10:30 AM Worship Service

Kirking Of The Tartans

Sunday October 8th 2023

We will have a bagpiper providing musical accompaniment at the October 8th worship service. During the service, we will offer a prayer of blessing for the Scottish clans represented in the congregation. 

If you have a clan tartan or tartan-related item, you are welcome to place the item on the communion table before the 10:30 AM worship service on October 8th.

At the conclusion of the service,  Scottish-themed refreshments will be served during the Coffee Fellowship in the Church House next door to the sanctuary. 

What is a Kirking of the Tartans service?

John Calvin’s Geneva in today’s Switzerland was the center of gravity for the Reformed tradition during the Protestant Reformation. Many exiled ministers and other Protestants fleeing persecution by Catholic authorities made their way to Geneva. One such refugee minister was the Scotsman John Knox. Knox would return to his native land to advance the cause of reformation in the Church of Scotland. The Presbyterian stream of the broader Reformed tradition finds its origins in Knox’s 16th-century Scottish Reformation. 

Later, different political and religious issues resulted in the defeat of the Scots by the English at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 after which parliament passed an Act of Proscription that disarmed the Scots, and banned Gaelic, along with wearing ‘highland clothing’ like tartans and kilts. The Scots were not so easily cowed, and in various ways practiced their cultural traditions and preserved their ethnic identity. One tradition suggests the stubborn Scots would secretly bring hidden pieces of clan tartans to church to be blessed. 

To honor Scottish heritage and history, plans are being made to hold a Kirking of the Tartans service this October 8 at First Presbyterian of Glendale.

The etymology of the word kirk means church in Gaelic. In the context of a worship service, kirking means blessing. A tartan is a colored plaid pattern of irregularly spaced lines and rectangles used to represent Scottish clans. 

The centerpiece of a Kirking of the Tartans is a prayer of blessing for the clans represented by their respective tartans in a worship service. 

The origins of the modern kirking service are to be found in 20th Century America. 

Peter Marshall, originally from Scotland, after graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary, and serving two small pastorates in Georgia, was minister at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and then chaplain to the US Senate in 1947. The Rev. Marshall died in 1949. The 1955 movie A Man Called Peter was based on his life story. 

Against the backdrop of World War II, the Rev. Marshall created a Kirking of the Tartans service. He delivered a sermon at New York Avenue church in 1941 titled, ‘the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans.’ Peter Marshall’s 1941 sermon began the practice that is known to this day. 

Although initially held in Presbyterian churches with their Scottish roots, kirking services can be found today in congregations from other traditions, including Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Episcopalian. The Rev. Marshall’s service moved from the New York Avenue congregation to the National Cathedral (Episcopalian) in Washington, D.C. in 1954, which has held an annual kirking service ever since.

Regardless of how tartans might be displayed during a kirking service, a prayer of blessing is said for the clans represented by the tartans and for all the families of the church. 

If you have Scottish ancestry and would like to determine which tartan represents your clan, you can go to, which will describe your clan’s name, history, tartan, and coat of arms.

To learn more about the clans visit:

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