Living God in Jerusalem – Setting off

Having just returned from Romania I’m now off to the Holy Land. You may question the sanity of this. As I sit waiting for my flight I’m inclined to question it as well. But I’m looking forward to being back in Jerusalem and at St George’s College and excited about helping to lead a course over the next two weeks, helping people discover the land that Jesus knew, the land in which he walked, the land in which he rose to new life, the land in which the church came to birth.

I promise not to blog all the time. You have enough ‘stuff’ to deal with. But I will share anything I think you’d be interested in. Please keep me in your prayers, and the people at the College and the participants on the course. And pray with the psalmist, as we did in Morning Prayer today, for the peace of Jerusalem.

Let there be peace upon Israel.‘ Ps 125.5

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As if for the first time

In the past few weeks across the church #newrevs has been trending on social media.  This is ordination season and so brand new deacons and priests have been sent out by bishops to their parishes.  I was thankful to celebrate 35 years in orders at the beginning of July (I was ordained deacon in 1983) and it was lovely to see all the hopeful excited new ministers emerging from their ordinations with a freshness reflected in their surplices.

The ordination of priests inevitably is followed by a flurry of ‘First Masses’. A typical Anglo-Catholic will send out their Ember Card, the card asking for your prayers as they prepare for ordination, with the additional notice that they will preside at the eucharist, celebrate the Mass (whatever language you choose to use) on such and such a day and time and you are very welcome. The First Mass stands alongside the ordination as a pivotal moment in the new priests life.

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Over the years – apart from mine own – I’ve gone to many such celebrations and shared in the joy of not just the new priest but their family and friends and the people in the parish as well as their clergy friends as they begin this particular part of their priestly ministry.  Many will have been preparing for a long time for the moment – in their heads since the moment that they and the church accepted the call to priestly ministry – but also then as the diaconate year moves into its second half thinking about how they will say Mass.

For quite a few years I have run a course in the diocese for the deacons who will be ordained priest.  It’s of course a very mixed group often encompassing the full range of traditions that are reflected in our diverse, broad CofE. But whilst tongue in cheek I tell them I’m going to tell them the correct way in which to preside at the eucharist, in my heart I know that I believe that to be true, not in an arrogant ‘I’m right you’re wrong’ way I hope but simply because I believe so wholeheartedly that the eucharist is where the church is truly being the church and the priest, presiding at this ecclesial gathering enables the people to meet the Lord in word and sacrament.

So those to be ordained will be thinking about the ‘manual acts’ what you do with your hands, and the ‘secret prayers’, the sotto voce devotions made at various points in the liturgy, their tone of voice and their tone of presiding.

Then the day comes and all is in place – the silver is sparkling, the linens are crisp and white, the wine is chilling (not for the service but for the reception afterwards), there are bunches of red roses for Our Lady and the new priest’s mother and the servers and the choir and the readers and the preacher (a vital part of the service – have you managed to secure the enviable, best preacher you could inveigle into preaching for you) are all rehearsed and ready.  It’s a showpiece and there is nothing wrong in that.

For those from other traditions this all sounds, frankly, weird or wrong.  Those for whom the eucharist holds a less central place in their understanding of the church, of redemption, of the Christian life, etc, etc, the idea that you would elevate presiding to such a level and in such a way speaks of a kind of idolatry of the Mass.  But I think that I would describe the variety of reactions that are made more in terms of whether presiding at the Eucharist is seen as functional or ontological – and for catholics it is the latter.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews talks a great deal about the nature of Christian priesthood as opposed to Aaronic.  But the writer at one point in the letter is constantly quoting one line from a psalm

The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110.4)

What is bestowed in ordination through the grace of the Holy Spirit is not for a moment but for all time. “You are a priest forever.” You are changed forever, there has been an ontological shift and at the altar we see this most clearly as the priest stands in the place of Christ and brings the past and the future into the present in the once and forever liturgy of the church.

But this has implications for every other eucharist at which a priest presides.  Yes the first time is a real celebration and it is great to have a party afterwards but what about the second and the tenth and the one hundredth and the thousandth and the countless ministry of the aged priest who continues to approach the altar? The true reality is that every priest should approach the altar as if for the first time.

