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Opening times

  • Saturdays and Sundays
    8am-5pm
  • Mondays to Fridays
    8am-6pm
  • Café 16
    Mon-Sat 10am-4pm
  • FREE ENTRY

Previewing Bishop Helen-Ann’s Good Friday Meditation

The Story of the Tree – Good Friday, 3pm on BBC Radio 4

Presented by the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Dr Helen-Ann Hartley

Produced by Rosie Dawson

On Good Friday, 29 March, Bishop Helen-Ann will present BBC Radio 4’s Good Friday Meditation, exploring themes of pain, strength, and new life.

The programme will include a discussion about the ‘Story Chair’, which launched last autumn and is now back on display at the Cathedral.

The felling of the Sycamore tree in Northumberland last September led to an outpouring of grief across the country.  People had gone to Sycamore Gap to mark key moments in their lives; births, betrothals, bereavements;  the tree had been a signpost along a walk or a final point on a pilgrimage. It was just a tree, but never just a tree. It was important to the  Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley; she sometimes runs along the stretch of Hadrian’s Wall known as Sycamore Gap.

“The word iconic is really overused, but it was iconic,” says Canon Benjamin Carter, who was vicar of the parishes along the wall, “You can’t move far in Northumberland without seeing an image of that symmetrical tree in that symmetrical gap.  It was a sign of hope and identity.”

Last autumn also saw the launch of the ‘Story Chair’ in the crypt of Newcastle Cathedral. It was created from another tree, an oak from the National Trust site at  Gibside which came down during Storm Arwen in 2021.  It was designed by local craftsman Nick James in collaboration with women from the Changing Lives charity, which works with people involved in the criminal justice system.

Dawn Harrison from Changing Lives tells Bishop Helen-Ann that the project has been life-changing; the chair holds the old narratives and stories that the women no longer want told about them.

“The women have transformed their image from female offenders on the outskirts of society to being welcome in Newcastle Cathedral—they are not calling themselves offenders anymore, full of guilt and shame; they are designers who are the proud owners of the Story Chair.”

The medieval poem ‘The Dream of the Rood’ tells the story of another tree, the tree that became the cross of Jesus. In this meditation for Good Friday, Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley reflects on the potential of trees to bear witness to pain, strength and new life. Readings from the poem are woven together with music from the Northumbria community and the Northumbrian pipes to offer an original and compelling angle on an age-old story.

Bishop Helen-Ann’s Good Friday Meditation will complement the Cathedral’s programme of service during Holy Week. We extend a warm invitation for you to join us from Palm Sunday, 24 March, to Holy Saturday, 30 March, as we commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.