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The Dean’s Christmas Letter

Cathedrals are growing – and Christ Church Cathedral is growing too. 

“Cathedrals are vibrant centres of spiritual life and music for people of all ages and backgrounds. Children are welcomed with their families and their schools. … For tourists, cathedrals can convey a sense of the spiritual and sacred even to those who are on the margins of Christian faith, or who stand some way beyond.”   (CofE Cathedral Statistics 2013 – published November 24th 2104)


As Kelvin Holdsworth, the provost (dean) of Glasgow Cathedral wrote on his blog: “cathedrals allow people to exercise believing without belonging. They also allow people to belong without believing too. And thank God for that.”

Certainly, there are many people who visit the cathedral who believe without belonging : they pray day by day in the silence of this holy space, they light candles and leave prayer requests, they attend weekday services of Morning and Evening Prayer and the daily Eucharist.   There are also people who belong without believing : there are people who love the history of the place, its architecture and stillness in a busy and noisy world. There is a growing group of people who love the cathedral for its music, a community of people who regularly attend the Saturday afternoon Oasis Musicale concerts.



“Cathedrals offer place of peace and prayer in busy lives” 

And many people do love Christ Church Cathedral – for many and diverse reasons. Some have family connections here going back over generations. Some love the simple spirituality of the stones.   Some love the quality and variety of the music. Some love the relevance of the preaching and education programmes available for all ages. – Some love being left alone to worship God, and some love the fellowship and friendship we share with one another. In his blog Kelvin suggests six treasures cathedrals share.

  1. The name Cathedral – people expect Cathedrals to be open – in all senses of that word. Some people’s experience of churches, however, is that they are sadly often closed – in all senses of that word!
  2. People have worked to make things beautiful for a long time – and beauty matters.
  3. People haven’t just worked on good music they’ve worked on stopping bad music.
  4. People like to volunteer for something that is bigger than them and which will carry on without them.
  5. It is never wrong to do things as well as you can.
  6. Innovation

As Kelvin writes: “The curious paradox is that conservative institutions which survive are often the most innovative institutions you will find. They change constantly to become more like themselves. This is true of cathedrals. Cathedrals happen to be innovative because they have innovative people in them.

This Christmas at Christ Church Cathedral you will find all these things : our doors will be open to all – whether people choose to sit at the back quietly or dress up as a sheep in the pageant and make a lot of noise. The Cathedral decorations, vestments, music and liturgies will be beautiful – many people work very hard behind the scenes to get it right – ask Patrick how many hours rehearsal the choir and organists will have completed in December !

And we are not afraid of innovation – recognising that families with children and people who live far away need to be able to celebrate the first Eucharist of Christmas earlier on Christmas Eve than midnight, is just one example. (It is already Christmas Day in Bethlehem at 5pm EST on Christmas Eve!)

And so this Christmas I invite you to give thanks. Give thanks for your history, remembering your family members and your friends both at home and with us in the cathedral. Enjoy making Christmas beautiful for those around you. Remember that charity and giving are an integral part of our Christian life and the Christmas story, and do not be afraid to do something new or different … hang a Fair-trade giraffe on your door instead of a reindeer !


But above all I pray that you will be able to find that place of peace and prayer in your busy lives – a Spiritual Oasis just for you in what can be a fraught and tense world and season. I hope and pray for you that right at the heart of your Christmas decorations, the tree, the presents, the animals around the crib, will be the child Jesus – there with you, for you, as always.

And I pray that right at the heart of the Cathedral for all who will visit it over this season – in amidst the architecture, the music, the liturgies, the social outreach and the sermons – will be the child Jesus, with us and for us all. Emmanuel.


You will name him Jesus, because he will save his people.

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