Sunday, 4 May 2014

Cathedral revisted

Today, with another free Sunday, I decided to worship at the Cathedral, as I haven't been there for any event since the departure of Janet Henderson. Clare opted to go to St Catherines as usual, and got herself recruited to help with hospitality in the Parish Messy Church project. I went to the Cathedral Sung Eucharist (Bairstow in E Flat), at which incense was used, its clouds pleasingly illuminated by shafts of sunlight. (The scent of a new regime?) The nave altar wasn't used, only the high altar, previously used only for distributing Communion. This is a simpler arrangement, to my mind, welcome.

Although the choir is very long and the high altar quite distant, this arrangement works a lot better. The prayers are fully audible, made quite intimate by a properly functioning public address system. Although the ritual at the altar is executed in an aesthetic and dignified manner, there's no really need for it to be universally visible - you don't feel any less involved, and most worshippers love the long slow procession (dare we call it a 'prayer walk') through the choir to the Communion rail.  I well recall my Russian Orthodox friend and early mentor Fr Nicholas Behr saying over forty years ago: "In the celebration of the divine Mysteries, once you know what is happening, there's nothing to see."

The new Dean, Gerwyn Capon is currently on holiday, and Fr Graham Holcombe celebrated and preached. He made reference at the beginning of his sermon to the Easter Lilies decorating the chancel, recalling the enthusiasm shown for them as 'trumpeting the Resurrection' by Canon Edwin Davies one of my predecessors at St John's, fondly remembered by Fr Graham and myself as one of the luminaries of Cardiff back in the 1970's, writing a weekly column of his own in the Western Mail. It's hard to imagine that happening nowadays.

The service was better attended than when I last visited a year ago. I do hope this is a sign of renewing vitality. The whole church and the city needs its Cathedral to be the best, the measure of healthy Christian community and witness to which all else is compared, whether the media seriously value its social contribution or not.

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