An Invitation

Update – this blog post is featured in an article in the Herald newspaper.

I think it is appropriate to post on this blog the invitation that I shared with the congregation last weekend.

We are currently living through a period of social change, as the Scottish Government finalizes its plans to allow same-sex couples to get married.

Now, the churches tend to react in their own distinctive ways. Christians are not of one mind about whether marriage for gay couples is a good thing or not. However, it is clearly coming.

Over the summer, I’ve been contacted a number of times by people who have asked me whether they can come to St Mary’s Cathedral on a one-off basis on Sunday 26 August 2012. The reason for this is that the Roman Catholic Church is declaring this coming Sunday as National Marriage Sunday and has said that it is setting up a special commission – a new body which will be “charged with promoting the true nature of marriage”.

Now, I believe in marriage. I believe in marriage for straight couples. I believe in supporting family life. I also happen to believe that marriage should be open to same-sex couples who wish to publicly declare that they are going to be faithful, stable and loving in the same way that straight people can. I believe in Equal Marriage and hope it comes soon.

The trouble is, the rhetoric that is currently coming from the Roman Catholic Church on this topic can be hugely negative. We saw that on Scotland Tonight on Thursday evening when one of their spokesmen once again asserted that gay people live shorter lives than straight people and seemed to suggest that people needed to be “warned” against being gay. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to describe it as homophobic and that is a word that I almost never use. It is also my view that the attitude of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy seems to be at odds with the membership of that church whom I generally encounter as gentle, respectful, caring and kind.

Now, the fact is, not everyone at St Mary’s Cathedral has the same views on this topic. The truth is, the people at St Mary’s Cathedral tend not to have the same views about many things, as it happens.

However, we all do tend to agree that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. My congregation is not a place where people question whether gay people are loved by God. We know it is true that everyone is loved by God.

The people who have contacted me about this upcoming Sunday to ask if they can join us for a week are quite varied. Some are straight people and some are gay. Some are Roman Catholics who simply don’t want to be told what to think about this topic and who reject the current rhetoric coming from the Scottish Roman Catholic Church. Others have no connection with that church but simply want to turn up to a church on that Sunday where the message is of compassion and love. Indeed, I have been contacted by a couple of atheists who said that they would like to come to church on that day to mark a particular anniversary and wondered whether they too would be welcome. The answer, of course, was yes. All are welcome in this place. (And they won’t be the only atheists there either).

It is a worry to me that atheists might think themselves unwelcome in churches. What kind of messages are churches sending out to convey this? There’s not a congregation worth going to that wouldn’t welcome such a person.

I have spoken to my congregation about the invitation that I want to reinforce this weekend and I have asked them to put the word about amongst their friends. If they know anyone in this city who would like to worship with us this week rather than worship in their own church for one Sunday then the message is clear. Everyone is welcome at St Mary’s. We don’t preach hatred. We don’t preach or teach bigotry. We stand up for the simple love of God. If anyone wishes to join us for one week as respite from the message preached in other places then they would be welcome to join us either this week or indeed on any Sunday.

The main service is at 10.30 am on Sunday. Roman Catholics will find the service is very similar to the service they know. Those from other traditions will find elements of the service that resonate with their own experience too. The music ranges from good to fantastic and is led by our wonderful choir and musicians. Those who are unfamiliar with church services will not find the service difficult to follow. The building is warm and welcoming and the congregation is gathered from all over the world and from very many faith traditions.

There is also a meditative, calm evening service at 6.30 pm on a Sunday evening which particularly features glorious choral singing as the choir and clergy sing the psalms and prayers of the day. It is the case that quite a few people come to that service who go to different churches on a Sunday morning. That kind of ministry that you can dip in and out of is part of what Cathedrals offer.

This is a congregation where we try to ensure that everyone is welcome and this is a church where everyone can receive Holy Communion if they wish to do so.

Having asked the congregation to share the news with their contacts that this is a Sunday when those wishing to join us for the first time are particularly welcome, I’m repeating that message here on the blog. If you are reading this and want to come then simply turn up on Sunday. It is a busy church, you won’t be singled out or made to do anything odd or strange, just come and enjoy worshipping in a congregation that is trying to be open, inclusive and welcoming.


  1. Kelvin,

    This is fantastic! What better way to make a statement about marriage, and to tackle the prejudice and rampant homophobia being peddled by the RC hierarchy, than to take “their” National Marriage Sunday and celebrate a wider and more inclusive interpretation of marriage. I agree with every one of your points about what church should be, not least that people of all faiths and none should feel welcome – something that has been overlooked during what has passed for the recent “debate” on same-sex marriage. Your vision of an inclusive church is one I share and wholeheartedly embrace; while I will not be at St Mary’s this week because of other commitments, I really should make a point of visiting in the near future.

    I hope it all goes sensationally well on Sunday!

  2. I think this is a fantastic lovely idea… Had I been in the UK i would have likely organized a rival smog-a-thin at St. Andrews Metrosexual Cathedral, and I suspect you may have been just about been able to talk me out of it.

