Glasgow University’s Amnesty International group is one of the winners of the organisation’s prestigious Human Rights Champion 2012 award. Presented by Amnesty’s Dan Jones on Sunday 15 April 2012 in Manchester the University team was recognised for their Secret Policeman’s Ball in the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) in February. ‘We raised more than £2000 for Amnesty – £300 more than last year – and the venue – which can hold 500 – was sold out,’ said Elena Soper who is the group’s Vice President. ‘The awards ceremony closes the annual conference and rewards top groups and individuals. Our group won the award for services to justice and dignity beyond the limits of human endurance. We’re all very proud.’
The group has 11 committee members and between 20 and 50 student supporters at any one time. This was the fourth Secret Policeman’s Ball and is organised as a good night out with stand up comedy. Since the committee had spent months organising the affair, they agreed to dress smart – see the photograph here!
Amnesty International fights for people around the world who are unfairly and often inhumanely treated or even killed because they have spoken out against harsh regimes. Their motto is ‘better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.’
Pastor John Harper drowned with 1500 others when the RMS Titanic sank in the early hours of 15 April 1912. He had founded the Baptist Church in the Plantation district of Glasgow where he ministered for 13 years. During that time, his wife Annie died and was buried in Craigton Cemetery where a monument was erected to her. John left Glasgow to lead a church in London. A renowned preacher, he was on his way with his six year old daughter Nana to the Moody Church in Chicago for a second visit as a guest speaker when the tragedy happened. The state-of-the-art ship was holed by an iceberg and sank within hours. Pastor John gave his life jacket to another man who was one of the few rescued from the icy waters. His name and his sacrifice were recorded on his wife’s headstone.
When the Plantation church was rebuilt many years later, it was named the Harper Memorial Baptist Church and was opened by Nana Harper. Quietly attending the memorial service in Craigton and laying their own flowers at the monument which tells the tragic story, were John Harper’s grand-daughter, Dr Mary Gurling, her sons Stephen and Paul and her nephew, Andrew Pont. Said Stephen: ‘We are standing on the shoulders of giants through this inspiring legacy.’
The memorial and re-dedication service was organised by the Harper Memorial Baptist Church as one of several events during their Titanic commemorative weekend, 100 years after the terrible disaster.
The service was conducted by preacher Craig Dyer who introduced Dr Erwin W. Lutzer who has been pastor for 32 years at the Moody Church in Chicago where John Harper was going. In his epilogue Dr Lutzer said: “When I became a Pastor there, you walked down the hall to the John Harper meeting room.” In his passionate witness he explained that there was compelling evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the death. “Jesus was the forerunner. But you can’t get into Heaven with your physical body. The spirit can be released through faith, alone, in Jesus Christ. John Harper believed that and was able to say as the ship sank – ‘I’m not going down; I’m going up (to Heaven)’ ”
Among the guests of honour were Bailie Iris Gibson who brought greetings from the Lord Provost and said the City had been pleased to refurbish the lettering on the memorial stone in Craigton. ‘Pastor John Harper’s story deserves to be better known,’ she said. Also speaking was Councillor Alistair Watson who told how he’d grown up in the district, played in the cemetery and knew John Harper’s story. ‘It is humbling to know of his remarkable self-sacrifice,’ said Councillor Watson. ‘He will feature in a booklet detailing the heritage trail through Craigton Cemetery. That is due to be printed soon and will tell the story to an even bigger audience.’ Also present were Councillor Stephen Dornan and Rebecca Lutzer, Dr Lutzer’s wife. MSP John Mason, who is an active member of the Baptist Church in Easterhouse, attended as a practising Christian and supportive church member and preferred to stand in the crowd.
Hymns and prayers were offered in thanks and tribute to John Harper and his sacrifice.
In the crowd were two particularly dedicated students of the Titanic. Andrew Learmonth, dressed in respectful white shirt and black tie, said he has been ‘obsessed’ by the disaster and all the attendant details since childhood. ‘My flat in Glasgow is like a Titanic Museum,’ he admitted. He is a member of the Titanic Historic Society, the British Titanic Society and the Ulster Historic Society – the ship was built in Belfast where a new museum has been opened to promote the fact. He recently visited Southampton to see the vessel which left to make the commemorative voyage of the fated Titanic.
