SEE US IN A NEW LIGHT
More of a whimper than a bang
The Very Revd Geoff Miller, Dean of Newcastle, writes…
We’ve handed over the keys. There were just three of them and though they seemed pretty canny guys it was clear we had no real choice. To be honest I expected reinforcements, I was prepared for threatening machinery, scaffolding, picks, axes and even battery rams but I think they had already sussed us out and we were easy, they knew we would just roll over like puppies wanting their tummies tickled. ‘Seen more muscle on a butcher’s apron,’ one was heard to say – though to be fair that was in a different context! Anyway, we smiled as best we could and just gave them the keys without any more ado. So, they shut the doors and said they were off to Greggs for a cuppa and pasty. At least we know that they are real ‘Geordies’ and we know where to find them. We’ve got their cards marked.
Of course, we have our secret weapons. They will find them out in time but, I promise you, some are slow burning and very powerful. Yesterday, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, we prepared our defences, as we celebrated with Bread and Wine (not from Greggs I hasten to add), fresh Holy Water and a fair dose of smelly smoke – Prinknash, I think! We began our festivities at the Font and took the opportunity to renew our determination to follow the Christ, to claim again his promise to be ‘with us’ until the end. Buoyed up by his graceful presence we moved on boldly. In our leave-taking ceremonies we beat the (internal) bounds of our beloved ‘place’ singing (in good voice too) ‘Lord for the Years’. There were tears, deep breaths and confident smiles as we acknowledged that on this day we were placing our mark on the history of this church. But some of us are acutely aware that it has already placed its mark on us. Now, right now, we have a real challenge before us, and it is one we take up willingly and with joy: We are called not just to simply conserve, refurbish and treasure this Cathedral but do all we can to help it fulfil its calling today (and into future generations) to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, of God’s good grace lavishly bestowed on us and equally lavishly available for all.
So now you see why handing the keys over felt more like a whimper than a bang. I suppose, in truth, it would have taken a lot to ‘top’ our Sunday service. But the day wasn’t yet finished, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when the Cathedral still had something more to give – doesn’t it always! It was a simple first task to take up the non-descript carpet that has laid down the aisle for the last 30 years. A few tacks to lift and a bit of carpet tape to pull up – piece of cake for our beefy builders – then we could roll from west to east. And what a sight! Dust, rotted cardboard, mostly disintegrated chipboard, of course, but we did not need our resident archaeologist to help us be amazed at the ledger stones that were revealed. Teasingly stunning! There are new stories to be found in this place and the finding has already begun.
So Historic Property Restoration guys we want to welcome you, we want you to find what we have found in this place. We are pretty sure that this will be the first place you began your contract with an organ providing live mood music. Be sure we are watching you but not with suspicion rather in awe and with growing excitement. Look after this place for us.
Here is the prayer that we used on Sunday (written for the occasion by Canon Clare) to mark our leave-taking
you have been true to all who have worshipped in this place,
from generation to generation –
and your loving providence is never-ending.
As our redevelopment building work begins,
we commend to your care and protection
this place that we love,
and all who will labour here in the months that lie ahead.
As we enter into this period of exile
from so much that is familiar,
give us courage to overcome the challenges of the journey;
grace to accept the unexpected and the inconvenient;
and an overwhelming sense of love for one another,
that we, your pilgrim community,
may travel joyfully, and as one,
into the future you have prepared for us.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.