The Foundation for Historic Christ Church will host the annual Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans service at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, inside Christ Church at 420 Christ Church Road in Weems.
A long-standing tradition at Historic Christ Church, the Kirkin’ is one of its most well-attended public events, attracting members from Tidewater and Richmond Celtic and Scottish organizations as well as the community.
The origins of the Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans are believed to date from 1746, following the battle of Culloden, when the English attempted to break the Scottish clan system by banning the wearing of the tartan or the playing of the bagpipes, said Historic Christ Church & Museum office manager Trish Geeson.
Tartans are the traditional plaid emblems of clans and families. As a form of resistance, Scots would hide bits of tartan on their person when attending the kirk (church). The hidden tartan and the clan it represented were thus blessed with the families, said Geeson.
The service became a Scottish American tradition in 1941 when the Rev. Peter Marshall introduced it at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The organizers for Sunday urge all who are wearing or carrying their own bit o’tartan to come forward for a special blessing of their tartan and family during the service.
The Rev. John T. Thomas, interim rector of Grace Episcopal Church, will officiate. The Rev. Scott D. Parnell, chaplain at Christchurch School, will deliver the sermon. The Kilmarnock & District Pipe Band and the Color Guard of the Saint Andrew’s Society of Williamsburg, co-sponsors, will also participate, said Geeson.
The Kirkin’ is a popular annual event, due in part to the fact that Lancaster County and other nearby areas of Virginia are rich in Scottish heritage. Several early ministers of Christ Church probably were educated in Scotland. The Rev. Andrew Jackson, an Ulster Scot, led Christ Church Parish from 1686-1710. In 1743, Christ Church hired David Currie, a clergyman originally from Edinburgh, who served the parish for almost 50 years. Geeson also notes that the Northern Neck’s tobacco economy attracted Scottish merchants to Lancaster County and to its largest town, Kilmarnock.
The event is free and open to the public.