Synod September 2015 was something I attended with very mixed feelings. I was very sad that the Synod service was not held at the Cathedral and throughout the course of Synod had various people ask me why not. Nonetheless I think the service at St Matthews went well and it was certainly a far more comfortable rendezvous than the Cathedral: I mean, cushioned seats, and on a wild freezing night, a heating system so efficient that you had to shed coats!
Looking back over a year I recall that the 2014 Synod was held in Oamaru and how I returned from that thinking the feel of the Diocese was changing. As a result at the Cathedral AGM earlier this year I opened the Dean's Report with something of a little parable.
When I returned from Synod last year I wondered what images I might use to describe our Cathedral in the life of the Diocese. While it is customary to speak of a Cathedral as the ‘Mother Church’ for the Diocese - an endearing metaphor which envisages the Cathedral as a ‘hub’ for the diocesan family – and although I think the image still has value, the reality is not so simple.
We are all familiar with how the patterns and fortunes of family life have changed over time: so it is with our diocese.
Consider this as a nascent parable: “There was once an extended family that decided, on purely practical grounds, to no longer centre their family affairs about the grand old family home in the city centre but instead to build a suite of offices in the suburbs; though the old home continued to be admired by visitors, with the passage of time and infrequency of its use by the family, some of the family came to see it as an imposing but impractical asset in a prime location…”
Although there are many ways this parable might be enriched and developed, the question it highlights is how this Cathedral community and the Diocese imaginatively grasp the future and value (or not) what it means to be or to have a Cathedral. With that in mind I note that the forthcoming Diocesan ministry conference in May is on mission and the elusive subject of ‘Future Church’. We should take nothing for granted ...
This Sunday, many months since writing that, over coffee after the Choral Eucharist I greeted some groups of travelling students from the USA and Germany . They came because we are the Cathedral ... this place is central and symbolically an eloquent statement of the church and its presence as a diocese.
Of course the Diocesan Office is another symbol - but very different. I have asked the Diocesan Manager for information on the costs of running the office and having money tied up in the building; I have been assured that these matters are all under review. I doubt that visitors such as I met this Sunday will seek out the Diocesan Office in Green Island.