Widening Cathedral Usage

Sunday, 14th October 2007 at 8:59 UTC 2 comments

Looking for another article which I would like to dust-off, brush-up and make something better of, and it being Sunday, I thought I’d re-write something church-y. Sorry to any non-Christians reading this who are immediately turned off, and doubly so to those who are put off for the second time!

Most Cities in Britain have a cathedral in the middle, most of which are fairly large buildings which may be seen as tourist attractions, but which are rarely seen as spaces with relevance even for Christians who’ve moved on from the traditional Cathedral fayre of high-church Sunday Eucharist, daily evensong with little room for participation and so forth.

While it seems Cathedral attendance is up, it is only up because people who want these sorts of services are escaping from the services which have been modernised in their local churches. So what should we do with Cathedrals, hardly any of which can be described as over-worked, so that they provide for a broader range of worship needs within wider society.

For some months, Visions Alt-worship Community was forced to meet in the Minster due to building work at our usual venue. Normally we’d be meeting in St Cuthbert’s Church, an ancient parish church in central York much better suited to our needs, to which we have since returned. Despite its age, St Cuthberts provides us with a very usable space that has a healthy dose of atmosphere. However, this whet our appetite for continuing and deepening our connection to the Minster, looking at how we can reinvent Alt-Worship for a Cathedral setting, making something new and exciting while holding on to some of what it is which makes buildings, and their attached communities, like York Minster so special.

After one trial, and with another planned, it looks like we’re heading towards a new venture, either monthly or bimonthly, where we’ll work with the Minster clergy to create a new project altogether, with a different name to Visions. It will float between the alt-worship of Visions and the traditional, anglo-catholic worship that the Minster holds dear. Ideally the result will be something different from Visions, but radically new to the Minster, while intrinsically a Minster event, and with something clear for Minster fans to hold onto.

Hopefully this will bring balance to the Minster’s usual worship output. Unfortunately, this will only solve one aspect of it, as the Minster still has little to offer in the way of low-church worship for those who want it. Why is this important? Because the Minster is meant to be the Mother Church of the whole of York Diocese*, not just the high-church bits of the diocese.

One problem that someone raised during a debate concerned a service which was conducted in the Minster nearly 2 years ago. Many of those attending thought they were showing up for a usual Minster service on Good Friday, however it had been handed over to the local evangelistic coalition “One Voice”, and so the culture shock was tremendous with quite a few people leaving part way through. This was saddening to say the least.

Change needs to be gradual and integrated, not sudden and involving only outsiders imposing their way of being church. Hopefully we can overcome this with a new name and by bringing together both Minster and Visions people to think creatively. This is proving a real challenge, but avoiding the ‘spirit of imperialism’ is always difficult whether its within national politics or within a local church, or indeed any other situation.

The exciting thing about Cathedrals, if used properly, is that they’re the places where we can go and meet other Christians from around the local area. They’re a focal point for events which bring in a wide range of Christians: catholic/evangelical, modern/traditional, non-/charismatic. It would be good to see more of the range of worship in our Diocese reflected in the program of worship at the Minster, so that everyone begins to feel it’s ‘their’s’, not just those who see it as a last stand against Evangelical and Modern forms of worship. Then it can truly be a place for all Anglicans in York Diocese, and hopefully all Christians in North Yorkshire, to share in their common aim of worshipping God.

* Diocese are those areas controlled by Bishops, and are roughly equivalent to Counties in England. York Diocese is roughly the area of North Yorkshire plus Middlesbrough and Hull. Most diocese have several Bishops, but only one is Diocesan Bishop, the rest being assistants of various kinds. In York, we’re unfortunate to have only half a diocesan Bishop, the other half of Archbishop Sentamu being his role as Head of the Province of York, i.e. the northern ‘half’ of England. Yes, its really that complicated!


Entry filed under: Alt-Worship, Church, October Rewrite, Religion, Theology.

Stressed out 10 year olds Monday Action: Post on your blog!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tiggs  |  Sunday, 14th October 2007 at 9:33 UTC

    It would be nice if all the various worship styles/belief networks could use our Catherdrals as their own, and I’d love to see it happen.

    Just don’t expect the Anglo’s to go to the Evo services.


  • 2. Greg  |  Sunday, 14th October 2007 at 13:40 UTC

    What makes you say that the rise in cathedral worship is solely due to people migrating from other churches? Do you have statistics to back it up?

    Anecdotally, my dad started to g o to church this year, after a break of, well, at least as long as I’ve been alive. He’s started going to the tridentine service at St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield, and I think one thing he likes about cathedral worship is its anonymity – he can go there, sit through the service and then dash out without talking to anyone. It’s not ideal I know (and it’s based around a Catholic theology which stresses being there for the magic bits rather than being church together all week – something I suspect is found in plenty of high church anglican cathedrals as well as the Roman variants). However, if that’s what it takes to draw him back into church, I’m fine with that.

    To tie up this long, bumbling post, until it’s shown otherwise then I don’t think the growth in cathedral worship is solely down to a shift inwards from parish churches, and I think there’s a place for the large, anonymous high church atmosphere they provide.

    On the other hand, I’m a big fan of the CU’s Minster Ball, St Mike’s carol service and I’m told XLS is brilliant too!


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