Parish Magazine Article - October 2020
Hereford Cathedral has seen great upheavals during its 1300 year history. In 1055, when the Welsh invaded Hereford, the cathedral was sacked and burned and the cathedral clergy killed. Later, in 1349, Hereford City was gravely hit by the Black Death and here and across the diocese, over one quarter of all clergy died of the plague. The Reformation dealt a great blow to cathedral worship and although many of our treasures were spared, there was seismic change in the community and in our forms of worship. In the next century, the Commonwealth – the cathedral choir disbanded for fourteen years, only to be re-instated in 1661. The list continues – a huge disruption in the 1860s, when the cathedral, in a parlous state of repair, was closed for five years while restoration work took place, and the cathedral congregation worshipped at All Saints. The cathedral has seen more recent upheavals – the Mappa Mundi crisis of 1988-9 and in between all these major matters, the constant round of ‘ups and downs’ of life, as in any community.
And our story can be re-told in the parishes of the diocese. Like the Mother Church, parishes have seen major upheavals in their lives through the centuries and have been borne through them by faithful clergy and congregations.
Like you, we have been weathering the storm of COVID 19. It has brought huge challenges to us all – challenges to our worship and way of living and worshipping – nearly all our events planned for the celebrations surrounding the 700th anniversary of the canonisation of St Thomas of Hereford, have had to be cancelled. There have been challenges to our pastoral care; challenges to our finances. In the cathedral, we have had little or no visitor income for months and our commercial operations have been dormant, with several staff made redundant - and we expect to end the year with a £210,000 deficit. But thank goodness for faithful giving through the Parish Giving Scheme - this has continued throughout this difficult period and has enabled us to have a source of income on which we can rely. I hope and pray that you, too, have been able to rely on regular givers to continue to support your work and ministry, even in these difficult times.
What we all find difficult is the uncertainty – what will Christmas look like? How will we ever return to ‘normal’? You know what the 19th century Danish philosopher, Schopenhauer said? We live life forwards but understand it backwards. That’s why a sense of history is so important, whether it be in cathedral or parish – we look back to previous times of upheaval, and when we look, quietly and prayerfully, we so often find that God was there, supporting us, with His ‘everlasting arms’. As I write this, I have been thinking about the gospel for this Sunday, the ninth Sunday after Trinity, where Jesus bids Peter come to him – Peter sets out, but is overwhelmed by the tumultuous waves. It is Jesus’ words and actions which save him, re-assure him, encourage him. As we look back to our past, may we be even more aware of Jesus’ abiding care for us - may our God sustain us in this uncertain future and may He give us real hope for all that shall be.
God bless you all