keep our heritage alive,” she said. “There’s not enough people doing that these days.”

The public is invited to the Concert on the Green, which will feature music and stories by piper Chuck Handrehand and drummer Bob Mackey, and the service.

Scottish beef pasties, scones and other refreshments will be served following the services.