Thinking Anglicans

Present and Future of English Cathedrals

The consultancy the Grubb Institute and the theology think tank Theos published a report on cathedrals in contemporary England: Spiritual Capital: the Present and Future of English Cathedrals earlier this week.

Church of England cathedrals have a unique and widely admired position within English society. Praised for their architectural magnificence, aesthetic appeal and historical significance, this report shows that their impact on and significance for English life extends far beyond their role as tourist destinations.

Based on an extensive and detailed research programme carried out by The Grubb Institute and Theos over 2011-12, Spiritual Capital looks at Cathedrals in contemporary England, assessing the breadth, depth and nature of their activity and appeal, with the objective of helping those who run and work in them to understand and respond better to the challenges of the 21st century.

You can download the report and the polling data.

Today’s Church Times has published this editorial What cathedrals are good at and this news article by Ed Thornton Cathedrals ‘appeal to non-religious’.

Other press reports include:

Nick Spencer in The Guardian about The cathedral as a broad church.

Ruth Gledhill in The Times Cathedrals are finding spirit of the age [republished by Theos]

John Bingham in the Telegraph ‘Pilgrimage’ makes 21st Century come-back as 11 million visit cathedrals

Philip Maughan in the New Statesman What are cathedrals for?

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Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
9 years ago

why are so many inaccessible and unfriendly?

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
9 years ago

Interesting piece in the Times today.
Guy went to Winchester where he would have had to pay had it not been closed to prepare for a Son et Lumière and even the Cathedral close was inaccessible because of filming!
Then to St David’s. Free and pleasant land!

Jeremy Pemberton
Jeremy Pemberton
9 years ago

Are they, Laurence? That is not our experience, I have to say. Visits this year to St Asaph, Wells and Chelmsford have all been notable for a sense of welcome.

Laurence C.
Laurence C.
9 years ago

Yes, trips to St. Asaph, Wells, Chelmsford, St. Paul’s and my ‘local’, Southwell this year have all been welcoming and accessible. As an atheist, I visit them for their historical and architectural interest and to attend secular concerts.

However, I was barely through the door of Coventry Cathedral when I was confronted by posters promoting a forthcoming gay-hate event starring Nazir-Ali. I stayed long enough to deface the posters and walked out.

David Lamming
David Lamming
9 years ago

Martin — But if you read the letter in tomorrow’s ‘The Times’, you will see that another reader’s experience last year was “the exact opposite: St Davids had a film being made and large parts were inaccessible while Winchester was open.”

Richard Ashby
Richard Ashby
9 years ago

I know that that is not true at Chichester too, judging by the comments of visitors (and we are free too and you don’t get overwhelmed by large notices demanding you give).

Father Ron Smith
9 years ago

In Christchurch, New Zealand, where our earthquake damaged Cathedral is no longer the living heart of our city, we have been forced into new, pragmatic understandings of what a cathedral really means to the local people. It seems that, only when it is no more, the cathedral assumes an extraordinary focus for local – and more vocally widespread – discussion of its importance. What we, in Christchurch, have been forced to think about is: should we struggle to resurrect the Cathedral as it was – a replica of the neo-gothic original – or should we take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to… Read more »

rjb
rjb
9 years ago

I have never found any English cathedral unfriendly or unwelcoming – unlike a major London church I could name. I am especially grateful to cathedrals like Chichester, Durham, Southwark, Worcester, and Wells, which don’t request money from visitors (or at least none of those ones did on my last visit).

Randal Oulton
Randal Oulton
9 years ago

Looks like a relatively pricey study; wonder where the Foundation for Church Leadership and Association of English Cathedrals got the funding for it.

rjb
rjb
9 years ago

@ Fr Ron Part of the issue, surely, is that most of the modern Anglican cathedral buildings in Aotearoa New Zealand are just so – well – dreadful. Holy Trinity in Auckland, in particular, is a ghastly study in what a priest I once met called ‘Pacific Stalinism.’ Not helped, of course, by the fact that the diocese ran out of money half way through and decided to tack on an ugly and inappropriate rear end to the pantomime horse. And then there’s the pink elephant, of course, in Wellington, looking more like a power station than a church. No… Read more »

JEAN MAYLAND
JEAN MAYLAND
9 years ago

I have long said that Cathedrals have a huge part to play in reaching out to those on the edge. If they charge for entry they turn themsleves into museums instead of ‘holy places’. I hope and pray that York and those which charge will find other ways of raising the necessary money and be open, free and welcoming. York used to be like that when my husband was Canon Treasurer and it can be again.

Brian Ralph
Brian Ralph
9 years ago

rjb Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am impressed with both Auckland and Wellington Cathedrals. They are representative of a new country not the old. I love visiting the cathedrals of England but also am mindful of the costs involved built at times of much poverty. I cried as I watched on TV as the Christchurch Cathedral fell down on Feb 22, 2011, it was a beautiful cathedral but I was chastised by my sister who pointed out that people were killed in that terrible event, thankfully, despite fears, not in the cathedral. We live in… Read more »

Father David
Father David
9 years ago

I remember a comment in Bill Bryson’s book “Notes from a Small Island” where he wrote of Durham – “The best cathedral on planet earth, bar none.” With that sentiment, I cannot disagree.

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