We learn a great deal by watching how other priests preside. When I was being formed for priestly ministry at the College of the Resurrection I would watch what the brethren of the Community did.  And one I will never forget is Fr Ronald Haines.  This is what I wrote about him in a retreat I led for those about to be priested

We students watched to see who the President was.  There were two particular delights.  One was the Superior of the Community who with an agonized solemnity would preside with huge gravitas.  The other was Fr Haines. When I was in College I suppose he must have been priested for over 40 years – a good long time.  But the thing was – and this is the lesson that he taught me, that he taught us – that he celebrated every Eucharist as though it was his first and as though it was his last.  Every celebration at which he presided had that sense of deep wonder, of being the most important event of that day, for him, for us.  There was a precision, a delicacy, a slight hesitancy about what he did that made it totally fresh, alive, and deeply moving.  It was a privilege to be at those Eucharists and because you knew that for this priest it was also a privilege – that he was taking nothing for granted – that it was total gift to him and that that total gift was what he was giving to us – it was still more of a privilege.

And I think it is the same for each of us, whether we are ordained or not, to come and as in T S Eliot’s lovely phrase in his poem ‘Little Gidding’

‘And know the place for the first time.’

At the altar we encompass time and place, at once in that Upper Room with the disciples and yet before an eternal and heavenly altar before the Lamb of God, and yet here, in the local, in the now, in the divine present in which the ordinary stuff of life becomes the most extraordinary encounter and communion with the Living God.  That is why each time we step from any sacristy, any vestry we should do so with fear and trembling but with the deepest joy.

Lord Jesus Christ,
we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament
you have given us the memorial of your passion:
grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries
of your body and blood
that we may know within ourselves
and show forth in our lives
the fruit of your redemption,
for you are alive and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

The cat and the corbel

Following the recent article in the Evening Standard about Doorkins, our cathedral cat, and the corbel that has been made of her we have received so many messages about her.  One of these included a specially written poem by John Elliot, a fan in Barnard Castle.  With his permission this is his poem.

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Felicitous 

Astute cathedral deans declare
That problems come with mouse or rat:
They need a feline living there;
And Doorkins is the Southwark cat.
Magnificat, her other name,
Conferred by clergymen, whose ways
Show us that jokes are all the same
And have not changed since we sang that
Our souls would magnify the cat.

They know that she’ll pay for her keep
By killing vermin in the church.
She finds a comfy place to sleep
And keeps watch from her favourite perch.
Her face displays a look of bliss:
She knows the service will not stop.
There’s merchandise reflecting this
For sale in the cathedral shop.
This cat and human synergy
Is very clear for all to see.

Thanks John.

I’m at Synod

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There won’t be the usual Living God blog this weekend.  I’m at the meeting of the General Synod in York. So if you want to see what we are up to visit my General Synod blog here.

Celebrating mums

It’s Mothering Sunday – yes, that is what it is called, not Mothers’ Day – we keep it on a Sunday because we are giving thanks to God for our mums and it’s about ‘mothering’ not just about how lovely our mums are.  Anyway, whatever we call it around the country people will have emerged from morning services clutching some straggly daffodils, perhaps tied with a bit of ribbon, that have either been handed over in church by child (of any age) to mother or will be if they survive the battering journey home.  We have a wonderful Flower Guild at Southwark Cathedral and Pat (Gold at Chelsea) has the task with some others of getting our bunches of daffs ready.  She kept calling me during the week.  ‘The snow has done dreadful things to the daffodils; I might not be able to get any; I’m just warning you.’ What a nightmare! Mothering Sunday without daffodils!

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Worry not.  I went into one of the ancillary rooms on Friday and there was Pat with two other members of the Guild putting the bunches together.  Phew! Pulled back from the jaws of disaster. That would have been a real cloud hanging over us (unlike our Lent art installation) if we’d had no flowers.

I was back at Mirfield during the week, staying at the Community and College of the Resurrection.  It’s my yearly visit, three days in that wonderful atmosphere sharing again the common life that is such a feature of the place and made it, for me, the most wonderful environment to be formed for priesthood.  I go at this time of the year as I have a task to do that I need a bit of space to achieve.  On Easter Day my Annual Report is made available.  It has to be written – and that was the task, and a few other bits of writing, like the five ‘thoughts’ I had to prepare which are to be broadcast on Premier Radio each day during Holy Week.  Anyway, I got all of that done.

But on the Wednesday it was the Feast of Ss Perpetua, Felicity and their companions.  The priest who was presiding at the Mass, in her homily, told me something about these early Christian martyrs of which I was previously unaware.

I knew that the account of this martyrdom which took place in Carthage in around 203 AD was remarkable in lots of ways.  It was remarkable in that the detailed and rather gory account of what happened to them spread through the Christian world with a speed which would challenge our modern communications.  The document that recorded it was one of the most powerful and influential of the time.

