Comments: Peterborough Cathedral: Bishop issues Visitation Charge

Well done Bishop Donald.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 2:07pm GMT

Yes he sounds delightful

Posted by ExRevd at Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 7:02pm GMT

Actually the Guardian piece suggests too that he is probably a fairly competent middle manager.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 8 January 2017 at 10:17am GMT

ExRevd Your comment and link have no relevance at all to the subject of this thread.

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 8 January 2017 at 11:49am GMT

David, I think the Guardian link is very relevant.

The Visitation Charge makes it apparent that cathedral management has been inadequate so the Bishop has had to step in. The Bishop says he suspects it is a national, structural problem.

If bishops are needing to be managers they can't be theologians too (apart from the most exceptional of individuals). ExRevd posted a link which showed Bishop Donald struggling to give theological explanations.. In the context of the accusations Martyn Percy has made about present bishops collectively, I thought the link was both relevant and useful.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 8 January 2017 at 6:06pm GMT

Not quite the same tone as that of the Bishop of Exeter's charge where criticisms and directions related closely to passages of the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Posted by Clive Sweeting at Monday, 9 January 2017 at 1:52pm GMT

8.'The Cathedral is the Bishop's Church'
9.'The Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Diocese'
I have always understood the latter to be the case, though I don't suppose it has any such function in law; but I have never heard the former. Do Bishops still knock on the door at their installation? I have always understood that was indicative of the Cathedral not being the Bishop's Church in any proprietorial sense.

And maybe that is why Deans are now being demoted -'use of the outdated phrase "Dean and Chapter" shall be stopped' directs the Bishop. I didn't realise this, but Google 'Dean and Chapter and the only ones that still seem to use the term are Westminster Abbey (which is certainly not any 'Bishop's Church') and Norwich. Watch out, Jane Hedges!

Posted by peter kettle at Monday, 9 January 2017 at 5:50pm GMT

Peter Kettle: the Cathedrals Measure 1999 states (clause 1) "the fact that the cathedral is the seat of the bishop"

And clause 2 provides that there shall be "a body called 'the Chapter'". So there is no legal basis for a "dean and chapter"

Clause 9(1)a provides that the Council, the Chapter and the College of Canons shall form the body corporate of the cathedral.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Monday, 9 January 2017 at 10:17pm GMT

The Bishop's Charge seems to be an exemplary case of proper fiduciary management of any cathedral of the Church of England. This displays, par excellence, the duties and responsibilities of the various clergy and laity involved in the day to day administration of the Mother Church of a Diocese - in a way that even the least qualified lay person in the Church should be able to discern as a necessary function of cathedral management.

Bravo to Bishop Donald for taking a leadership role and responsibility for unearthing problems of an archaic administrative nightmare that has led to the current situation at Peterborough.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 9 January 2017 at 11:24pm GMT

Michael Sadgrove, formerly Dean of Durham, comments on the Peterborough situation here

He reminds us that actually the bishop already has the right to attend Cathedral Council meetings, and that the bishop appoints the chair of the Cathedral Council, and therefore the bishop is already in a good position to ensure that there is proper oversight of the Chapter and of the Cathedral finances.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 10 January 2017 at 7:43am GMT

"the bishop is already in a god position ... " [sic] Some of them do, indeed, believe this.

Posted by Andy Macqueen at Tuesday, 10 January 2017 at 10:03am GMT

Thanks Andy -- typo fixed!

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 10 January 2017 at 11:35am GMT

+Peterborough has handled this well, but there will always be questions about whether action could have been taken sooner. He has acted with more apparent sensitivity than +Exeter earlier in 2016. Dean Emeritus Sadgrove has some wise words on governance and the Cathedrals Measure, but the reality is that good governance is more a function of behaviours than law and regulation, although the latter of course help. One wonders what situation these cathedrals would be in without the Church Commissioners acting as lender of last resort. They seem to have made one emergency loan to the Peterborough Chapter and later in 2016 it was increased. There is moral hazard here. It will be interesting to know what the terms are and whether the Church Commissioners ever expect the money to be repaid. It was probably largely in connection with the salary bill, including for residentiary canons not already on the Commissioners payroll. Maybe I have missed it, but I would expect to see redundancies, both of clergy and laity.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Tuesday, 10 January 2017 at 8:52pm GMT

