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A BEACON OF LIGHT
Homecoming – Meet the Revd Jon Canessa
Meet the Revd Jon Canessa, who has recently come home to Tyneside as Newcastle Cathedral’s Lantern Initiative Lead. Here, Jon explains what his role entails…
Newcastle Cathedral may be one of the smallest cathedrals in the country, but its ambitions are big. One of the most important of these is for it to become a place of radical welcome – offering acceptance and hospitality to everyone who visits.
The current building dates largely to the 14th and 15th centuries and features one of the only ‘crown spires’ this side of the Scottish border. For many years, a fire was lit every night in the lantern as a beacon to aid boats to navigate their way safely home up the River Tyne in the dark. Drawing upon this analogy, the Lantern Initiative seeks to be a beacon of light to those visitors to Newcastle Cathedral who are navigating difficult circumstances in life, such as homelessness, addiction, social isolation, grief, poor mental health, refugee and asylum seeker status. In welcoming and supporting those who feel vulnerable, the Cathedral also wants to reframe vulnerability – not as something negative, but as a universal aspect of human experience and as essential to our growth and change.
Above right: Jon in his former role at St Paul’s, Cambridge
People come through the doors of Newcastle Cathedral for a variety of reasons. Some seek sanctuary and shelter, others come to reflect and find space for what matters, in search of peace, meaning and connection. As such, the Lantern Initiative is not merely about social action but also seeks to build a community where all people are welcomed, valued and are free to explore spirituality and our shared humanity. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “We are here to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”
To lead the work of the Lantern Initiative, I’ve come home to Tyneside, having most recently been developing work with homeless people in Cambridge, as Bishop Stephen Conway’s Advisor on Homelessness.
My appointment involves helping the Cathedral to play a role within the wider city to develop partnerships and projects with organisations that respect vulnerability and value human flourishing and social justice.
I am thrilled to be joining Newcastle Cathedral at such an exciting time in its history. I am an ordained Anglican Chaplain and have been working with homelessness in its many guises for 20 years, co-founding an emergency winter night shelter and ‘It Takes A City’, a partnership to enable public, private and third sector bodies to work together to end rough sleeping in Cambridge.
Before going into ministry, I trained as a Youth & Community Worker, managed a mental health charity, and have worked extensively with ex-offenders and the street-life and homeless community.
The Lantern Initiative is an opportunity for all of us at the Cathedral to welcome people from all walks of life; not only to be inspired by its wonderful heritage and history but also to experience our warm hospitality and feel valued and imbued with a sense of worth and belonging.
We want the Cathedral to be a place where everyone can feel at home.