It is almost 100 years since the Titanic sank with the loss of more than 1500 people. Glasgow has its own direct link to the Titanic through a church off Paisley Road West.
Called the Harper Memorial Baptist church, it is named after a Scottish preacher called John Harper who was aboard the Titanic when it was holed by an iceberg on 14 April 1912.
And next month when many Titanic events are scheduled to remember the tragedy, the congregation will hold a Titanic Weekend.
Starting on Friday 13 to Sunday 15 April they aim to let a wider audience know that the faith of the man whose name was given to the building, is still valid for people today.
Said church Deacon Gordon Webster: ‘We wanted to make use of the fact that most people know about the Titanic to tell the story of John Harper and win people for the Lord.’
A widower, John Harper was travelling with his niece and his six-year-old daughter to be a guest speaker at the Moody church of Chicago for a second season. One of the survivors of the disaster told how John Harper asked him as the ship was sinking: ‘Has your soul been saved?’ When the man said ‘no’ John took off his own life vest and gave it to him.
Born in Houston, John Harper became a preacher at an early age. When he was appointed to a congregation in Glasgow it had 25 members. When he left it for a post in London in the early 1900s, the church had its own purpose built ‘tin kirk’ in the Plantation district of the city which could seat 1000. It was named after John Harper when a new building was opened in 1921 by his daughter, Nan Harper who survived the disaster.
John’s wife had died a week after their daughter had been born. She was buried in Craigton cemetery. The details of John’s heroic death were added to her grave stone soon after the Titanic disaster. For the church’s Titanic Weekend a memorial and rededication service will be held at the cemetery in Cardonald at 2.30pm on Saturday 14 April. Bailie Iris Gibson and Councillor Alistair Watson are expected to attend.
That evening – 100 years to the day, after the disaster – Dr Erwin W. Lutzer of the Chicago Moody Church, will preach in the Harper Memorial Baptist church in Glasgow at 7.30pm. His church in Chicago was the one that John Harper was travelling to. John had been invited back to preach because of the success of his first visit. Some of the meeting rooms in the Chicago church are dedicated to him. A play about John Harper will be performed in Glasgow on Saturday 14 April, and there will be music by Father’s Song.
Dr Lutzer will also speak at the Sunday 15 April morning service when communion will be celebrated and again in the evening when music will be provided by the Govan Salvation Army Band.
There will be a holiday club for primary school children on Friday 13 April. The local Lorne Park Primary School has already studied the Titanic story and some of their work will be on display in the church during the weekend. On the Friday evening a Christian rock band ‘Superhero’ will perform for the teens, twenties and music minded people. This is the only Scottish date for the band which is on tour in Europe currently and will be touring the United States following the Titanic weekend events.
‘This is a big step for us to have a rock group – they’ll be the first we’ve had. But we think we’re well prepared,’ said Deacon Webster. He added: ‘The whole process of planning this weekend has been amazing. It is a wonderful experience for the team of 13 volunteers from the church who have organised it. We’ve been taken aback at the world wide interest with people emailing from abroad asking to book seats.’ The church can seat 600 people and has a hall for an additional 100 where a video link will enable them to share in the proceedings. Leaflets have been distributed throughout the local community and visitors to the city that weekend will also be invited specially. For further details see the website: www.harpermemorial.net For tickets for the rock concert email: email@example.com or call GLO Bookshop, Motherwell: 01698 275343
image copyright : ©Graeme Hewitson Eikon Bible Art.