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St Perpetua and St Felicity

 

But what was also incredible was the story it told of how Christians lived which was counter-cultural.  Vibia Perpetua was a married noblewoman, said to have been 22 years old at the time of her death; Felicity was her slave imprisoned with her. Her companions were another slave named Revocatus, two free men Saturninus and Secundulus, and a man named Saturus, who voluntarily went before the magistrate and proclaimed himself a Christian. They were catechumens and so were preparing for baptism but proudly called themselves Christians and spoke fearlessly in the name of Jesus.  The account of their martyrdom made it clear that they were, in effect, baptised in their own blood. But what this mixed bunch of people reveals to us is that Christians were ignoring the current social conventions of only mixing with people of their own class.  Here a noblewoman and free men stand alongside slaves and share the same fate.  Christians worshipped in truly inclusive communities that were startling to others.

What I didn’t know was that at the time of their martyrdom Perpetua was nursing an infant and Felicity was pregnant.  These were two young mothers who stood in the arena and despite the demands of motherhood did what they believed to be right.

The mums we celebrate today have perhaps not had to do anything like Perpetua and Felicity but too many mums around the world do have to make stark choices and sacrificial decisions.  The images on our screens of a mother trying to feed her child from breasts that hold no milk, searching for a scrap of food that her child, not she, will eat, struggling to keep the fruit of her womb alive, are distressing and moving.  Whether on the outskirts of Damascus or in the Yemen it is women, it is mothers who bear so much of the pain.

In a couple of weeks time we will be with Mary at the foot of the cross, Mary going through her own martyrdom, a sword piercing her heart in fulfilment of old Simeon’s prophecy as she watched the fruit of her womb die.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2.34-35)

Mary, Perpetua, Felicity, the unnamed mothers on our screens, and our own mothers also, all to be celebrated on such a day as this which calls not for an excess of sentimentality but healthy honesty and realism about just what it does mean to be a mother – and a father.

God, mother, father, of us all
bless those who are our mothers
and strengthen those whose mothering
leads them into suffering.
Amen.

A cloud on the horizon

We’ve all had that experience, lying on the beach, soaking up the rays, and then suddenly seeing on the horizon some cloud bubbling up.  Will it head in our direction, will we be running from the beach, towel in hand, escaping the downpour? The prophet Elijah had a similar experience, though he wasn’t sunbathing at the time.  Instead it was a time of drought in the land of Israel. Elijah predicted to Ahab that the drought would end and the heavens open and rain would be heard.  But there was no sign of it.  So Elijah keeps on sending his servant up to the top of the mountain to look for the cloud.

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‘Look, a little cloud …’

 

On the seventh time of looking the servant cries out

‘Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.’ (1 Kings 18.44)

Like the cloud viewed from the beach, what looked small on the horizon, something the size of a person’s hand, suddenly becomes one of those big clouds that bring rain (or snow) and so it was for Elijah and Ahab.

There was a wonderful picture during the beginning of last weeks ‘snowmageddon’ which showed half of London under a heavy snow-laden cloud, half still in sunshine.  But the cloud delivered what it promised!

We are living with a large cloud in Southwark Cathedral during this season of Lent.  Susie MacMurray’s installation, ‘Doubt’, is causing a lot of interest and discussion.  For some it is too oppressive and depressing and I can understand that; for others it is a welcome invitation to think about their own clouds and also a permission-giving way of thinking about doubt.  But perhaps it has come at just the right time as a cloud hangs not just in Southwark but over all Cathedrals.

Those who try to keep up to date with the life of cathedrals, the real life Barchesters and Lindchesters of the Church of England, will be aware that last year there was a little local difficulty in two of our forty-two great cathedrals.  Problems were encountered at both Peterborough and Exeter which have had very serious consequences in those wonderful places and the ripples have caught the rest of the forty.  In order to look at some of the underlying issues which helped to create the situation in those two places and have contributed to something of the financial difficulties in many more, the Archbishops established a Working Group under the chairmanship of the Bishop of Stepney (himself a former Dean) to look at the issues of governance and financial control.

The deadline for responding to the draft report from the Working Group, which was published at the beginning of January, was last Wednesday.  All over the country people were trying to squeeze and conform their responses into the straightjacket of an online response form, to reflect the subtlety and nuance of what they needed to say in a system that allowed for neither. But in one way or another I suspect all of us have managed it, for better or worse.

