Provost Kelvin Holdsworth reflects on the response he and the congregation of St. Mary’s Cathedral received after their Epiphany celebration. where a portion of the Qur’an was read.
And so last week as we were reflecting on the arrival of the mysterious Magi at Bethlehem we again asked local Muslim friends if they would like to be present. Again there was a recitation and again there was a huge amount of interest amongst those present. The gospel was proclaimed, the preacher preached and the Eucharist was celebrated. Our Muslim friends were interested in what we do and had a number of questions afterwards. There was particular interest amongst the musicians as to the way arabic recitation works and one or two technical conversations about similarities between psalm pointing and Qur’anic recitation.
It was regarded locally as a good event – the kind of thing that St Mary’s does well. We’re pretty strong on midweek festivals and I always feel a joy at being able to get over a hundred people out for a midweek choral mass.
Having a recitation from the Qur’an in a Christian cathedral in worship is not a new thing. I’m aware of a time in the early 1990s when St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh (ie Church of Scotland) hosted an event at which there was Islamic prayer within the cathedral. In 1991 at St Mungo’s Cathedral there was a service at which there was a recitation from the Qur’an which involved local church leaders including Archbishop Tom Winning and the then Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
Recitations from the Qur’an in Christians worship are unusual but not unknown. I’m aware of one in Liverpool Cathedral and at other events within the Church of England at civic services and within the context of number of university chaplaincies. No-one pretends that Muslims and Christians believe the same things. We know that Muslims don’t believe in the divinity of Christ – that’s a known and accepted fact. It isn’t surprising.
But how many Christians know that Muslims believe in the Virgin birth and how many have heard that from the Qur’anic tradition?
And that kind of thing is worth knowing.
So it has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered. (And I’m a veteran of the sex wars amongst Anglicans).
Offensive and threatening comments warranted police investigation. The Christian Post:
Offensive comments directed at clergy at St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, have prompted a police investigation after the Quran was read at a service last week.
Police Scotland confirmed it is investigating remarks after the Epiphany service contained a recitation from the Islamic holy book denying Jesus was the son of God – a key Christian doctrine.
“The congregation was also reminded during the service that it is not only Christians who give honour to Jesus. We were joined by friends from two local Muslim communities.”
A video of the incident on YouTube prompted outrage from some Anglicans with calls for him to quit. The video has also been removed.
Rev James Paice, a leading member of the conservative GAFCON UK grouping, called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene in an open letter to Lambeth Palace.
This came after the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, also called for action.
“”The authorities of the Scottish Episcopal Church should immediately repudiate this ill-advised invitation,” he said in a statement.
Holdsworth reflects on how the encounters have deepened the faith of the Cathedral members:
And there are happy pics of Muslim folk in church at Christmas alongside their Christian neighbours.
This is becoming normal for us and it matters.
Frankly, we think it is a good thing that Muslims are coming to church and hearing us proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
Here in Glasgow we have our history of religious conflict. When Muslims new to the city are asked, “Aye, but are you a protestant Muslim or a catholic Muslim?” it is both funny and not so funny.
But I rejoice in the fact that at least sometimes our interfaith encounters are real and life changing.
The truth is, people confident in their faith can often learn most from one another. We are confident in our Christian faith and enjoy sharing it.
The photo is posted on Pinterest by Edinburgh Pride.