The city of Glasgow was once announced as Europe’s murder capital, but also voted the UK’s friendliest city in the same week. Glasgow comic Kevin Bridges joked following the announcement: “We got our act together pronto!”
That one-liner does a good job of summing up Glasgow because it is a city of many faces. While being the notorious no-mean city of Bible John, the razor gangs and DCI Jim Taggart, Glasgow is also the cultural hub of Charles Rennie MacIntosh, and the 19th century painters known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’.
Dubbed the ‘Second City of the Empire’, capitalist heavy industry dominated Glasgow and produced steam ships and steam engines for the world. But in that very same environment, radical left-wing politics flourished in the Red Clydeside era with many leading figures from the Labour Party’s history, including one of their founders, coming from Glasgow and the central belt area of Scotland.
Religion has also played a huge part in moulding the city, not least of all the city’s founder being a ‘bona-fide’ Saint (the aforementioned Mungo). Geographically, the city is split in two by the River Clyde but when it comes to religion it is also divided by a religious identity that manifests itself in football colours. The foundation of Celtic Football Club who play in green and white hoops, had a distinct Irish Roman Catholic origin story, which subsequently meant that Rangers Football Club (their fiercest rivals) adopted a Protestant, Unionist identity. Another comic, this time the great Billy Connolly, remarked in response to the Glasgow Airport Islamic-terror attack in 2007: “We’re not sure about any religious fanatics that don’t follow a football team!”
While the city’s religious affiliations may only be jersey deep, the city does have a rich gospel heritage which has largely been forgotten about. As we look back at Glasgow’s Christian history and the problems which continue to blight it, our prayer would be that our past would point us to the only place where Glasgow can find hope today - in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2013, the city of Glasgow re-branded itself in an attempt to attract more tourists, businesses and to show the watching world at the 2014 Commonwealth Games (held in Glasgow itself) that it was a safe, welcoming place with great citizens. So, the slogan ‘People Make Glasgow’ was born.
With the birth of that new slogan it meant the benching of the original Glasgow city motto, to “Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of His Word and Praising of His Name!”. However, why don’t we humour this ‘People makes…’ train of thought for a second. Let’s look at some of the Christians who have made Glasgow what it is.
Our excursion through Glasgow’s Christian history takes us back to the very beginnings of the city. The city started as a small religious settlement on the banks of Molendinar burn established by a monk named Saint Kentigern, nicknamed Mungo. Mungo arrived in Glasgow in 540AD and was ordained the Bishop of Strathclyde. The city’s coat of arms embodies the life of Mungo, depicting the miracles attributed to him. Ironically the way we remember the miracles attributed to Saint Mungo is by a poem written by Protestants denying the miracles ever happened, it reads,
‘Here is the bird that never flew
Here is the tree that never grew
Here is the bell that never rang
Here is the fish that never swam’
Glasgow’s full original motto ‘Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of the Word and praising of His Name’ came from a quote attributed to Glasgow’s patron Saint. In 1631 the quote was cast onto the bell at the Tron Church in the city centre, reading, “Lord, let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of Thy Word and praising of Thy Name.” Tradition has it that St. Mungo is buried beneath Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow’s oldest building, which stands on the site of a church that Mungo built many centuries ago. You can visit his tomb in the crypt of the Cathedral, and you can also see a replica of the bell, the one referred to in the poem said to have been given to Mungo by the Pope, at the People’s Palace in Glasgow Green. And so, from Saint Mungo on, many Godly men and women have influenced the great city of Glasgow.
 As Quoted in The City Crest, Glasgow City Council (https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/)
This blog is part 1 of a series on Glasgow and its great need for gospel churches. You can read Part 2 here and Part 3 here.
It comes as part of our Christmas Challenge, a fundraising appeal to try and raise £/$100,000 to plant three new churches in schemes across the west of Scotland that desperately need to hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.