on Thursday, 29 July 2021 at 7.22 pm by Peter Owen
categorised as Church of England
The Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, has announced his intention to retire in September 2022. Dr David Ison will be 68, and will have served at the Cathedral for ten years.
The announcement can be read on the websites of the Diocese of London and of St Paul’s Cathedral.
David will be missed.
‘This means there will be no long gap between one dean and another…’ I am tempted to add ‘Don’t count your chickens…’ and all that. Anyone who really wants to be Dean of St Paul’s is either exceptionally resilient or needs years of therapy. I know David Ison has moved things along from what they were a decade and more ago (and all credit to Graeme Knowles for grasping nettles, that his predecessor would not grasp, during his regrettably short tenure); but it always seems like two steps forward and three steps back. Until the Masonic influence and vested interests… Read more »
Ref “those silly men in morning dress who make going to St Paul’s such an unpleasant experience”.
My husband David is quite proud of the fact that he was thrown out of St Paul’s for laughing too loudly.
Not just me then.
A few years ago I took a teacher from Tanzania – over on a diocesan exchange – to London for the day. He had never before experienced English December temperatures and was struggling. We ended the day with Choral Evensong at St Paul’s. On the way to our seats he was asked to remove his wooly hat and spent the service – in spite of my advice to take no notice and wear it – both embarrassed and miserably freezing. I was fuming.
David Ison seems lovely – I hope things have improved.
“whose money will fill the black hole needed to support the fabric and music?”
Cathedrals across Europe cope, but St Paul’s has two peculiarities.. Firstly, unlike most cathedrals, it is located in the richest square mile on Earth. Secondly, unlike most cathedrals, there is an £18 admission fee.
“who will provide the volunteers?”
£18 !!! So the poor are not welcome then. Do they have free days when those on modest incomes can visit?
Cathedrals across Europe get considerable state aid for their fabric, along with EU heritage funding. How do you imagine it has been possible to make such speedy headway on the renovations at Notre Dame here in Paris? This could account for the £18 admission charge to St Paul’s, although I find it completely distasteful. I agree that the atmosphere for worship in St Paul’s on Sundays has been abysmal in the past, although I’ve not been for several years. The emphasis seemed to be on errecting barriers and having to justify your presence to one of those ‘silly men.’ Contrary… Read more »
I’ve encountered nothing but a cordial welcome at St Paul’s and the Abbey. There’s no admission fee if you turn up for a service at either place. Just pop a fiver in the collection plate when it’s passed round, or whatever you can afford. Or go on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday and it’s free all day. An order of service handed out to pilgrims on arrival makes it easy to follow the liturgy, especially for those whose first language isn’t English – an ideal souvenir. A most agreeable and spiritually uplifting way to spend an hour awaits those who… Read more »
Glad your experiences at St Paul’s have been better than mine, Andrew. Only in the last fortnight, as I arrived for the Eucharist, I was asked aggressively ‘and where do you think you’re going?’
But, as I often tell people, if you want good choral music and unhindered access to worship in London, all in an atmosphere of prayerful simplicity, go to Westminster Cathedral. It feels like a church.
My experience is that Catholic churches nearly always feel like churches. And smell like them, and feel prayed in, and look out to the the locality and the catholic world. No exhibitions of “relevance”, no entertainments, no in-yer-face “welcomers”. Just a sense of the Divine.
It was at Westminster Cathedral, back in 1986, that the late Jennifer Bate gave the critically-acclaimed British première of Olivier Messiaen’s monumental work for organ – Livre du Saint-Sacrement – which she recorded at his own church, l’Église de la Sainte-Trinité, Paris. It’s a remarkable CD. In what seems like an eternity ago now, my last visit to St Paul’s was on Ash Wednesday last year, shortly before the pandemic took hold. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Nothing like that has ever happened to me. Perhaps the mid-week experience is more egalitarian. I was in the City for… Read more »
Yes, Andrew. During the week, after the tills are put away at around 4.15pm, getting to Evensong in St Paul’s is, relatively speaking, much more humane. Sunday is a nightmare. ‘Silly Men in Suits’ doesn’t begin to describe it. Obsequiousness with barely controlled aggression is probably closer to the mark. If Westminster Cathedral can get this right, by simply opening the doors and allowing people to come in for prayer and worship, why can’t St Paul’s and the Abbey? It simply smacks of control. What gets me is the way they stand right over you, talking loudly to one another… Read more »
Westminster Cathedral is presumably not a target for mass tourism in the way that St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey are.
