My second week in Chester Cathedral has been exciting and varied. It has included a whole variety of roles and opportunities but two of the most difficult challenges have been planning two large services. This may not come as a surprise as I am mostly spending the month shadowing the Canon Precentor.
The first service was a large funeral for a member of the Cathedral community, and in this act I have found a thread of Cathedral life which could be overlooked, the Cathedral as a place of Hope.
In the funeral liturgy we read of our certain hope in the resurrection. We acknowledge that death is not the end of our Christian journey and we speak of hope.
One of the prominent theme’s of Cathedral life is the mingling of different strands of business and worship. Dean Tim talks about creating a culture which is focused on Christ. A culture which has Christ at it’s heart. A culture founded on hope and this was something found both in the funeral but also in the second service I took part in: The Licensing of Pastoral Workers and Readers.
This second service spoke of hope in a different way. It spoke of the hope of the Christian faith continuing. Of faithful disciples witnessing to the Good News of Jesus in their communities. Over 600 people came to celebrate with them and cheer them on as they began their new ministries and it was wonderful to be a part of.
But one of the most striking moments for me was when we stood outside the West Doors and finished the final hymn and said the grace. In this moment Bishop Keith reminded us that this was what it was about. Stood outside the Cathedral on lookers filming this rather peculiar spectacle we were demonstrating the hope of our faith. It was a very powerful moment for me to reflect on!
I think at the heart of Cathedral life is hope. Hope that there is a different way to live. Whether it be through saying the offices, or celebrating the ministry of the diocese, there is hope found in the worshiping life of this Cathedral.
But, there is hope in other places as well. There is hope in lighting a candle with the mourning parent. There is hope in listening to the honorary chaplain telling stories about people’s differing needs. There is hope in listening to how the vergers care for people who have nowhere else to turn. There is hope in encouraging one person to remember that God can is with them in their daily life.
Many people enter the cathedral, some are explicitly looking for God but many are not. I am filled with hope that all encounter God in their own way, and fully believe that without spaces like this they may never encounter God at all.
Hope hovers and broods.
Hope does not demand,
Hope for the hopeless,
Hope for the hopeful,
Hope for those who regret.
A flickering candle,
The music of Handel,
Silence which humbles
fill this cathedral with hope.