The Dean's Reflection with the Very Rev John Dobson
We could be forgiven for thinking that the cathedral city that has had most to celebrate in recent weeks is Leicester. Who could have predicted that Leicester City would surpass the expectations that gave odds of 5,000 to 1 in winning the Premier League? All of this gives a false impression. Surely, the cathedral city that has celebrated most over the last couple of weeks is Ripon. We have much to celebrate!
There has been the Mayor Making and the installation of Councillor Adrian Morgan as the 413th Mayor in our 1,344-year-old Cathedral.
This shows the strong desire for the church and community to work together for the benefit of all. We have also been celebrating with the Royal Engineers.
It is 300 years since King George I issued the warrant that established the Engineers as a separate corp.
As Lieutenant General Sir Mark Mans wrote in the foreword to the cathedral band concert programme, “Sappers continue to be at the forefront of campaigns and deployments, enabling and supporting all elements of the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces.” He also mentioned how proud the Royal Engineers are to have the Freedom of this city.
We have also been celebrating at the cathedral as we launched a new vision for future development. The Bank Holiday weekend saw a four-day long festival: Ripon Cathedral Revealed, with many hundreds of people coming from across the region. There were spectacular flower displays; wonderful music; opportunities to learn about parts of the Cathedral that are seldom seen; plenty of food and drink, including the annual beer festival. People had a go on the organ, climbed the tower, tried the mini-ring; viewed the paintings and manuscripts, made thousands of Yorkshire roses… and much more. There were some great services, including a Songs of Praise that spanned the year in less than an hour. It seemed odd singing a Christmas carol in May!
The festival was also a celebration of the congregation members, staff and volunteers who contribute to the cathedral’s mission.
Quite appropriate, as we launched the Cathedral’s new vision and strategy: Growing God’s Kingdom.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the cathedral is keen to follow Jesus Christ. He taught his disciples to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, and he showed what living in God’s kingdom looks like. He wanted people to be at one with God and each other; to be their best selves, free to enjoy life to the full – both on earth and in heaven.
When we at the cathedral talk about Growing God’s Kingdom, then, we mean we want to help this become a reality for the people of this city and region. The printed brochure, Growing God’s Kingdom, briefly explains the ways in which we plan to move things forward. Please, call in at the cathedral and take a copy. It explains that there are four main areas.
The first area of work is growing our congregations numerically and spiritually. Unless the cathedral is a healthy church, it cannot serve the Diocese and region. I’m pleased to say that cathedral congregations are growing and we are doing more to support both adults and young people who want to grow in faith.
The second area of work relates to the magnificent building. This is a great place to visit for many reasons, some religious, others not. It is also a wonderful venue for concerts and art exhibitions. Thousands of people, of course, are attracted to it because it is a sacred place that speaks to them of the presence and activity of God in their lives and of the hope that the Christian faith can offer in every situation.
For the benefit of those who come for both religious and none-religious reasons, we need to safeguard our great heritage, tell our inspiring stories and provide buildings and facilities that are fit for purpose in the twenty-first century. The developments that we are proposing will enable the cathedral to do even more to serve the city, the churches and communities of the region, and to support the region’s economy and tourism.
The third area is serving the Bishop in the Church’s mission to the region and the fourth area is about engaging with the issues and needs of the world. Both of these encourage the cathedral to engage more with rural communities and rural issues; to serve the military communities of North Yorkshire; to extend our outreach with education and music; and to work in partnership with others to respond to human need, not least in Ripon.
This is an exciting and comprehensive vision for a cathedral that is delighted to be set in the heart of North Yorkshire and is keen to serve the people and communities of the whole region. Do come and find out more.