A couple of deans have offered measured comments on Richard’s blogsite, and the Dean of Liverpool has written a longer, and in my view splendid, response in a blog of his own. In it, he invites Richard to experience for himself the extraordinary diversity of activity in that great cathedral comprehensively including prayer and pilgrimage, outreach, social care, the arts, Christian community and a whole lot else.
I want to ask a few questions of my own.
1. Isn’t Richard’s concept of how God speaks to human beings a bit selective and narrow? Doesn’t God make himself known in an infinite variety of ways, not simply through the spoken word (or even Word)? Cathedrals are numinous sacred spaces that speak of the divine not only through their buildings but also in the life and activity of their communities: daily prayer and worship, music and the arts, a common life of love and service, all of which play a part in building up the people of God and communicating faith.
2. Doesn’t Richard underestimate the key role liturgy plays in speaking of faith? Wesley called the eucharist ‘a converting ordinance’. Paul says that the breaking of bread is to ‘show forth the Lord’s death until he comes’ – show forth being a strong, outward-facing missionary word. He wants the church’s worship to be so compelling that guests coming in from outside have no choice but to conclude that ‘God is among you’. The huge investment of care that goes into cathedral worship is at the heart of our witness to the gospel. People have been converted through coming to midweek choral evensong. (You don’t believe me?)
Read it all.