As regular readers are aware, I am a member of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow. I am a server at the altar of the Lord in that church, and I am elected as lay representative of the congregation.
St Mary’s Cathedral is no stranger to conflict, and no stranger to calling out injustice where we see it or causing trouble where we see that it is needed. We proclaim ourselves to be open, inclusive, and welcoming — and proud.
It is fair to say that I did not see the events of the last week coming.
Last Friday, I was at the Epiphany service that has been widely misreported largely by segments of the right wing media. I was there as we celebrated the birth of Jesus and the incarnation of the Word of God, and as we received the body and blood of Christ, and as we proclaimed the Gospel of the Lord. It filled me with great joy to send clouds of sweet smelling incense up to heaven in praise of the babe born in Bethlehem. I was there when one of our Muslim sisters in God sang for us the story of Mary and Jesus as it exists in the Islamic tradition of the Qu’ran. In our cathedral church which we dedicate to her, it means a great deal to us to know that throughout the world people from all kinds of traditions are singing songs to honour Mary.
I have been astonished at the subsequent furore, and at the vitriol and intolerance that has been unleashed on St Mary’s in response to our Epiphany service.
As Christians who consider ourselves called to the practice of neighbourly love and radical hospitality, this is quite simply what we do and we view that as thoroughly unremarkable.
I confess that I am uncertain what the “Christians” whose response to this has been hate mail and threats thought they were being called to. Theirs is not a form of Christianity that I recognise.
When I attended our Eucharist this morning, I took messages of love and goodwill that had been passed to me from all over Glasgow and beyond. From friends who worship in the Baptist tradition, and the Greek Orthodox tradition, and the Roman Catholic tradition. From friends who are Muslim. From friends who have no religious tradition at all but who see the work we do at St Mary’s and think that it is a good thing. From fellow Anglicans and Episcopalians too.
This week has been a difficult one, but here we still are and our business goes on as usual; our business of proclaiming to Glasgow and to all the Earth the Gospel truth that God is love, God is love, God is love.