Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Benedictine hospitality

In Durham the notice ‘The Cathedral closes at 6.00 p.m.’ has been replaced with one which says ‘Welcome - the Cathedral is open until 6.00 p.m.’, one of the results of a walk round the building by senior figures asking themselves what impression it gives. It was one of the stories which Canon Rosalind Brown told at a Study Day in Lincoln yesterday.

She also talked about what for us is the hardy perennial of the unapproachability of the church door, not only because it looks heavy or noisy to open but because it can’t been seen through so the tentative visitor doesn’t know what he or she is walking into. When we leave St Nicolas’ open each day I’m always careful to leave it off the heavy latch and thus almost ajar, although often someone then carefully closes it. At St Michael’s I deeply regret that the intention to include an inner storm porch in the recent reordering (so that the main door could be left open) was a casualty of the funding limits which we encountered.

Her suggestion was that welcomers can always be stationed outside the door rather than just giving out books inside. It is one I might seriously take up; I’d need to get the fussing about robing and setting things up done to be out there twenty minutes before each service is due to begin.

Durham was a Benedictine house, and the Prior and some of the monks remained to become the first Dean and Chapter of the Reformation non-monastic Cathedral foundation, so it is interesting that someone who has lived in a Benedictine community is among those seeking to use insights from Benedict’s Rule to inform some of the choices being made about its life today.

The Study Day was really about priesthood and spirituality in this context (and I enjoyed the idea that the vow of ‘stability’ is more akin to staying upright moving forward on a surf board than being stuck in one place) but it was the practical hospitality tips which I took away.

Meanwhile, I slipped into Lincoln Cathedral while I was there and took some pictures including this one of a figure on the great screen which divides Nave and Choir.

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