Kirkin’ o the Tartans service Sunday

Published 12:01 am Friday, November 6, 2015

This coming Sunday is an important day for us at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez. It is the Kirking of the Tartans or the Blessing of the families. It commemorates the Scottish roots of the Presbyterian Church.

After the defeat of the Scots by the British at the Battle of Culloden in 1745, the English banned the Scots from wearing their family tartans and playing the bagpipes because these were symbols of geographical and family unity and music that were dear to the Scots.

In defiance and as a show of faith during this bleak time, brave Highlanders would hide small bits of fabric on their person and wear it to church (In Scotland, a church is called a “kirk”). This blessing or “kirking” of the tartans was one way to stay connected to their heritage.

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This concept was revived during World War II by the Rev. Peter Marshall, a native of Scotland, who was then Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. To encourage Scottish Americans to enlist in the war effort on behalf of Great Britain, Marshall created the “Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans ceremony at his home church, New York Avenue, in Washington D.C.

Since that time, Presbyterians (as well as other denominations) around the country have celebrated this annually as a grateful expression of our freedom to worship.

This service included a processional, a recessional as well as the presentation of the tartans for blessing and the “calling of the clans,” in which the names of the Scottish families are read and members of the congregation honor their heritage by standing when their clan name is called.

The public is invited to attend the service, as well as the covered dish luncheon that follows.

We Presbyterians are proud of our heritage and we want to share that pride with everyone. Please join us at 10:30 a.m. Sunday for worship at the First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of South Pearl and State streets.

Come early at 10:10 a.m. and listen to the bag pipes on the green in front of the church.


Kay McNeil, member of First Presbyterian Church.