Cathedrals are the unsung success story of the Church of England. A analysis of the reasons for this continuing growth will make very interesting reading.
Well one reason, I'm afraid, Richard, is that Cathedrals tend to 'leach' people from local churches. I feel ambivalent about our local Durham Cathedral: on the one hand, it's magnificent from many points of view, on the other, they do things that tend to undermine local churches and their bigwigs certainly don't support those churches enough (even those of which they're patrons). Of course, everybody is stretched and I don't wish to be too sour.
Without any data, but just an impression, it would seem to me to be true at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, also.
But the question is WHY? What is it that cathedrals do which attract the punters from your parish churches. And what are they doing which 'undermine' local churches?
(I don't like the words like 'leach' and 'bigwig' which seem to indicate a sort of jealousy, that, in my reckoning is unfair).
Unlike Grace Cathedral, the National Cathedral, or St. John the Divine in NYC, the majority of cathedrals in the US are parish churches which were eventually named the cathedral of the diocese, so they tend not to draw people away from other parishes. Or if, as in my diocese, they were built as cathedrals, they tend not to be huge structures. I remember being in St. Asaph's Cathedral, in Wales, after being in England, and thinking, "This feels a bit more like home."
This news can only gladden the heart! Surely, any increase in worshippers - in any Anglican edifice - ought be cause for rejoicing. Cathedrals are very important indicators of national interest in religious observance - not to mention tourism.
Good lordy, any one who thought the C of E an irrelevance would get their nose cleaned by these stats !
It just shows how relevant the C of E is. May be the idea could be franchised to all the parishes of England.
Cathedrals offer three things: a standard of performance, material along general lines, and anonymity. If you go to a local church, if might be a bit ragged in performance; you might end up in some sectarian experience and the congregation or clergyperson might grab you. Going to a cathedral is like enjoying a live concert in a hall instead of seeing some local band down at the pub.
From what I have observed in my home town and in other places, cathedrals often appeal to the unchurched and/or newcomers looking for a spiritual home. In an era when people are bombarded with data, ads, phone calls, text messages, other forms of aggressive media or technology, the calm and quiet offered by the space itself can draw people in. Also, the liturgy, with its music and ceremony, offers people a sense of something timeless and beyond themselves. In contrast, some small churches near cathedrals, in a time when the concentration of churchgoers has diminished, have devolved into therapeutic and inwardly focused communities that lack diversity, an outward focus, and the opportunity for anonymity.
In my home community, there is an unfortunate concentration of small churches built near the cathedral (all of the same denomination). The demographics of the 1910s through 1950s may have supported the presence of these churches; the same is not true in 2011.
I'm amazed that people see increased attendance at Anglican cathedral services as signs of church growth. Like many others, I regularly attend such services (as well as ones at RC churches) because I appreciate the music,and that alone.
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