Scottish Shia Community shows us how to do interfaith work


It was a great honour and privilege last night to be a guest of the Scottish Shia community at an Eid meal to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The photograph shows me with Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, the Director General of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.

There are many reasons why we need to have interfaith meetings and many ways of doing it. Last night, the Shia community in Scotland offered us a wonderfully relaxed and easy way to go to engage with one another – they took us out for a meal. Well, it was more of a banquet than a meal, in the Village Curry House in Tradeston which served us splendid food.

The good thing about eating over a meal is that you can dip in and out of conversations – mixing chatter about where people are going on holiday with theological questions and all the while you are learning about each others traditions. As I hear the Shia people talk about the universal search for justice that they are engaged in, inspired by Imam Hussein, there are obvious connections to be made with the work for human rights and human dignity that Christians and other people of goodwill are engaged in.

And so we found ourselves chatting away about how Muslims and Christians think of John the Baptist, how we think about Middle East politics, the Usual Topic (human sexuality) and the interesting ways that people are arguing about it within our communities. And we talked about Scotland too – how it is changing and how we are changing in it. There were folk there from different parts of Scottish society – charities like Breast Cancer research and Alzheimers Scotland who are helped by the Shia community and services like the Fire Service and Blood Transfusion Service and there was an MSP representing the Scottish Government. Bishop Idris was representing the Trades House of Glasgow and there were loads of us from the Christian communities in Scotland – the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow were tucking into the curry and naan with the rest of us.

I’m interested that sometimes these days the Christians meet best whilst engaging in conversation with people outwith Christianity. Ecumenism often doesn’t seem very exciting but Interfaith work sometimes makes it happen in a new and relaxed way that you don’t see coming. Last night, it was Muslims who brought the Christians together and that’s worth thinking about a very great deal.

So – thank you to the people who honoured us with their invitation last night. It was a wonderful example of religious generosity and a time when all kinds of relationships could be built.

The Affirmation of a Transgender Person

There’s yet more debate online about people calling for a special service to be approved by the Church of England in order to recognise and support someone following their transition from one gender to another.

I happen to think that it would be an interesting thing for the Church of England to consider. However, we’re lucky in Scotland that we’ve already agreed a form of service that could be used as an affirmation for transgender people.

Here are some of the prayers:

The president says
God of mercy and love,
new birth by water and the Spirit is your gift,
a gift none can take away;
grant that your servants may grow
into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Fill them with the joy of your presence.
Increase in them the fruit of your Spirit:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of love, patience and gentleness,
the spirit of wonder and true holiness.
The president lays hands on the candidate in silence, and then says
Come, Creator Spirit,
rekindle in N. your gifts of grace,
to love and serve as a disciple of Christ.

Renew her/his life in Christ
and bring to completion all that your calling has begun.

Either continuing the laying on of hands, or anointing the candidate
with the Oil of Chrism, the president says:

Empower your disciple, N.,
to bring life to the world.

At the conclusion of the laying on of hands
the president says
Living God, sustain all your people
to be hope and strength to the world;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be honour and glory, now and for ever.

The congregation share communion.

The president addresses the congregation:

The light of Christ is within you. Shine as a light in the world.
As the seed grows secretly in the earth,
As the yeast rises in the dough,
May the power of God be at work in us.
Like a city on a hill,
Like a lamp in the darkness,
May we witness to the glory of the kingdom.

It seems to me that as we’ve already agreed these prayers, there’s going to be no fuss about it at all in Scotland whereas there might be in Englandshire. I’d be very happy to conduct this service for anyone who has completed their gender transition and who wants to express their faith publicly in their new identity.

The great news is that the service is available to cis people at moments when they want to express publicly the renewal of their faith too. Indeed, some of these prayers were used at a particular point in my own life when I came into ministry in St Mary’s nine years ago. We don’t discriminate and so this service is available for all God’s children whether they are trans or not.

The service can be found online here: