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Pilgrim's Progress

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Spring forward…..

If you’ve been to the Cathedral recently, you’ll know that there is a lot going on.  And if I tell you that what you can see isn’t even the half of it, you’ll perhaps have some sense of how extraordinarily busy everyone involved with Pilgrim is at the moment.

Regular readers know that I frequently struggle to decide exactly what to focus on.  This month has been no different.  At one point I was considering an extended Springwatch metaphor:  the clocks have gone forward, the first of the planting is in and our shy conservation builders are about to emerge from their winter hibernation in the Lady Chapel.  Let’s take a closer look while they and cathedral staff and visitors learn to get along.  At another point, there was an equally tortured metaphor relating to spinning plates.  Their number (countless), type (the shallowest of bowls), contents (piping hot soup) and spacing (at the furthest flung corners of the earth) formed the basis of my 500 words.  

And as usual, I’ve pushed the deadline to the brink: comforting myself by managing to catch up with a seemingly endless number of large and small tasks, which are equally pressing but have somehow fallen off the to-do list, at the same time as testing the patience of colleagues whose job it is to ensure the monthly email update goes out on time.

There are typical moments in any project (construction or otherwise).  Highs and lows.  Looming and missed deadlines.  Crises.  And just occasionally, moments of revelation.  This month’s blog is strangely just such a moment for me.  Because this month, it’s shockingly clear that the reason it’s difficult to know exactly what to write about – and to find the time to do that, is because, in both scale and ambition, Pilgrim is transformational.

I think I’ve been under-selling what we’re trying to do here.  There’s good reason to play down the difficulty of living through Pilgrim: “The Cathedral’s been a building site for nearly 1,000 years” I say in an attempt to comfort colleagues.  Or “We’ve always had to manage the tension between worship, welcome and balancing the books” when I’m trying to reassure anyone (almost everyone, actually) who feels awkward helping us to use some of the amazing assets we have at the cathedral to raise much needed funds.

At the same time, we routinely talk about Pilgrim as “a once in a generation opportunity”.  And yet somehow, in repeating the phrase so frequently, the words have lost their meaning.  Because Pilgrim really is a once in generation opportunity.  If we get it right, there will be something for everyone: new and revitalised spaces and activities inside the cathedral and outside; improved facilities for our visitors which bring the cathedral’s stories to life but also make the links out to other places in the city and county; test case and best practice examples of how to look to the future without compromising the past.  Pilgrim is the start of things, not the end.

The Cathedral’s vision is to be in tune with Heaven and in touch with daily life.  Within our city, the Cathedral is of course a key place of worship.  But we’re also a focal point for heritage, economic, civic and community activity – and we have a vital role to play in this city’s future.  At a time when it is tempting to despair over decisions and actions at home and abroad, Pilgrim is about making connections, finding shared interests, learning how best to work with others and showing that change isn’t just possible but essential.


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