In order to gauge opinion at Southwark the Chapter organised two meetings, one for the congregation, another for an expanded joint meeting of Chapter and Council (the Council has become something of an endangered species in this draft report). There was much that both meetings saw as positive, but much that we at Southwark were already doing, around financial scrutiny and reporting, around Safeguarding and resilience.

But there is a cloud ‘the size of a person’s hand’ rising from the sea.

Anthony Trollope explained how Barchester looked in his imagination

“Let us presume that Barchester is a quiet town in the West of England, more remarkable for the beauty of its cathedral and the antiquity of its monuments than for any commercial prosperity; that the west end of Barchester is the cathedral close, and that the aristocracy of Barchester are the bishop, dean, and canons, with their respective wives and daughters.”

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The ‘aristocracy’ ,as he describes it, is clerical, bishop, dean and canons.  That was the way it was and that is the way it is.  We employ many wonderful lay people at Southwark without whom nothing would happen (the world is very different from Trollope’s day) and our governance structures are filled with talented lay people.  But it is the bishop, dean and canons who have the task of leadership and in a particular and subtle way.

The bishop is not the dean and takes their seat in the cathedral with the dean’s permission. The dean is not a canon who hold their own office and are given in their licence ‘a voice on Chapter’ which is more than simply being heard. It is a delicate structure formed over the last 450 years since the Elizabethan Settlement, adapted and changed, but essentially holding to that ideal that Trollope’s ecclesiastical aristocracy have the responsibility of governing and leading the cathedral.

So want is the small cloud? I think somewhere underlying some of the proposals, especially around the role of the dean and the role of the bishop and the role of the canons is a fundamental anti-clericalism that is creeping into the church on the back of a passion for a more ‘managed’ style of church.  It is thought, and probably with some justification, that you don’t find those ‘business’ qualities circled by a dog-collar but are found in those in the ‘real’ world.  So the logic is to move the power into the hands of those who know what they are doing.

This is a cloud that could bring a storm. For the cathedrals nor dioceses are ‘businesses’, our business is God and everything else that we do, which, yes, involves running enterprise sides to our life, is subservient to the principle duty of the bishop, dean and canons, to worship God and to lead others in that worship.  That is where all cathedrals, even those who fail some of the ‘business’ tests, are serving the church, and God, wonderfully well.  You only have to look through our doors to know that that is true.

So what do we do now? Well, the on-line responses will be analysed and a final report produced.  When, I do not know.  But I shall keep climbing that mountain to see what is happening to the cloud! Until then I will pray the prayer of a great defender of the Anglican catholic church in the early seventeenth century, Archbishop William Laud.  This is his prayer, and mine.

Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Saviour. Amen.

Under a cloud

Christina Rossetti wrote a poem about clouds, called ‘Clouds’.

White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

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‘White sheep, white sheep’

 

The cloud that hangs in the choir of Southwark Cathedral and will do for the whole of the season of Lent is nothing like the white fluffy clouds that chase like sheep across a blue sky as we walk the downs, nothing like the high pale cloud that keeps the heat down on a summer ‘s day.  The cloud that hangs in the Cathedral has something dark and menacing about it.  As you enter the Cathedral it is as if something has exploded and left a large black cloud hanging, get nearer and it alters the light, it is heavy, not light, a clack sheep amongst Rossetti’s ‘white sheep, on a blue hill’.

Like a lot of installation art, this piece by Susie MacMurray is to be experienced as much as looked at. You need to come into the Cathedral and look at it from a distance and then dare to approach it, to sit under the cloud and feel its brooding weight,

Clouds feature a great deal in scripture and in the Christian tradition. Popular imagination might expect faith to be lived out in bright clear sunshine but from that moment when Moses climbed the holy mountain, shrouded in cloud, and experienced the presence of God, it has been a familiar experience and theme. The Gospel writers described a similar event in the Transfiguration of Jesus and as Jesus died on the cross the clouds brought night into day and the onlookers were plunged into darkness. All of these things and much more are captured in this installation.

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A brooding presence

 

But it is called ‘Doubt’ and that directs us towards another direction of Christian thinking and experience. The mediaeval mystical tradition in this country did not shy away from the cloud which can exist in the world of faith. In ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’ a 14th century book written anonymously the writer says ‘Beat with a sharp dart of longing love upon this cloud of unknowing which is between you and your God.’

The cloud that Susie MacMurray has created and which dominates the chancel and high altar sanctuary during Lent and Holy Week, draws us into this apophatic tradition. We recognise our doubts and sense the darkness but beat both ‘with a sharp dart of longing love.’