    I hope Sunday goes well. Are you having a rival special collection to support equality?

  3. Russell Goulbourne says

    This is what Christianity really looks like — and very attractive it is too. Thank you, Kelvin!

  4. Best wishes for this Sunday & congratulations on all you have achieved so far & continue to achieve………how does the hymn go? ‘let us build a house where love can dwell…..all are welcome in this place’

  5. Sorry I can’t be there, but I’m passing the word along. Very proud to be part of such a community, hope the place is packed.

  6. Serena Culfeather says

    This is inspired and fantastic and I’m only miffed I can’t get there to share the fellowship with you all.
    It’s a positive thing in a sea of so many negative ones – or is it just me sensing that? Marriage Day, Mothering Sunday and such occasions will always exclude a percentage of the population however well-intentioned they start out. We need more thoughtful people like yourself, and indeed your congregation, to share the concept of inclusiveness and to encourage intellectual debate – intellectual in the sense of rational discussion, not the use of fancy words and ideas.
    I remember a discussion with you some years ago when it was obvious that some brave decisions and actions were required and it’s exciting to see ideas blossoming into reality.

  7. This is the message that all churches should be giving out.

  8. I feel an abandoning of my half written sermon coming on. May just take a leaf out of your book and do the same. In a much smaller way, of course.

  9. “…And Jesus? Well he of course annoyed the religious establishment of his day by spending his time with those who were outside the spiritual and moral consensus of his time”

    So said our Primus, Bishop David earlier this year. I hope we will be welcoming many folks this Sunday who need a refuge. And maybe, when they like what they experience, they may just stay for longer than one week. I suspect that this will be so.
    A fabulous and very Christian gesture in response to some months of very un-Christian words expressed so aggressively in other places.

  10. Anne Jones says

    I’m sorry I’m away this weekend and so won’t be there. I’ll be thinking of you all. I too am proud to be a member of St Mary’s.

  11. Gail Smith says

    I shall be there and supporting these same principles

  12. Rosemary Hannah says

    I’ll be there – and I am hugely proud to be, even in the tiniest way, a part of this worship and welcome. It is, of course, what we do, and why so many of love St Mary’s – not just equal marriage, but all kinds of justice, welcome for all kinds of people, and worship, which is the centre of it all.

  13. Brian says


  14. Perhaps I should be looking at flights to Glasgow from the midwest USA 😉

  15. What better way to counteract the Cardinal’s Day of Rage than providing an oasis of love, respect and compassion. Of course, everyone is welcome every day of the week at St Mary’s anyway but it seems the right day to make our first visit. Am looking forward to meeting some of the people who comment on here regularly.

  16. Irene says

    I shall be there – so happy to be a member of St. Mary’s.

  17. Jennifer says

    Thank you for such a warm and gracious invitation. I’ll be there.

  18. Jim and Colin says

    We’ll not go to Holy Trinity tomorrow as usual and come to the cathedral for mass – will be really good to be there tomorrow. Truly shameful day for Christianity tomorrow in that a considerable number of Christians will actively turn away from the Christian message. Important to be with Jesus on a day when The Message is so disparaged.

  19. Markus says

    Thanks, Kelvin, for this! This is not an attack on the RC Church. This is offering a safe place for those attacked by Rome.

  20. Melissa Holloway says

    I live far away in a diocese where the bishop has said that neither love nor justice can bear the weight of being the tool by which we order our common life – only orthodoxy can bear that weight – and no surprise that his orthodoxy finds it is only reasonable that life long relationships of fidelity be based on sexual difference.

    I fear that in churches like mine the Kingdom of God comes only accidentally and in spite of the institution itself. All the more reason though, I will be rejoicing for what of course will be a beautiful liturgy at St. Mary’s, for the weightiness of love and justice, and the hope that one day, as I have heard Kelvin say before, ‘all things will be put to right’.

  21. Augur Pearce says

    Thank you. Just, thank you.

  22. Didn’t join you but support the initiative. Like many Catholic laity I have to say ‘not in my name’. Catholicism teaches the primacy of conscience: mine tells me equal marriage is a human right.

  23. Rosie Bates says

    Thank you, prophet of Peace. I send extracts of your gentle wisdom to isolated and enquiring folks. God Bless your sabbatical for Love needs calm courage for doors to be wide open to a deeper understanding of Gospel imperatives. Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be….. and we are not going raging into a dark night.

  24. I’d imagine it’s behind the paywall, but there’s a story on page 3 of today’s Times, entitled “Catholic hierarchy faces parish revolt over equal marriage stand”. It reveals that at least five churches in Scotland refused to read out the anti gay marriage screed, and that, despite the Church spending £60K on a lobbying campaign and sending out 100,000 postcards to be returned to the same-sex marriage consultation “only 24,000 postcards were filled out and submitted to the consultation – representing 3 per cent of the Church’s 800,000 adherents”.

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