Giving out sheets telling the story of John Harper and showing a dramatic image drawn at the time, was Brian Brodie, a fire officer at Govan fire station. He pointed out that the Titanic was correctly referred to as RMS Titanic. ‘That stands for Royal Mail Ship, Titanic,’ explained the former marine engineer. ‘It shouldn’t be SS – sailing ship – Titanic as engraved on the memorial stone.’ Enthusiastically, he walks visitors through Craigton Cemetery to tell them John Harper’s story, show them the monument and visit other interesting grave stones with their own fascinating stories.
The Harper Memorial Church’s programme continues through Sunday 15 April 2012 with a morning service conducted by Jim Wylie, soloist Gillian Strang and guest speaker Dr Lutzer of Moody Church, Chicago. In the evening, Walter Whitelaw offers the welcome for the celebration with Dr Lutzer preaching and the Govan Salvation Army Band playing.
On Friday 13 April, the Glasgow congregation held a holiday club for schoolchildren and a rock concert in the evening for young people. Both events were well attended and have strengthened the Church’s outreach, especially in the local communities around Kinning Park and Plantation off Paisley Road West.
Glasgow’s annual Orchid Fair takes place on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 April, 2012 in the Kibble Palace at Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. In its 15th year, it is eagerly-awaited by followers.
Entry is free and open from 10am until 6pm on Saturday and 10am until 5pm on Sunday.
Specialist orchid nurseries from all over the UK will tempt visitors with their exquisite flowers and plants and offer advice on how to keep them. In addition, there will be displays by the Scottish Orchid Society, the British Cactus and Succulent Society and the Glasgow and District Beekeepers Association.
The main range of glasshouses will be open, as usual, for visitors to enjoy the extensive tropical plant displays including the orchid collection. At the same time, there will be a book fair in the nearby Hopkirk Building.
Brian Devlin, executive director for Land and Environmental Services, said: ‘The Orchid Fair is certainly one of our most popular horticultural events of the year, bringing thousands of people to the Botanic Gardens. It is a great opportunity to view a wide range of exotic plants not so easily found anywhere else in Scotland. Whether you want to buy, ask advice or simply just look and learn, the event guarantees an enjoyable day out.’
Before the gallows was packed away, the performance of The Martyrdom of Saint John Ogilvie was being considered for revival in 2015. That will be 400 years after the man was hanged at Glasgow Cross.
The story of the Scottish Catholic priest who was tortured, tried and convicted for treason in the climate of major change in the run up to the Reformation was told and re-told 11 times during Lentfest in churches in and beyond Glasgow.
At the final night in St Aloysius’ Church, Garnethill, the dramatic events unfolded before an audience of around 200. Principal actor, script writer, director and van driver Stephen Callaghan, showed clearly how this man died to defend religious freedom for everyone. The cast presented a moving story that made sense of history.
Stephen – who is also Director of Lentfest, an arts and music festival promoted by the Archdiocese of Glasgow – said: ‘This has been so worthwhile. We have a wonderful cast and crew from all over Glasgow and beyond and of different backgrounds and faiths. Each has brought something unique to the play. I hope the play will inspire people to find out more about St John Ogilvie.’
As the final bows were taken, one of the youngest cast members stepped forward spontaneously and thanked Stephen for how she had been welcomed into AGAP Community Theatre. ‘I knew no-one when I arrived,’ said the 16-year-old. ‘Now I have many friends.’
Many of the audience knew little of the martyr Saint John Ogilvie before they arrived, but they left with a new perspective on the freedom to follow any faith today in Scotland and how this has been won by martyrs like St John Ogilvie.
The performance was one of the last major music and drama events held for Lentfest. But during Holy Week there will be ‘Women at the Cross’ in St Alphonsus’ Church on Monday 2 April at 7.30pm.
At University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel there will be the free art exhibition depicting many different artists’ interpretation of events around Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The exhibition is open 9am till 5pm. Among some of the University’s own artefacts will be Roman nails of the type used in the time of Christ for crucifixion.
On Sunday 15 April at 3pm there will be Ecumenical Stations: Via Lucis: Stations of the Resurrection with prayers and meditations led by the University of Glasgow Chaplaincy Team, Rev Stuart MacQuarrie, Fr John Keenan and Strathclyde University Catholic Chaplain, Fr Brendan Slevin OP, held in Glasgow University’s Memorial Chapel.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or call GLO Bookshop, Motherwell: 01698 275343
image copyright : ©Graeme Hewitson Eikon Bible Art.