This was only ever going to be a church-exploring blog – though my daughter has accused me of making it a trainspotting blog. I am aware that busy-ness, grotty grey weather, and now snow, has meant I have not been out with my camera recently. As I don’t want anyone to think I’ve stopped blogging, here are my thoughts after attending Newcastle Cathedral for the Welcome Service for our new Assistant Bishop, Frank White. (I am well aware that the Bishop of Willesden has this week blotted his copybook by being too personal on facebook – perhaps I could apply for his job; Bishop of Willesden Junction). This will only be a word-blog, as I had no camera with me.
Snow before Advent – deep and crisp and even. There was a three-line whip for this service, but at 0915, under the duvet, I was tempted to plead “inclement weather”. I raised myself, flung on some clothes, put on my walking boots, and decided I’d go and see if the buses were running. One stopped as I approached the roundabout, so I couldn’t use that excuse. Poached eggs on toast at the Tyneside Cinema – why do they so rarely show films I want to watch? – and to St Nicholas Cathedral for 11 am.
The Nave was reasonably full. No long procession – they had asked us all not to robe. Dean Chris welcomed us all with comments on the snow, Bishop Martin welcomed us all with comments on the snow, Bishop Frank started his sermon with comments on the snow. The choir – girls and men – sang Joubert’s Advent Carol (“There is no rose”), a Te Deum by Clifford Harker, and a setting of Psalm 24 with a congregational response. It would have been nice if the choir had been singing the same words as those printed in our Order of Service.
The prayers were good – they had a procession round the Nave with prayers offered at the south, west, north and east sides, each prayer interspersed with a verse of “Come down, O love divine”. The geographer in me felt it was a little odd to be looking east and praying for the Diocese (which lies to the west and north) – but perhaps Byker and Tynemouth need all our prayers, or were we praying for Diocesan Office? I could have done without seven verses (and chorus) of “Love is his word” and, if they’d taken the collection in that long hymn, we wouldn’t have had to stand through an organist-extension of “Hills of the North”.
It was rather depressing that the ‘Oath to observe the Cathedral Statutes’ includes the line “I promise that I will keep private the business of the Chapter and of the College of Canons, if it is ruled to be private …” – surely that doesn’t even need to be said – and even more depressing that, in his greeting, the RC Bishop went on about all that divides us. The man representing the Other Faith Communities was far more positive!
I was sat next to a window with Cuthbert holding Oswald’s head – but it’s so long since I blogged, I couldn’t remember whose head he was holding. At the east end is an Evetts’ window, a 1963 window giving thanks for the preservation of the Cathedral during the War, and I said “thank you” to Collingwood Bruce for his ‘Handbook to the Wall’, first published in 1863. I shared a drink with the Dean of Peterborough and his wife, and we ended up remembering Neil.
Back to Ponteland – just missed the 1255 bus, and the 1325 didn’t leave until 1340 – then an afternoon in the warm. The snow is so thick, I wonder how much of Advent Sunday will be cancelled.