February 2017: The year of living dangerously

The year of  living dangerously

I’ve always thought of Pilgrim as a journey. 

I talked about it in exactly those terms when I was interviewed by the Dean for the position of Project Manager over two and a half years ago.  You’ve no idea how far you can extend a metaphor (destinations, vaccinations, cancelling the milk and collecting souvenirs were only some of the stops in my stream of consciousness ramblings) when you really, really, really want to be part of something amazing.  But since returning to work following the Christmas break there can be absolutely no pretending that we are in any way still preparing for this adventure.

If our journey is about conserving the fabric of this ancient building and improving the setting, the fact that we have contractors on site as I write means we either get it right (right now) or we miss the chance altogether. And if our journey is about attracting new and different types of visitors to the Cathedral and linking a more meaningful experience (for them) with a more generous average donation (for us)?  Timewise, I think we have a little more time to work through the difficulties implicit in that proposition. 

But what if it’s about both?  If the future is as important as the fabric and if we give in to the understandable temptation to spend every minute ensuring that we improve the fabric without anyone even noticing they’re in the middle of a building site, then the real risk is that we end up with a beautiful building, a fabulous new Cathedral Green, the minimum of disruption along the way …. but exactly where we started out in terms of who comes to the Cathedral and what they do when they get here! 

Of course there’s nothing “wrong” with the 400,000 people who come to Gloucester Cathedral each year.  There’s nothing “wrong” with our 500 volunteers.  There’s nothing “wrong” with the fact that we will not charge for entry.  In fact, even though it’s extremely disappointing, there’s not even anything “wrong” with the fact that our average visitor donation remains stubbornly below 40p.  The issue is more about who doesn’t come (or volunteer) or at least who doesn’t come (or volunteer) in the numbers you’d expect if we were appealing to a broad and representative demographic.  And since Gloucester Cathedral is no different than the rest of the world in the need to balance its income and expenditure, whether it’s “wrong” or not, we have no choice but to find a way to increase the funds available to us. 

We have always seen Pilgrim as our generation’s key opportunity to challenge and change things at Gloucester Cathedral.  And since we’re nearly a third of the way through the Pilgrim journey, despite the distractions our current building works represent, we have to find the time and the strength of character needed to make those fundamental changes this year.

In case I’ve not been clear enough, this part of the journey is likely to be hard for almost everyone involved.  But I wholeheartedly believe that preserving, sustaining and developing what the Cathedral represents to Gloucester is worth every one of the challenges and the difficult conversations which we must now face.  It’s the mother church of the Diocese but it’s also the city’s “anchor” tenant and the county’s leading visitor destination.  It’s a place made special by 1,000 years of worship, music and education (by definition a place of great spiritual significance) but it’s also a place of exceptional beauty and history and a testament to the potential within each of us.

Welcome to Gloucester Cathedral in this year of transformation.  We hope you enjoy the journey.

Don't forget you can follow our progress in real time via Twitter on @ProjectPilgrim1



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