The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activities and meetings geared toward familiarizing myself with the Cathedral and the Diocese of Liverpool. I never realized how busy a Cathedral can be! The visitors who have come to encounter the great building that is our Cathedral are truly only the surface of that business, which is really saying something if you consider the scads of folks who come and take in the great windows, light candles, or stay for Evensong.
I probably have used the phrase “baptism of fire” to death during the last two weeks to describe the effect of my role in the preparations for the great “Service to mark the beginning of the Legal Year,” or as it is known colloquially, the Judges’ Service.
The US doesn’t have a State Church like the UK—by design—so the prospect of legal officials coming officially to the Cathedral initially sounded unfamiliar to me. But Her Majesty is head of both Church and State in this country, and I’m beginning to see how the two institutions interact, at least from a Cathedral perspective. To the Judges’ Service come local and some national legal figures, judges, the Lord Mayor, High Sheriff, and Lord Lieutenant, and others for a very elaborate service of Morning Prayer in full gowns, robes, wigs, and great Anglican Cathedral pomp and ceremony. In the weeks preceding the service on the 13th of October, I had the privilege to assist the Dean’s Office in preparation and eventually made probably 150 name and place cards in order to facilitate the seating of visiting dignitaries. In addition, each group of legal officials needed a room in the Cathedral in which to put on and divest of the aforementioned wigs and robes, which meant robing location signs needed to be printed, laminated, and put up around the Cathedral, along with signs organizing the procession into the service. It took two weeks to put all of this material together, and I showed up at half seven on the 13th to put everything up in its proper place, then regain my composure to assist seating guests to their precise seat allocation before the service started. And hope that my composure was enough to get me through reading two of the prayers in the Service itself.
Any and all work of Liverpool Cathedral and the Diocese of Liverpool is mission work. Cleaning floors, setting the Credence table, writing a communications brief, or making place cards is all mission work, work that helps facilitate the encounter between the people that come through our doors and the God who knows and loves all of us. All of the work we do is to the glory of God, and in a context where some folks might not have any other connection to the Church or any spirituality in their lives. I am indeed a missionary among missionaries here in Liverpool, with a common task: to make Christ known in word and deed. It is a privilege and honour to live here and to serve here.
Another opportunity I have had is to sit in and participate in the meeting of the Cathedral’s Learning Community Rural Ministry Conference that took place in the Cathedral this past week. It was, quite literally, a meeting of the minds: Academics, parish priests seeking professional development, and ecumenical representatives met and presented work which ranged from research on church closure to parish studies to tourism. What I found most interesting and intriguing about this conference was its intentionality around how members interacted with each other and react to each other’s presented work: with “intelligent kindness.” That is, while being honest and inquisitive, members were mindful of others’ vulnerability, and shared feedback with the goal of building up one another’s work in addition to the drive to continue that work.
If I’m honest, the ideals of the conference were one of the most profound articulations of the Christian way of life I’ve encountered in the academy. In both the academic and wider world, interaction can so often be just plain nasty. Christians, in response to the call of Christ, act first and foremost with love in a world that is in so desperate need of it. This is another part of our collective mission to be Christ’s presence in the world.
One thing I have heard from several people around the Cathedral and Diocese is that no two days are alike, that there is always something new and different and interesting happening. This is most certainly true, and find this general bustle and business around this corner of the Church something that keeps me on my toes in the best way possible. That’s exactly what a missionary needs—an engaging environment that always brings something new. Thanks be to God.
One final note: the music nerds among the readers of this blog (you know who you are) may be interested in the music and worship life of Liverpool Cathedral. In the attempt to satiate your curiosity, I will direct you to the Cathedral Services schedule that has all of the information for service times & music selections: http://www.liverpoolcathedral.org.uk/home/worship-here/regular-services.aspx.
Thanks for reading this update on my missionary blog! I’m a missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in Liverpool, UK. Make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the home page to get an email when I next post an update. God bless, and thank you!
Eager to read more? Check out the “Meet the YASCers” page of the website of the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) of the Episcopal Church to find the blogs of my missionary colleagues: https://www.episcopalchurch.org/YASC/meet-yascers.