I invite you to experience it with us. I will be spending a long time under it this Lent and exploring my own doubt, and it’s opposite, faith. And I’m sure I will, after Good Friday, be longing for the cloud to lift and the bright light of Easter to shine.

God of mystery,
when the cloud descends,
when you seem unknown,
when doubts assail me
and darkness surrounds me,
lift the mist, break into the darkness
and let your light shine
in me
and through me.
Amen.

What’s been happening?

If you want to know what I’ve been up to this week visit my General Synod blog.  Follow this link here.

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PS see if you can spot me in this photo! I am there. Sorry, no prizes.

A touch of green

You know it’s heading towards spring when all the papers for the February meeting of the General Synod land through your letter box (you can get them electronically but I still like them printed – sorry) and your realise that the chamber in Westminster is becoming you.  The other way you know is just by stepping outside. So I ventured into the Deanery garden to find some bulbs coming through the soil.  Spring is on the way.  The fresh green of new life will very quickly reassert itself over the brown of winter.  And, as if to join in with what is happening around us, the church has moved from gold to green, from the end of the Christmas and Epiphany seasons into what is known as Ordinary Time.

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This is the first Sunday ‘back in green’ and it is good to see it.  This is the miracle of liturgy and tradition, echoing life in the worship of God.  The green we see at the altar mirrors the green I see emerging, triumphant in my garden.  Life reasserts itself.

If you are interested in that other prelude to the arrival of spring I will be keeping a General Synod blog going.  You can find a link on this page.  As ever it’s a mixed agenda – our relationship with the Methodist Church, the work of the Crown Nominations Commission (I know quite a bit about that after serving 8 years on it), food waste and that really important debate on valuing people with Down’s Syndrome. Synod can get very absorbed with the inner workings of the church and the niceties of doctrine and practice but ‘the green blade rising’ as that lovely Easter hymn describes it, reminds me that life is the most important thing that we should be concerned about.  So that is a debate I will be fascinated by.  After all Jesus said

‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’. (John 10.10)

Abundant life, lived by all – that is the Gospel – for all people, of all abilities.

So enjoy the green, for about ten days, for Lent is fast on its tail and pray for us who gather in Synod at the end of this week.

Creator God,
breathe fresh life into me,
into the church,
into the world.
Amen.

Cathedrals

This Sunday the gospel reading was the account of the wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2.1-11).  It was also the first time the congregation at Southwark Cathedral had gathered since the publication of the draft report of the ‘Cathedrals Working Group’ – and I was preaching.  This is what I said.  

The newly released film ‘Darkest Hour’ is giving people the opportunity to think again about the leadership that Winston Churchill gave to this nation. One thing that you can say for him is that he knew the power of language, when to use it and how it could change things at critical moments. His skill with rhetoric forced you to listen to him. One of the many things that he said that’s often quoted and often by those in leadership positions is

‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’

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There was certainly a crisis going on in the little town of Cana in Galilee. A wedding was happening. Mary was there as a guest and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. The celebrations were in full swing and everyone was having a fantastic time. And then, disaster happens. Someone looked under the table where all the wine had been stashed and there was nothing left – the guests had drunk the place dry. But everyone was still in party mood.

Mary intervenes. ‘Do whatever he tells you’ she says to the servants and Jesus tells them to take water and deliver it to the maître d’. On tasting the water he found that it was wine and of the best kind – and of such a quantity – 120 to 180 gallons of it – staggering. And then the Steward, not knowing what’d happened makes a great declaration

‘You have kept the good wine until now.’

It’s interesting that nowhere in this story does John use the word miracle. It was a miracle, a miracle of creation, but John avoids that word for one which has, for him, great significance in telling the story of Jesus. He chooses instead the word ‘sign’.

The story concludes

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

John in telling the story of Jesus does it in a very different way to that of the other three gospel writers. They try to give us a history, Jesus did this, then he did that, then he did the other – one thing after another. But John wants to take us deeper, into the mystery, into the theology, into just who Jesus was, who Jesus is, and the truth of that can lie below the surface.

And so he looks for signs, pointers, indicators of the true nature of Jesus, the divine nature of Jesus – and he finds seven, beginning with this act of creation in Cana and ending with the raising of Lazarus to new life, a day of resurrection if you like. So John gives us a new account of creation, held in seven signs, just as in seven days.

