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‘It’s the cathedral but not as we know it…’

Reflections from the Vice Dean – June 2020

‘It’s life but not as we know it’ was a famous comment by Scottie in the original version of Star Trek.

Two months ago I wrote about how within seven days we moved from working and worshipping in the cathedral to locking the doors to allow the spiders and flies to fight out their existence together, as we closed the doors behind us and walked out to stay in our homes in isolation…

Since then, we have journeyed through Holy Week, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. Major events in the church’s liturgical year. It is a year we will not forget as we long for the worshipping community to be together  praising God in Chester Cathedral.

What’s the same but different in our cathedral community?

  1. Services:

The clergy have adapted to leading services from home using Zoom (something I hadn’t heard of three months ago): we meet for daily morning prayer (8.15am), for evening prayer (5.30pm) which is recorded for YouTube and we record the Sunday morning service together.

The clergy are pleased that at Sunday services there have always been at least three clergy present and under the extraordinary technical knowledge of the Dean, we have managed to maintain high quality worship which we hope is worthy of God.  Not many will realise, behind the Sunday service are 9-10 hours of preparation by the Dean, Jen his wife and often his son too, as well as the editing of the service (initially carried out by the Dean but now in the hands of a highly competent member of staff). Many cathedrals have been unable to offer such services, so I for one, am very grateful that we have a Dean who has such expertise and is patient with his clergy team who though willing, are somewhat less proficient!  Tim offers this on top of the other pressures and expectations of his role that lockdown has brought.  Meanwhile many have joined in with the services virtually and joined virtual coffee (including my mother!) so that we, at least, have seen some familiar faces to encourage us and reassure us of their good health.  Thank you to those of you who have taken time to give such positive feedback: we find it very encouraging.

  1. Some Cathedral activities: the same but different
  • The leaders of volunteers, although not seeing people, have been delighted to keep in contact through telephone with all who volunteer and continue to do so
  • The Benedictine evenings have continued to meet on the last Monday of the month: we have found that communal prayer, stimulated by reading a Bible passage is indeed possible even when we are geographically displaced: the holy Spirit knows no physical boundaries.  If you are interested in attending, please let me know
  • The book group have continued to meet to discuss a novel chosen by a member of the group and enjoyed being together as well as having stimulating discussions.  If you are interested in attending, please let me know
  • In place of meeting in the Cathedral every Wednesday, the Bible Talks  on the gospel of Mark  take place at 1.10pm on Zoom, with an external speaker and a live audience. They continue until 5 August.  The Bishop and archdeacons are three of the speakers.  They are recorded on YouTube.  If you are interested in attending, please let me know.

The world is beginning to unlock, but life at the Cathedral will not be ‘life as we knew it’.  The grounds are now open for most of the day.  We are allowed one clergy within the Cathedral and we can meet in small groups to converse outside.  In July, (maybe before), we hope to open the Cathedral for private prayer (with a one way system), but we may not have congregational worship for a while.  The choir, a jewel in the crown of Chester Cathedral, cannot meet for a while, the date is yet to be confirmed. We will slowly work our way into the ‘new normal’ with social distancing observed for staff and visitors.

Other work has carried on, you will see the celebration of the launch of the Cloister Windows project and the poetry competition has enabled young people to be creative around the theme of ‘Journeys’.  There are more details of both elsewhere on this website.

As we begin to open the doors, please pray for the staff as they plan to make it a safe place for visitors to enter.

The Cathedral will not be ‘as we knew it’ but the bricks and the mortar which have witnessed so much in the past, will still be there and the words of prayer from the congregation will continue to make the stones ‘shout aloud’ that God is present in the city of Chester and way beyond.

Prayer unites us all: please pray for God’s presence and love to be evident and tangible in and around the building we all love.

I do hope that we will see many of you face to face before long.