Five Years Ago

I was reminded yesterday that it is five years since St Mary’s hosted its first Civil Partnership Blessing. So, congratulations to Colin and Robbie pictured above.

Theirs was not the first such ceremony that I officiated at but it was the first in the building and the fifth anniversary of that is worth marking with a big alleluia.

It is perhaps worth recording the process by which we decided to proceed with this ceremony. I had been approached some time before to discuss whether or not I would conduct such a ceremony. As I’d done one already, that was easy to answer – I agreed that I would do it. The question was whether St Mary’s was ready to host such a celebration.

This is what I remember happening.

It seemed to me that it was important to work out whether the Vestry were on board with this. It is the Vestry who share the responsibility of what happens in a Scottish Episcopal Church with the Rector. (I’m the Rector as well as being the Provost). Usually, I’ll just ask a Vestry what they think. Often we work towards consensus, sometimes we agree to vote about something if we need to make a decision with which some people disagree. In this case I went a bit further – in this case I outlined the question at a Vestry meeting and then asked them all to write to me to tell me whether they thought we should proceed. This allowed people to take some time and think about it. In the event, the Vestry members all wrote to me saying that they believed that St Mary’s should go ahead. I was thus able to say to Robbie and Colin that we would be delighted to welcome them and their families and friends to celebrate their special day.

“Ah, but what about the bishop?!!!” I hear you splutter.

Well, I told the bishop at the time telling him what I had been asked to do. He asked me what the Vestry thought and I produced the sheaf of letters from the Vestry spelling out what they thought and I told him that I was going to take the service. His response was “Very well then. I think you should do it.”

It is worth also saying that when I reported to him that I was first going to take such a ceremony, his response was, “Well then, I’ll give you my permission to do it then.”

“But Father, I didn’t ask your permission, I’m going to do it anyway” I said, to which his response was, “Well, you are getting my permission and you are getting it in writing – it is important that you have it”. (I still have the email).

And thus, these things began and I’ve been happy to advertise that we do them since. Then it seemed remarkable. Now it seems special but in the same was that every wedding day is special. In the last five years there has been maybe one ceremony a year either in St Mary’s or elsewhere. (The first one I conducted was at the chapel of the University of Glasgow).

In a few week’s time, I’ll be doing another one and this time there is something different. The innovation this time is that the couple can be pretty sure that by registering their civil partnership (which I’ll be blessing) they will end up being actually married as the new laws coming to Scotland should mean that they can convert their relationship to the status of a marriage by simply filling in a form in due course.

The move towards marriage equality is a long drawn out journey of little steps. I’m proud to have shared that journey with those brave enoug to pledge their love to one another in public.