Christmas in St Mary’s (with a twist at the end)

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, and there is perhaps no better place to experience the magic of the season than at St Mary’s Cathedral in the Scottish Episcopal Church. With its stunning architecture and rich history, this beautiful space offers a truly special and meaningful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

One of the highlights of a Christmas service at St Mary’s Cathedral is the music. The cathedral’s choir is known for their beautiful voices and their ability to bring the festive carols to life. The church also features a grand organ, which adds a sense of grandeur and majesty to the service. Whether you’re a fan of traditional carols or more modern hymns, you’re sure to be moved by the beautiful music at St Mary’s Cathedral.

Another highlight of a Christmas service at St Mary’s Cathedral is the sense of history and tradition. The cathedral dates back to the 19th century and is known for its stunning Gothic architecture. The service itself is filled with rich traditions, such as the lighting of the Advent wreath and the reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. These traditions help to create a sense of awe and wonder that is so fitting for the holiday season.

But perhaps the most special aspect of a Christmas service at St Mary’s Cathedral is the sense of community and togetherness. As people from all walks of life come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus, there is a feeling of unity and love that is truly special. Whether you’re a lifelong member of the cathedral or a newcomer to the community, you’ll feel welcome and included in the celebration.

In short, Christmas services at St Mary’s Cathedral in the Scottish Episcopal Church are a truly special and meaningful way to celebrate the holiday season. With their beautiful music, rich traditions, and sense of community, these services offer a chance to experience the magic and wonder of Christmas in a truly special and meaningful way.

If you’ve made it through this blog post this far and you have a slight sense that there’s something odd about it the you’d be correct. The post above, not in italics wasn’t written by me. It was written by a machine – specifically the ChatGPT bot that has recently been released to the world. You tell  it what you want it to write and it does it.

This one was generated by the prompt, “Write a blog post about how wonderful Christmas services are at St Mary’s Cathedral in the Scottish Episcopal Church”.

Now, it doesn’t sound quite like me and it isn’t the most exciting writing there is. Perhaps it is even slightly stilted. But it is a fairly convincing attempt at the problem I gave it to do.

This technology is going to make all things new. Academia in particular is going to have to change very quickly in the way it assesses students.

This is disruptive technology. It can be used to do funny things – I could just have easily got it to write the above post in the voice of Donald Trump.

Thus: “Let me tell you, folks, this place is amazing. The music is absolutely incredible, with the choir singing all of your favorite carols in the most beautiful way. And the organ! Wow, what a sound. It’s truly something to behold…”

But this isn’t just entertainment. It is something completely and utterly new. Nothing you ever read again comes with a guarantee that it was written by a human being.

The world is changed. As someone once sent with a telegraph key, “What hath God wrought”?

Reparations, the Churches and LGBT communities

For one reason or another, I’ve been thinking about the idea of reparations for some time over the last year.

I’m one of the chaplains at the University of Glasgow and it made me think a bit when the University started to implement concrete policies in recent times by way of trying to make reparations for actions that were taken long ago in the past. 

Like many institutions in Glasgow, including many of the churches, the University benefited from the slave trade and has embarked on a programme of reparations to acknowledge that its current existence was built on something that was evil. There’s various partnerships with University institutions in the West Indies and attempts to research the history of the local involvement in the trade alongside innovative ways of telling the stories that for so long have gone untold. This means that money is changing hands – the University is aiming to use £20 million of its resources in connection with this. It is about money but it isn’t just about money – it is about relationships too. And it is fundamentally about facing the fact that something very wrong was done.

More recently, whilst I’ve been on sabbatical, I’ve been spending time in the American South. In particular, I’ve been a guest of the Virginia Theological Seminary and again, a reparations programme is underway.

It does focus the mind to be a guest in a place where enslaved people actually built some of the buildings.

Part of the telling of these stories in Virginia has meant researching as much as can be known about these people.

Although this might seem a very long way from Scotland, the stories uncovered by researching the history bring us together. There are personal stories of people who are long dead being owned and exploited by Scots traders. And there are people around who are the descendants of liaisons between such traders and the people whom they owned. Indeed, one such is a seminarian in the place that I’ve been staying and I was much moved to learn that his ancestor came from Port Glasgow.

All of which means that I’ve been thinking about slavery and reparations rather a lot.

For the question of reparations is one that churches ought to have something to say about. If the story of Zacchaeus in the bible means anything, it means that taking steps to make reparations, is part of who we are.

I think that Scotland is very far from coming to terms with its past in this area. Glasgow in particular still has much work to do.

When I was a child I was taught that Glasgow’s fortune was built on tobacco and we were taught as 10 year olds about the riches and wealth of the Tobacco Lords.

And no-one mentioned the S word at all.

I’ve no doubt that my experience in the USA recently is going to keep needling away at me when I return to Scotland for a long time.

But it has me thinking about other injustices too and asking whether we should be talking about reparations for other crimes.

And I find myself asking in particular, should we be talking about the church making reparations for its actions against LGBT people?

One of the tragedies of reparations in connection to the slave trade is that they are being made so long after the events that no-one who was actually enslaved themselves is around to hear the apologies and to learn of attempts to face this horror. What can be done to those who are descended from those people should be done. But the fact that it has taken so long to try to face such things is part of the crime.

Most people that I know in the church could point towards people who were victims of the church’s disordered attitudes towards LGBT people. I can easily think of people whose relationships have been spoiled, who have lost their homes and livings and who have suffered mental health breakdown. And that is to say nothing of those whose personal faith in all that is holy, has been ruined. 

I can think of particular dioceses where particular bishops had policies that were particularly cruel. One such diocese in the C of E comes particularly to mind but I’m aware that the stories that I know will just be part of a much bigger picture.

I am pleased that there are churches like my own which now offer to marry same-sex couples and who ordain clergy in such relationships. However, we underestimate our capacity to put right that which is wrong if we think this is enough.

I could name people who are still alive to whom terrible things have happened. Some of them are my friends and they are still in the church. Some are not and many have left the faith that once nourished them far behind them.

Most will not have descendants to whom apologies will ever be able to be made.

Shall we wait until all are dead before facing up to what has been done?

And what other injustices should the churches turn and face?