It was her smile that first caught my attention. It was shy, moving quickly into radiance. Stella was a beautiful woman, and it doesn't surprise me to learn that children who were liberated from Bergen-Belsen were captivated by her. Yet that disarming smile masked a steeliness which was made evident in the work she was to do in Glasgow. I can hardly believe that it is 25 years since she died.

From 5pm on Sunday, October 21st, in Wellington Church hall, Glasgow, friends will gather for food, conversation and music to remember Stella Reekie and reflect on her pioneering contribution to the life of the city. As at her funeral in that same church a quarter of a century ago, there will be Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Baha'is and Jews, as well as Christians. At her funeral, Balwant Singh Saggu, a leader of Glasgow's Sikh community, had said of Stella: "For Christians, she was a Christian, but she was something more than that. She was above labels. For me, a Sikh, Stella was a Sikh, because I could see Sikhism reflecting from her daily life. She was a saint of God and she showed us what the love of God was like."

Not a bad tribute, really.

Sister Marie Therese, a Roman Catholic nun with whom I worked closely in Easterhouse, once told me about getting off a bus in the housing scheme one Saturday evening and being greeted by an over-refreshed punter who shouted to her: "Hey, Sister, Ah'm wanny youse!" By virtue of the clarity and warmth which alcohol sometimes induces, he was articulating the theological conviction that they were fellow members of Holy Mother Church. (If only Saint Paul had expressed himself with similar economy.) Well, for people from a variety of faith traditions, Stella Reekie was wanny them. And yet she managed to achieve this remarkable status without resiling from her unashamed commitment to her own faith tradition.

I want to argue that this capacity for commitment, generosity and openness is exactly what is needed today; but to get there, we need first to wind back the film.

It's 1945. Stella Reekie, a 23-year-old nursery nurse working for the Red Cross, is sent to the newly discovered Belsen to work with children from the camp. Her first task is to separate the living bodies from the dead. She finds a sack which she thinks contains bones. She hears a whimper, and pulls out a barely surviving child. After four years in the post-war zone plus two years' study in Edinburgh, the Church of Scotland sends her to Pakistan. In her 18 years there, she distributes relief, listens to all kinds of problems, drives a tank and forms warm friendships with people from all backgrounds.

In 1969, Stella is appointed by the Kirk's Home Board to work among immigrant women in Glasgow. Other denominations and the YWCA soon support the project. The Kirk buys a large flat in Hillhead, in which Stella lives and welcomes people from all faith traditions for food and conversation. The International Flat becomes a hub of friendship, study, music, children's play, prayer, pastoral work, language learning and tradition sharing, as well as a home for overseas students. Stella's open-door policy is criticised by some church people, who tell her that her only task in relation to those of other faiths should be that of conversion to Christianity. But the winsome Miss Reekie is not one to be pushed around. Pulling a whimpering, starving child from a bag at Belsen creates a special kind of ecumenical vision to which she will always be faithful.

The work of the International Flat has become the stuff of legend. We can see more clearly now that Stella and her friends were true visionaries. In the 21st century, religion can be dangerous. How the world religions co-exist will have a bearing on the future of this old planet we inhabit. The answer is not, can not, be to melt down genuine difference into some ecumenical relativistic mush. It has to lie in the intellectual and emotional territory of respect, dialogue, celebration of distinctiveness, tough love and co-operation in matters of mutual concern. Stella Reekie's enduring legacy has been to model a way of being true to one's own convictions while remaining open in heart and mind to new and transforming learnings.

This is not Stella's only legacy. Today, inter-faith conversations are much more widespread in Scotland, with Sister Isabel Smyth, a Catholic nun with whom I worked on Iona, playing a significant networking role. Glasgow's St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art is one of only two museums of religion in Europe; it will hold an event in November which will include promenade theatre on Stella's life.

Stella Reekie was a woman ahead of her time. Her time is now.