The silly season

The weather always provides a good amount of news for the papers during August. Photos of happy families on packed beaches, hot tourists taking refuge in cool fountains – it’s the stuff of summer journalism. Or at least it was. I thought that August was meant to be the ‘silly season’, that nothing would fill up my diary, that there would be no meetings, that everyone would be involved in something much more important than doing the serious business of the rest of the year by having fun. So, having my holiday in Spain earlier than I would normally do I returned to the Cathedral this week with a diary full of meetings and a ‘To Do List’ as long as my arm.  What had happened to rob me of the ‘silly’ space that I was expecting?


One of my holiday snaps from this year

The problem was that the weather, which should be silly, became serious as records were being broken, forests were on fire, lives and livelihoods threatened and it looked and felt as though global warming had arrived.  Brexit, which has all the elements of silliness, is also now too serious to joke about.  The Prime Minister was forced to cut short her holiday and invade the holiday home of the French Prime Minister, making him get dressed up to meet her and dragging him away from the pool.  And Boris Johnson who, really, is very silly, became simply offensive.  There is no escaping the reality of life it seems this year.

One of the treats that we used to have as kids when we went for our week by the sea whether that was Cromer or Torquay or Shanklin was to be treated to a summer special version of our favourite comic.  Those great newsagents that used to occupy the fronts of all our seaside towns, the ones stocked with comics for the kids and extra thick editions of the ‘Woman’s Weekly’ with lots of extra knitting patterns for mum to attempt on the beach, which had buckets and spades in bright colours, moulds to make your sandcastles with, little windmills and a pack of flags (no EU flag amongst them in those days) to decorate them with and of course a counter full of sweets and rock and a fridge with a choc-ice for mum and an orange lolly for the kids, would be a treasure-trove for the whole of the week.  It was lovely.

Those summer special comics had your favourite characters – Minnie the Minx, Desperate Dan, all the rest – getting up to extra silly summer related things – lots of trouble and lots of telling off by parents and policemen.

It was another world.

So I am delighted that in the midst of unstoppable fires, searing heat, Brexit and burkas we at Southwark Cathedral have been able to bring a little bit of joy to millions of people around the world.  Yes, Doorkins has gone viral!  We had a message from a HuffPost journalist on Friday.  ‘Why had Doorkins suddenly entered the news?’ Well for no real reason apart from that a BBC journalist asked to come along with a  cameraman to do a piece on her that might be useful on a slow news day.  The piece was first posted online and then broadcast and the interest in the Cathedral cat exploded.  She is now big in Japan and across South America.  Her Twitter followers have increased exponentially. The book about her is no longer available on Amazon and our visitor numbers at the Cathedral have shot up.  Everyone, so it seems, wants to see this cute little cat.

southwark-may-10th-17-45-doorkins (1)

Not so silly cat

So is Doorkins all that is left of the silly season this year? Well perhaps even she can’t simply be categorized as just silly.  The thing that seems to have captured people’s imagination is her story.  The newspaper’s have all accurately quoted me when I said

“I hope that when in the future people see the corbel of Doorkins and ask “Why on earth is a cat here?” somebody will be around to tell the story of a little lonely stray cat who wondered into a church and found herself at home. And maybe they’ll wander in and find themselves at home as well.”

That is the non-silly news.  It’s all about the radical hospitality of God, who made space for animals, two-by-two, when judgment was passed on humanity and who welcomes each and every one of us into the house and to the table.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says

‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ (Hebrews 13.2)

I’m not suggesting that Doorkins is an angel, she’s a cat! But angels are principally messengers and our Doorkins is an eloquent messenger, reminding us that each of us has a place in God’s house.  It may sound a bit silly, but it’s true.

God of hospitality,
as you welcome the least to the greatest
may we reflect your generous love
with open hearts and open arms.

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In the Steps of St Paul

Southwark Cathedral Pilgrimage June 2015


Reflections from the Dean of Southwark

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Andrew Nunn's reflections from General Synod

the personal views of the Dean of Southwark