St Patrick’s Day Service, 17 March 2021

Watch the service here:

Links to hymns:
Hymn 465 Be thou my vision
Hymn 577 Christ be beside me


Ordinarily around this date the Christian Heritage of Dumbarton project (part of Dumbarton Churches Together) would have arranged for P5 children from all Primary Schools in Dumbarton, plus representatives of Kilpatrick School, to come together to play a Yes/No answer game relating to characters (vaguely to very vaguely) linked to St Patrick. It is partly to help them to learn a bit about his links with this area, but mainly to bring together children in the two streams of education as part of an anti-sectarian initiative.

It usually happens on or near 17 March, traditionally marked as the Feast of St Patrick. He is  patron saint of Ireland, but today we are going to focus on his links (or reputed links) with Dumbarton and Dunbartonshire, and think about this town and area.

Hymn 465 Be thou my vision

Who was Patrick? 

It is believed that Patrick lived in the Fifth Century. There are few definite historical sources about him, though there is a vast collection of later legend about him. The two main textual sources are his Confessio and his Letter to Coroticus. He is associated particularly with the church at Armagh in the North East of Ireland.

According to the former text he was British by background, speaking a language related to Welsh, in the last years of Roman Britain, or in the years after the Romans had left. His father was a town official, a deacon in the church, and may have been of aristocratic rank (which would tie in with the Latin version of Patrick’s name) and he was born and brought up on the West Coast somewhere. As a youth he was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery, looking after livestock. He escaped, came back to his home, but felt a calling to become a priest. He trained in Gaul (France) and then went back to Ireland as a missionary, starting to organise the church community there.

The Letter was written to a Christian king in Britain, condemning him for conducting a raid in Ireland, during which Irish converts were taken prisoner to be sold as slaves.

Some tales about Patrick may have become confused with those about Palladius, a missionary sent a few years earlier by the Pope Celestine to be bishop for the Irish Christians – and some tales about Patrick may have been amplified to enhance his role in the conversion of Ireland, and the organisation of the church there.

Many places from Cornwall to the Clyde claim to have been the birth-place of Patrick, and there is no way of knowing where he actually came from. It is however clear that Dunbartonshire’s claim goes back a long way. The parish to the East of Dumbarton (from Milton to Milngavie) was known as Kilpatrick in the Middle Ages; the chapel in the mediaeval castle and the parish church in Dumbarton were both dedicated to Patrick; Old Kilpatrick was the Western-most fort on the Antonine Wall – though it had not been used by the Romans for a long time; and Dumbarton was the centre of the powerful, pro-Roman kingdom of Alt Clut. So it is possible that he came from here – and even if he didn’t, for a very long time the area has claimed him as its own.

St Patrick’s breastplate

1 I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity;
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

2 I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
his baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

3 I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the star-lit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
the flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
the stable earth, the deep salt sea
around the old eternal rocks.

4 I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need,
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

6 I bind unto myself the name,
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three,
of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

Bible reading           Matthew 13: 33

Jesus told them another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with forty litres of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”

Thinking about our community

Wherever we live, whether it’s Dumbarton, a town or village nearby, or somewhere else entirely, the chances are that we live in a community. That community will have changed over the years for a whole lot of reasons, including greater car ownership, the way we shop, the type of work available and different patterns of working, the type of homes we have and how we spend our leisure time.

Over the past year many communities have experienced many other changes: people furloughed, working from home or out of work; shops, pubs and restaurants closed, some never to re-open; children not at school, then home schooled; people struggling financially, with many more than before turning to foodbanks for help; older people shielding; families not able to visit loved ones in care homes; restrictions on the numbers attending weddings and funerals etc.

Against that we have seen an upsurge (though not universally) in talking to neighbours, looking out for neighbours, and helping out neighbours. Even talking to strangers in the street.

Here in Dumbarton, as in many communities, there is widespread development going on – the Burgh Hall has been refurbished as the Council Offices, new housing is being built on the old Hiram Walker and Blackburn sites, and there are many other new housing plans. A new walkway along the Leven is starting to emerge, and there are various other regeneration plans in the offing.

Despite all of this there are still many issues to be addressed in our town: poverty and all that goes with it (including mental and physical health, education, addiction issues, being able to manage finances and run a home, employment, adequate social housing),creating secure, well-paid jobs and career opportunities in the area; moving to a carbon-neutral future. The same will probably be true for many communities, and not just in the West of Scotland.

Most initiatives for regeneration, levelling up, resetting communities rely on the financial and legal resources of central, Scottish or local government. There is however still a role for individuals and church communities to bring about change and develop a sense of wholeness and health in our communities. Small local projects can make big differences. As Jesus said, we can be like the yeast that goes into the dough, and makes the whole loaf rise.

Prayer for others and Lord’s Prayer


We give thanks for being part of a community,

 for friends, family, neighbours and colleagues

 and pray that people may feel committed to working

  for the best for their communities,

  offering time and energy to help others

We pray for those who are facing problems

 of loneliness, illness, poverty,

 unemployment/underemployment, abuse

We pray for all who work in health and social care

 with all the extra stress they have been under this year

We pray for all who are involved in local and national government

We give thanks for the beauty around us,

 and pray that we may appreciate and care for it

We pray for the churches in Scotland,

 that they may be faithful witnesses to Christ’s love and Good News,

 and that more and more people will respond to Christ’s call

In Jesus’ name we pray

 and sum up our prayers in the prayer he gave us

Our Father, who art in heaven,

 hallowed be thy name;

 thy kingdom come;

 thy will be done;

 on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,

 as we forgive our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation;

 but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

 the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

Hymn 577 Christ be beside me


May the Father shield you in the valleys

may Christ aid you on the mountains

may the Holy Spirit bathe you on the slopes

and may God Almighty take you in the clasp of his own two hands. Amen

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