The First Church in Belfast, UCC, will host its 11th annual Kirkin' o' the Tartans service of worship Sunday, July 19, at 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to come and take part in this service of worship. The First Church is located at 104 Church St. with ADA accessible entrances on Court and Spring streets. For more information, call the church office at 338-2282.

Literally, “The Kirkin’ o’ the Tartans” means “The blessing of the Tartans.”

In 1746, in the wake of the Battle of Culloden, the last of the Scottish rebellions and in an effort to suppress the Scottish clans, the British Parliament passed the Acts of Proscription banning tartan. For the next 36 years, anyone found wearing clan tartan was subject to arrest, imprisonment or banishment to the colonies.

At the same time, countless Scots were forced into the British army to fight in several wars on the European mainland and in the Americas. Tradition holds that during this time the women of the highland clans whose men were far from home would bring a small piece of their tartan to the Kirk (church) with them to be blessed secretly and to pray for heaven’s protection for the clan and for its members.

In 1941 this practice was brought to the United States by Scottish-born Peter Marshall, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., and chaplain to the U.S. Senate, in an effort to promote solidarity among American-born and native-born Scots who were once again involved in a European war – World War II.

Since that time, the tradition of the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans has evolved into a colorful, festive occasion for celebrating Scottish heritage, asking God’s blessings and protection for those represented by the tartans, recognizing the historical contributions of native Scots and Scottish-heritage Americans, and celebrating the faith traditions of the Celtic and Scottish peoples.

On Christmas Eve 2004, after The First Church candlelight service, Dr. Curly Olds greeted our pastors and put his finger behind the left ear of Pastor Joel Krueger. When Krueger asked what he was doing, he replied, "I'm putting a Scottish bug in a German ear!" That caught Krueger's attention and later that next year, after discussing what the Kirkin' O' the Tartans was with Dr. Olds, The First Church held its first Kirkin' on April 10, 2005.

The tradition has continued, with a change in the date to coincide with Belfast's Maine Celtic Celebration. The service will feature the haunting tunes of the bagpipe, Calling of the Clans, Blessing of the Bairns, Scottish and Irish hymns and songs and remembrance of those who have passed in the year before with the playing of a lament on the pipes.

All are welcome and, if you wish, wear a kilt or tartan, or anything that looks Celtic, or just come and share in this service of thanksgiving and appreciation for the heritage and faith that have supported people in the Maine coastal region for many, many years.