Durham Cathedral in Mission
Each year, the Chapter reviews the Cathedral's mission and, with the adoption of a Development Plan, has focused its attention on ensuring that our development serves our mission.
As a Cathedral, we are caught up in God's mission and even individual actions that are not seen mission in themselves are nevertheless part of making the love of God known. There will always be creative questions about how we are sent in mission while our life is focused on an historic building that dominates everything. It can help to recall At the heart of the dismissal at the end of the Eucharist, ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord' is the theological insight that what we do in our daily lives is of a piece with our worship and our particular actions will embody our overall mission. The "After Sunday" project is a practical expression of this.
There is a close relationship between the Cathedral's mission and its Development Plan and so we have considered mission under the headings of the Development Plan. From our Purpose Statement, our mission includes:
- Being Anglican, being the shrine of St Cuthbert, being a living centre of prayer, pilgrimage and presence, welcoming people whatever their faith.
- Being a sacred space.
- Being a sign of the presence of God in the world.
- Being a place where daily prayer and praise are offered.
- Being a place of hospitality and sanctuary.
- Bearing witness to the gospel through evangelism, service, environmental and social responsibility, practical care for those in need.
- Encouraging and supporting pilgrimage and spiritual formation
- Being a focus for adult and children's Christian education, for theological reflection, intellectual engagement in the region in partnership with the university and diocese.
- Supporting the bishop and diocese in mission
- Collaborating ecumenically with churches in the region
- Conserving, developing and interpreting the historical buildings, fabric and artefacts
- Celebrating human creativity through music and the arts
- Promoting the welfare of the city, county and region in partnership with others
Heritage and Conservation
It has been said that “Cathedrals are wonderful places to demonstrate how God acts in history” (Robert Jeffery, “Cathedrals, Mission in Reverse” in Ian Mackenzie (ed) “Cathedrals Now” Canterbury Press 1996). They point us to something bigger than ourselves, in relation to God, history and a wider community. We want to help people see and be changed by what they see, not just to be spectators. This affects the way we care for and interpret the cathedral as an historic building; we encourage children to engage with it, the guides (human and literary), exhibitions and Benedictine days help to bring it alive, the chaplains are on hand to help people for whom their visit raises questions of faith. We should let the Cathedral speak for itself as a Christian building rather than over-interpret it, and introduce people to the building and then let it do its own work with them. Art in the cathedral has a place in this, illustrating gospel themes and stories. At present, things that are on the agenda include revisions to improve our signage and an introduction to the Christian faith through the symbolism of the building
Worship and Music
This building was built for worship and breathes an atmosphere of prayer. It is most itself when it is prayed in and our priority in mission is that this is first and foremost a place of worship. If it not, it loses its raison d'être and becomes merely an historic building. We know that many people do pray while here, and often find themselves remembering their dead. Our use of large amounts of Psalmody gives people permission to bring their questions, lament and rejoicing to God. Matins and Evensong allow people to sit and ‘be' rather than ‘do', but Cathedral worship can be inaccessible and the Evensong leaflet and Chapter Corporate Eucharist leaflet are important in helping people to enter into our worship, as is the guidance on prayer at the votive candle stands.
Things on the agenda include further help with prayer, worship, and understanding the Christian faith, finding a role for our young people in worship, our ongoing ministry to the bereaved or those who find themselves remembering their dead when they visit
Learning and Discovery
All sorts of people come through our doors. Much of Jesus' ministry happened in conversation around tables and the restaurant allows for this, as do events like student and congregational refreshments and the presence of chaplains, stewards, Bedesmen, guides and Christian Listeners in the Cathedral day in, day out, and of the Chapter members and clergy after services. Our model is Jesus' encounter with disciples on the Emmaus Road - that questions raised by the events of life can be aired and answered in a way that leads to revelation and discovery. Our emphasis is to aid people's discovery rather than give quick answers. We have short term contact with visitors who come at all places on the spectrum of commitment and our evangelism is moving people on in the right direction, not necessarily getting them to sign up immediately. 10.05, our preaching, one-off study days, graduates' open evening, and the approach of the Education Department with children all fit this model. Discussions are beginning with other churches in Durham about our participation with them in youth work which has a similar philosophical underpinning.
Current issues include the new developments in youth work, discussions with the Diocese about hosting learning and discovery events and consideration of events that nurture discipleship.
Engagement and outreach
People come to the cathedral; unlike most churches we don't have to persuade them to come. We have a role as a flagship for all the Durham churches but that does not mean we monopolise or compete: we are not and never will be a parish church. People of no faith or other faiths come because we are a cathedral, many because of Cuthbert. Others come in time of disaster or distress and we have to be aware of different expectations about how we will respond at these times.
To many people Cathedrals are essentially institutions and this may be particularly relevant in relation to our civic role where we proclaim certain values in society but are not trying to recruit for our own purposes. There are times - the Miner's Festival service, Matins for the Courts, the DLI service, some Carol services - when our mission requires us to be an institution. This also comes into play in our relationship with the University and current and future local authorities. Our involvement with Durham Prison and the emergence of a Prison Awareness Group is a growth area in this aspect of our mission. The question is whether we are a life-giving institution and whether we use our influence, even our power, as an institution to challenge things that need to be challenged in a way that other people or organisations cannot.
Relevant issues include our relationships with civic institutions, Durham Prison and the University. Other areas include the role of Minor Canons and After Sunday, the possibility of establishing some sort of resource bank / data base of skills that are available within the Cathedral community which could be offered to others, and the aspiration to fund a post for some form of community outreach and mission in co-operation with the Diocese.
The focus of our mission
We cannot do everything. Our main mission fields appear to be:
- our regular congregations, which are mixed
- our staff and volunteers
- our visitors, including people who come to see the building, on pilgrimage, in distress or seeking help, for a particular event which is being held in the cathedral, to hear the choir sing Choral Evensong, to civic services
- local people who love the cathedral but are not members of a local church
- children and young people who come in educational groups
- elderly or sick people who can no longer come to the cathedral but were part of the cathedral community
- employees and volunteers in the civic institutions in the city and region
- people who are interested in the Benedictine tradition and in the Northern Saints
- overseas students and people of other faiths - in terms of explaining the Christian faith to them, perhaps using the building to do so
We have the opportunity to be a place of welcome for all people who come, without making demands on them but nevertheless challenging them with the gospel, which we can proclaim in many different ways, and nurturing people's faith. We are a place where people can be anonymous or involved; the initial welcome people are given, both by the building and by the people, is vital in freeing people to find new life and hope through being part of the Cathedral community, whether that is for a few minutes or a lifetime.
Jesus, Lord and Master, who served your disciples in washing their feet: serve us often, serve us daily, in washing our motives, our ambitions, our actions; that we may share with you in the mission to the world and serve others gladly for your sake; to whom be glory for ever. Amen. — Michael Ramsey