Jesus had not let the crisis go to waste. He’d acted in such a way that his glory was revealed and something of the true nature of God and of the kingdom, of which in himself he was the sign, was understood by his disciples who, looking on in awe, believe in him.

There’s been something of a crisis for cathedrals. It’s interesting because in fact, as the report of the Working Group on Cathedrals which was published last Thursday points out, Cathedrals are one of the success stories of the Church of England. (You can find the report here.)

The report begins like this

Cathedrals are spectacular and wonderful expressions of the mission of God in his world. There is much to celebrate, guard and nurture in the life of cathedrals.

‘Spectacular and wonderful’ – it sounds like Cana all over again!

Cathedrals continue to grow, more people are increasingly attending services in cathedrals, we’re engaged in mission, we’re working with local, civic society, people look to us for spiritual leadership and the role we play in community. In terms of what the wider church wants the local church to do cathedrals are in general doing it. We are, to use Archbishop Justin’s phrase when he was Dean of Liverpool

‘a safe place to do risky things in Christ’s service.’

But there was a crisis last year as things went seriously wrong in two cathedrals – in Peterborough and in Exeter. Because of the rather wonderful Elizabethan settlement which creates a separation of powers between cathedrals and bishops, maintains a creative tension in which much that is good and risky for the church and the kingdom can be done, bishops have limited authority in their cathedral. That is until there’s a crisis and then they can make a Visitation. And when they make a Visitation what they decide has to be done by the Chapter – it’s the moment of their greatest authority as far as we’re concerned.

The result of Visitations in both Peterborough and Exeter was that it was decided that there needed to be a thorough examination of both governance, the way in which cathedrals are run, and financial controls, the way in which we manage our money, and recommendations made about how both of these could be tightened up and improved for the future, in all cathedrals.

All the Deans had the opportunity to have a one-to-one conversation with the chair of the Working Group, the Bishop of Stepney, Adrian Newman, and of course I took that opportunity. The group also sought opinions and facts from a wide variety of stakeholders inside and outside of cathedrals – and there are many people with positive and not so positive views about the place of cathedrals in the Church of England as she now is.

And so out of that crisis this draft report has come and we’re now in a period of consultation. The Chapter has decided to seek your opinions and to help us to do that an open meeting for the congregation has been organised for Sunday 11 February after the Choral Eucharist for those of you who do have a view on these matters. We’re also having a special meeting of the Chapter to which members of the Cathedral Council and other committees and groups have been invited. You can also feed your opinions through your Wardens, Matthew and Daniel, or through any of the clergy.

The report contains quite a lot of recommendations and some of them would involve pretty major changes to the way in which things are done, here but perhaps not to the same extent as in some other cathedrals.

But as well as absorbing the fine details of the report we have to heed the words of Mary to the servants in the Gospel for today ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

What we try to do, and I’m now speaking specifically of this cathedral, is to do the will of God, to listen to the Lord, to do whatever he tells us. We have a strong identity, a strong brand amongst cathedrals. Whether they like it or not people tend to know what Southwark Cathedral stands for – we describe it so well in our vision statement which is at the top of the notice sheet every week and I hope is absorbed by you

Southwark Cathedral an inclusive Christian community growing in orthodox faith and radical love.

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We believe that that is the way that the water is turned into wine, we believe that is the way in which we can be a sign post, a pointer to the reality of the kingdom, being faithful to what the Lord wants us to do. But that doesn’t mean that on a day-to-day basis, as a Chapter, as your Dean, there are not things that we can or should do better or differently.

Like all cathedrals we need to take this report very seriously and take our part in this process of consultation and the subsequent debates that will take place and the implementation of whatever the wider church discerns is the way forward.

Cathedrals are a gift to the church and to the nation. We know that to be true. But perhaps we shouldn’t let this particular crisis go to waste, just as Jesus didn’t let that crisis at the wedding go to waste. Water can be made into wine, in our lives, in our communities, in our nation, in our churches even in our cathedrals, if we listen to what he tells us – and perhaps, you never know, the best wine is yet to come!

God of new wine,
take the our offering
and transform it
until its tastes
of the kingdom.
Amen.

In the Steps of Martin Luther

A Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage 2017

sabbaticalthoughtsblog.wordpress.com/

Canda, Jerusalem, Mucknall

Southwark Diocesan Pilgrimage 2016

Hearts on Fire - Pilgrims in the Holy Land

A good city for all

A good city for all

In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015

LIVING GOD

Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

Passion in real time - a retreat for Holy Week

Led by the Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn

Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark