Home at the heart of the Cathedral family

Published on: 1 November 2018

Before I worked in a cathedral l had never considered what such a majestic building really meant. Visiting cathedrals as a child I remember feeling unnerved within vast, cold space, stunned by stained glass windows, bemused by weird smells and strange objects. I recall the word “Shush” being used a lot too.

Many years later it is easy to forget those first impressions and feelings. The space is now my comfortable, relaxing “norm” each day. In our ministry to families from the city, Diocese, county, UK and beyond we must be forever mindful that for many who enter our doors it is not always so.

A local Dad brought his son to a Norwich Cathedral family day recently. “We’re bored. Never been in here before,” he remarked. His son was unperturbed having immediately been drawn to rocket making activities! Dad lingered, staring. “What is all this? It’s mind-blowing. I can’t believe it. I do feel at home”, he said. We then entered into deep conversation. Taking a tablet from his rucksack he then said: “Son, write down everything we see”. Off they marched. I was glad he felt at home. The relaxed atmosphere of family day enabled this to happen. We were able to share the wonder.

Mother Teresa wrote: “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones back home”. St Benedict’s rule instructed the medieval monks who lived here to daily welcome each person who came through the Cathedral’s door as if he or she were Jesus. Our key aim is still to share the love of Jesus to all who make us their home, be it for an hour, a day or longer.

Sometimes we are sharing it with those for whom “home” may not be a happy place. My department has linked this summer with charities who support young people with emotional and psychiatric disabilities, who are trying to find safe spaces to “be”, grow and learn new skills in. It has been a privilege to first show hospitality then enable them to explore the place and their own feelings through drama and discussion in the cathedral.

Often parents and carers attending our Tots toddler group can struggle. Perhaps they cannot speak English confidently or feel daunted by the enormous space. With smiles, welcome, toys, singing, refreshments and relaxed prayer it is good to see them gradually feel at home.

Having our Chaplains on duty daily to chat with visitors, listen and pray with them is another valuable part of our ministry of welcome.

The late Cardinal Basil Hume wrote: “Our towns and cities are full of people who do not need our silver and gold, but desperately need to hear the good news of the Gospel. They are lame and crippled without God”.

Our challenge is to continually strive to offer new opportunities to share the Gospel so that all ages might feel part of our extended family, “at home” with Jesus, within our doors.

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A sense of belonging

Reflecting on home and family, I recall my own happy childhood when I naively believed everyone’s experience was similar. I was wrong. Family and home hold different meanings for people.


Faith at home

Research by the Church of England has highlighted that one of the most important factors in enabling children to continue in faith through to adulthood is the support they receive from their family – and yet the Faith in our families report published last year by Care for the Family showed a widespread lack of confidence in parents and a lack of tools to help.


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"Breaking down barriers and being a place that recognises that we're all unfit and need God and each other to get better"


Our house, in the middle of our street

Not content with opening their home to others, Sue and Gary Moore, member of the Church Army, have gone one stop further by purchasing a second home for the use of those living in their community near Dereham, and calling it 'Our House'. Biddy Collyer went to meet them.


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