Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nearly there

Cathedral Christmasses are both greater and, in some ways, less than their parish equivalents.
I've been reflecting on this over the past few days - and trying to work out exactly why.
In terms of the sheer quantity of services, it's not dissimilar - though there are larger numbers involved, of course. I think the crux of it may be that we don't travel in community with most of those who visit us during Advent.
They come, with schools to the Christingle services - but these are not schools we visit weekly.
They queue for a couple of hours to join in the big BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Carol Service - and it's wonderful to think of the wider congregation who will listen to that service at home today or tomorrow - but in that huge crowd, there aren't many familiar faces.
They will come, please God, to share in the children's Journey to Bethlehem this afternoon, when several hundred of us tell the story together and discover once again why the events of 2000 years ago are part of our life today - but the hundreds of children present will not be part of our journey onwards into the coming year.

Cathedrals, it seems, practice vicarious religion even more than other places.

We are all about the big celebration, about providing space for all comers to bring their hopes and fears, dreams and sorrows into God's presence - and giving them a language to express that...often speaking or indeed singing for them.
But of all those people with whom we engage during December, only a handful will be friends and fellow-travellers at other times. - and that does change the dynamics rather.
As it happened, the Dean did not use that Bidding that talks of those "on another shore and in a greater light" at the Candlelit Carol service - but if he had, we would not really have known who most of the congregation were holding in their thoughts at that point.
Of course this is also true Sunday by Sunday.
The glorious eclectic mixture of people who appear for the Cathedral Eucharist varies so much from week to week that it's never easy to feel that you know what they are bringing with them to the altar, what joy or brokenness is to be gathered up for transformation by the touch of God's love...
But at a season that, at its best, turns outsiders into insiders and strangers into family, I'm extra conscious of it.

It's neither better nor worse - just different...and behind all this reflecting there is always the knowledge that we are there to make community for any and everyone...whether we know their story and their needs or not.
We are there to welcome them as God does...and it's a really helpful reminder for me that what matters is that they have a relationship with HIM...not me, as His priest.
I often talk about the need to get out of the way when I'm presiding - so, now I come to think of it, being here in the Cathedral is actually a gift that enables that.

Sometimes, you know, I can be distressingly slow on the uptake!

Time to gather myself for the Journey to Bethlehem.
See you there....

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