Wise words from the former Dean of Durham. Just as there is much anxiety about the recent appointment of so many managerial-style bishops - so too should we not be anxious to ensure that we have a decent supply of sage and scholarly deans to lead our cathedral communities? We are often told that in the midst of general decline in the Church of England as a whole - cathedrals are bucking the trend and are shewing great signs of growth. How much therefore we need top quality deans to see that this growth and renewal continues.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 7:26am GMT

There have been redundancies -- 12 according to a report in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph. I've updated the article to add a link to this report.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 7:48am GMT

My respect for Bishop Donald has gone. He remains but ordinary workers have been made redundant. That is not the sort of conduct I would expect from a Christian - he should have accepted personal accountability before making redundancies.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 11:13am GMT

Reading the full charge does rather come across as a little heavy-handed. There's an alarming adherence to Business World which isn't entirely appropriate for something which is a Church not a Business.

And, while I am generally anti-hierarchy, the edict against "Dean and Chapter" could easily be seen as deliberate attempt to undermine the role of cathedral deans anywhere, who, as the retiring dean expounded in his excellent parting sermon, have traditionally — and still, for now, do — held a prophetic role due to their independence of the bishops. Not a happy development.

Posted by DBD at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 8:15pm GMT

I am sorry this has happened at Exeter and Peterborough. There is something about the rock-pool nature of cathedrals that lends them to dissension and controversy, and which I am afraid makes me recall Henry Kissinger’s acid aphorism about why it is that academic politics are so bitter.

Many years ago I recall a wonderful clergyman and friend, Derek Ingram Hill (often described as ‘Mr Canterbury’), saying that one of the things that made English cathedrals so interesting is that they retained their corporate identity, unlike their French counterparts where the chapters of yore had invariably been reduced to a single archpriest.

The rationale for the retention of chapters following the Reformation is that they would supply a stock of scholarly clergy who would be an example to their parochial colleagues. That ideal was followed only intermittently and, indeed, even after the Dean and Chapter Act 1840 (which reduced the size of almost all capitular bodies) many ‘residentiary’ clergy did not live up to their designation, and certainly did not engage in scholarly activity.

Given that many dioceses now have increasingly small numbers of stipendiary clergy I do not think it is plausible for many cathedrals to retain chapters of five or so clergy, especially since the Cathedrals Measure 1999 increased lay involvement in administration. Peterborough has a chapter of five (including one vacancy) with one minor canon (who also assists the bishop). I admit that one of the canons is incumbent of St John’s, but the diocese as a whole aims to maintain about 160 stipendiary clergy – for Northamptonshire, the Soke and Rutland. I am not certain a paid clerical establishment of that size is proportionate or appropriate (though it might have been until the 1980s) – especially since many stipendiaries are having to care for benefices of ten or more churches, many of which are of considerable architectural significance/cost.

Why not revert to pre-1840 practice with larger capitular bodies where canons/prebendaries live-in for a few weeks and then return to their parishes? The difference would be that they would live on their parochial stipends, with cover for board/lodging and travel. The only salaried priest would be the dean (like a French archpriest) and s/he would perhaps be the only permanent resident. It might bring the cathedral out to the diocese and the diocese into the cathedral. It might even make a bit of a saving.

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 8:32pm GMT

Also, having attended services at most English/Welsh cathedrals (and some Irish/Scots ones), and a great number of services at a few of them, I cannot help but note that the attendance statistics – which are so often trumpeted – might tend to flatter to deceive.

What I mean is that there are a few cathedrals which are very well attended, but there are a number (Peterborough?) which are not. I have noticed that churches like Canterbury and Westminster are very much better attended than they were twenty or thirty years ago. However, if you go to Westminster (say) – and I am counting it as a honorary cathedral – a great many of the mostly foreign attendees are just going there to see the interior, with embarrassing numbers of them gazing about a bit and leaving after a few minutes (and they will not have had to pay for having ‘attended’ evensong). Twenty five years ago I could often get a set in the choir stalls at Westminster during the week; now I would be lucky to land up in the space between the sanctuary and the choir, or not be banished to one of the transepts, or stuck under the dome at St Paul’s with its terrible acoustic – not that I mind[!] Thirty years ago in Canterbury an average weekday evensong might boast the choir, several of the clergy and twenty (or less) attendees – yet it seems really quite different now. This is all year round.