Indeed, my recollection of attending weekday evensong frequently at the abbey and St Paul’s in the 1990s is that it was a pleasurable experience, aided by the relative ease with which it was possible to get a decent seat in the stalls, even if I arrived at the last minute. Since the end of the 1990s the experience became a lot more fraught, with crowds of tourists, who were there mostly so that they could get into both buildings without paying. In the abbey most of the tourists would be packed into the transepts, where the view of the ‘action’… Read more »
I should add that there is the famous description of Paul’s walk in John Earle’s ‘Microcosmographie’ (1628): “It is an heape of stones and men, with a vast confusion of languages, and were the steeple not sanctified, nothing liker Babell. The noyse of it is like that of bees, an humming buzze mixed with walking tongues, and feet. It is a kind of still rore, or loude whisper. It is the greate exchange of all discourse, and noe business whatsoever but it is here stirring and on foote. It is the Synode of all pates politicke, jointed and layed together… Read more »
Except, Simon, there isn’t much mass tourism in the immediate post-pendemic era; but still St Paul’s manages to be able to mobilise the cast of Dad’s Army to make getting to worship on Sundays a thoroughly disagreable experience. Obviously, St Paul’s hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that more people seem to want to worship in the Cathedrals these days, so they are doing their best to make it ‘business as usual’ where anyone having the courage to cross the door for the first time in their lives will never want to come back again.
On the plus side Dean Wesley Carr introduced his “Restoring the Calm” initiative attempting to make the Abbey feel more like a sacred space than a cattle market. His successor John Hall, now retired to Chichester, was a superb dean – always friendly and welcoming possessing a great dignity.
During the vacancy between Wesley Carr and John Hall I was invited to stay at the Abbey by an old colleague. A verger accosted me, “And just where do you think you’re going?”
“Is this how you address your new Dean?” I replied. Rudeness straight away turned to toadying. Of the two I preferred the former.
Whilst much work has been undertaken on the estates of Westminster Abbey, most notably by Harvey (1977) and Sullivan (1994), it is not clear to me what the fate of those properties was following the Reformation. Some clues are provided in the VCH volumes for Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Worcestershire, for example: that abbey lands were appropriated by the crown upon the dissolution and then re-granted to the new dean and chapter; they were appropriated again by parliamentary commissioners in 1650, restored after 1660, and commonly held on long leases, these being acquired by freehold title after the middle of the… Read more »
Wildland was another prebend in Tillingham. I should clarify that there is no separate detailed discussion of the abbey’s property in the Cannadine volume, nor in the Jenkyns volume (2011), or that of Betjeman, Clark and Pope-Hennessy (1972). I should also add that the 1840 Act applied to Westminster (or, to put it another way, there was no evident derogation from that statute with respect to the abbey). The question is what quid pro quo the abbey received from the suppression of six of its stalls and the presumed application of its revenues elsewhere. In 1867 an order in council… Read more »
With regard to the alternative ecclesiastical venue in Town – Westminster Abbey – i was once told off by the Cartwheeling Verger for looking through my binoculars at the stained glass windows before the start of Evensong. I could see signs prohibiting the use of cameras but there was no sign prohibiting the use of binoculars. Surely cartwheeling is more appropriate in a circus rather in the sacred space where countless Coronations have taken place?
Fr. David will be sorely missed in his eirenic term at Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Presumably (though, perhaps, I shouldn’t presume), David Ison’s announcement means that he does not intend to stand for re-election as one of the three ‘southern deans’ in the House of Clergy of General Synod. (As at dissolution on 12 July 2021, the other two were Andrew Nunn (Southwark) and Jane Hedges (Norwich).)
Folks who would like to attend services at St Paul’s Cathedral and not pay the £18 admission charge are invited to attend two full days of worship at St Paul’s in the 1620’s, absolutely free, by visiting the website of the Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral Project website, here <https://vpcathedral.chass.ncsu.edu/>. In this digital reconstruction of the pre-Fire Cathedral, under the Services and Locations tabs, you will find all the services for Easter Sunday 1624, including Morning Prayer, the Great Litany, Holy Communion (with an Easter Day sermon by Lancelot Andrewes), and Evensong (with the sermon John Donne preached on that day… Read more »