The numbers attending services at these famous churches must, I think, distort the surveys. We should not therefore assume that all cathedrals are ‘doing well’, and some cathedrals – especially the parish church cathedrals – will probably have only a limited ‘pull’.

Also, as to the Commissioners acting as lender of last resort, I am doubtful that the funds committed are likely to be repaid. Moreover, I would query whether the Commissioners’ subventions are only just since (as far as I am aware) a good deal of the property held by cathedrals was transferred to central funds in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as part of the wider redistribution of clerical wealth following the abolition of the ‘old corruption’.

Unlike many I am afraid that I have derived decreasing satisfaction from cathedral worship (often essentially liturgical concerts), and am more likely to gain greater solace in the less showy parish churches where I find it easier to think/pray.

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 11 January 2017 at 9:07pm GMT

Froghole, you put into words my feelings about cathedrals and the statistics concerning them that until i read your contribution were ill-formed in my mind, awaiting mental effort to put them in order. Thank you. Cathedrals and cathedral music, as examples of divine beauty, did much to bring me to where I am. But now aged 66 I find I can hardly bear to set foot in them. The often intrusive and pushy lay guides. The obtrusive displays that say how relevant 'we' are. The clutter, The portraits of the current bigwigs that make it all seem to be about them. These are four examples. As an ex cathedral choral scholar and assisting organist I find myself now ironically hardly being able to tolerate choral evensong - what you, Froghole, descibe as 'liturgical concerts' put on by those that have much for those that have much. The thing that jars most is not the poor diction of the readings, not the almost total lack of regional accents, not the lack of a brief (3 minutes will do) homily. It is the hoods of the choir members. Look at me, look at me, look at me. If you take away the tourists, I wonder if cathedrals are doing any better than parish churches, They certainly ought to be, given the amount of money that is thrown at them.

Posted by Fr William at Thursday, 12 January 2017 at 3:07pm GMT

Some very interesting comments.

I think Froghole's idea of rotating residency is a very good one. There will be pushback from married clergy for whom it will be inconvenient, but we need to get back to it being a clerical vacation rather than a job.

An enforced absence of a month or so from parish, would also be good at encouraging more lay activity at parish level - preferably lay celebration of the Eucharist.

I also agree with William's remarks about the self-importance of some cathedrals - but when surrounded by ostentatious burials of previous bishops it is hard not to be corrupted. I don't agree with William though that tourists do not count. Isn't that perfect mission?

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 12 January 2017 at 6:22pm GMT

Rotating residency was also the Biblical practice regarding attendance of priests in the temple.

Posted by T Pott at Thursday, 12 January 2017 at 7:32pm GMT

Some of Fr Williams' comments I think are spot on. A few responses : (1) A very short homily or else a good, simple introduction to each Lesson (such as I have encountered at Westminster) would be welcome and I think should be the norm. (2) I value Choral Evensong (and Choral Matins even more) but if we must have the Apostles' Creed, for the sake of those who attend who are "on the fringe" or agnostic, I think it should always be sung - suggesting its poetic, metaphorical character. (3) Although there are many fine settings for the versicles and responses, (as a not very musical, former Precentor) I think the ferial responses in which the people are able to join should normally be used - and a congregational hymn always included. (4) Preludes and postludes should be generally be quiet, and related as far as possible to other parts of Divine Service - without the loud, noisy, sometimes quite discordant concert pieces of the kind that at my dearly loved Durham once drove me out even before Evensong began, and which are especially common as postludes. Finally, (5) the wearing of hoods by choir members should be banned unless perhaps when they are hoods for musical degrees - even then hardly justifiable, and indeed not worn by the clergy if the hoods are not theological. Donald Robinson, a wise, former Archbishop of Sydney with deep liturgical (as well as Scriptural) knowledge, sadly now quite infirm, argued that such hoods should always be worn by the clergy or lay readers as a sign of their qualification to preach (not, of course, hoods in degrees with no relevance to the ministry of the word). But enough for now !

Posted by John Bunyan at Friday, 13 January 2017 at 9:49pm GMT

In re John Bunyan's dislike of the Apostles' Creed, he would have enjoyed the criticism I heard Lord Altrincham (aka John Grigg) express in a sermon at Gt St Mary's, Cambridge, 60 years ago: "It should just be 'I believe in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit'. You can leave out that medical report in the middle."

Posted by Michael Skliros at Sunday, 15 January 2017 at 6:36pm GMT
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