I’m wrong about Cathedrals

Having complained about cathedral access I started to think about possible uses for a cathedral:-
  1. A rather lovely tourist attraction
  2. A place of divine worship (in the “holding services” sense)
  3. A Parish Church for the whole Diocese
  4. An educational establishment, particularly a schools’ resource
  5. A meditative quiet space
  6. A concert arena
  7. A meeting place
  8. A centre for musical excellence
  9. Storage for valuable church plate for parishes

One space can’t be all of these things at the same time.  A concert arena (depending on the programme) is unlikely to be a quiet meditative space.  Somewhere being used for a school’s educational event may not be available for guided tours.  And so on.  These different uses have different levels of exclusivity.  If a concert is being held at £40 per ticket (for example that was the cost of staying overnight at the recent Winchester Organathon, raising money for a Cathedral Choral Foundation), then wherever it is held, those who have paid for the experience are not going to be happy at “their” experience being shared with those who have not paid, but have wandered in to pray, or to meet friends.

What does it say to a tourist (whether from Japan or Pontefract) if they have to pay for entry, while someone else is let in free of charge because they happen to live more locally?  In thinking more about entry fees for cathedrals, I tried considering them as oversized Parish Churches.  We charge for entry to flower festivals, to concerts, and to fetes/fairs (which may not necessarily be held in one of the churches).  Our churches are normally locked, so no-one can get in them unless there is a service, or an event, or someone happens to be cleaning or arranging flowers or practicing the organ….

Is this where the argument around my plea falls down?  That anyone from anywhere should be able to walk into a cathedral, to look at it, to sit in it, to pray in it without having to pay anything?  Because that doesn’t happen in our parishes, although I am aware (and thankful) that it does in many.

So I had a very rough cut look at our finances in one parish. Just under half our income is from giving either by regular direct debt or in the plate.  Chichester Cathedral (which doesn’t charge for entry, but suggests an appropriate donation) gets about 5% congregational giving,  Winchester 2% and St Paul’s around 4%, Coventry about 10%.  (All these figures are as far as I can determine off the relevant Cathedral report for 2010.)

So, I am wrong.  Cathedrals have to focus on their visitors and their property/investments, because that’s how they survive.  I don’t want to be wrong about this, because I want to be able to wander in and out of cathedrals at will.  Obviously I can’t – so how can Cathedrals be slightly kinder to their praying customers?  (Locked churches will be a different blog!)


4 responses to “I’m wrong about Cathedrals

  1. Just thinking about your response to me on the previous thread, your own parish had found it was cheaper to re-order etc, rather than build afresh.

    Looking at the context of Canterbury for instance, the amount of rebuilding and maintenance that has gone on over the centuries, and is ongoing, I wonder if the original building, actually exists? Even now, the Cathedral ships in stone from France and sells on those that it replaces to good causes, some of which are used to create momento's of the cathedral.

    In our Benefice, we have 5 grade 1 listed churches. We hold 'friends' fundraising events, including choral recitals etc, history talks and others activities, which we make a cover charge for, in support of the church maintenance. We get lots of support. Currently, two of our churches face bills in the region of several hundred thousand pounds for major repairs, without which, the buildings will have to close.

    I am constantly amazed by those who come and support the church, many of whom love the building and its historic context and part in their village life. They may not be practising Christians, but they are full of charity!

    I suspect that in our small way, we face the same challenge as Cathedrals. But, I wonder, do Cathedrals pay Parish Share? Probably not. In our case, our churches are regarded as being in village centres, which are affluent, but the local rural economies are struggling – our income is down, but parish share has increased by 4.3% this year, despite cuts at diocese and even some redundancies.

    I don't believe that churches should be run as a business, but it seems that Cathedrals have to be to survive. My question is more about the taxation on parishes, through parish share (which I know is needed to pay stipends, to keep diocesan services afloat) which takes such a large proportion of its income, that it ensures that we struggle year-on-year to cope. Stewardship is a dirty word, but we need more concentration, preaching and education on it with our congregations to improve or we will be in real trouble in a year or so.

    And another question, how does the Continuing Ministry Review of the Vicar look if their parish is struggling or having to default in paying parish share. After all, the Vicar is Chair of the PCC, and has a trustee responsibility for the overall management of a charitable fund.

    Sorry to go off topic a bit, but all of these things appear to me to be inter-related.

  2. Claire
    I'd be interested in your thoughts on the various articles in the most recent Country Way (#58) on stewardship & mission in rural churches.
    It is a little way from your (important) reflections on cathedrals, but perhaps a little closer to home for some … and takes in some of the points made by UKviewer above.
    If you don't have Issue 58, let me know & I will post. But I think I already sent you one.

  3. Hi Simon,
    I haven't read it yet, but it will be interesting to see how/whether there is an overlap (I'm confident there will be!). I'll post a comment when I've read more.

    Hello again UKViewer,
    I know that Parish Share weighs on all parishes, some more than others. I hesitate to comment too much – Parish Share paid for my (excellent) theological training before ordination, now it provides me with a house and with a stipend so that I do not have to work (if you see what i mean!). It pays for my training days, it pays for the people who pay me, and I know how hard my Diocese works to share resources with others (for example, Comms, Accounting Systems, HR, and the Registry are all shared). I sit in three PCC meetings every two months, and at every one, how to pay share is a major topic.
    One of the Annual Reports I read for the Cathedrals (and I really can't remember which one) mentioned a donation of some tens of thousands of pounds to its Diocese. From memory it was about the same amount as the particular parish mentioned above is supposed to pay.
    I'm not trying to point fingers about who needs money, for what, I'm trying to get to a point where praying customers in a Cathedral are recognised as being as valuable in their way as paying customers, even though from a financial viewpoint, they just aren't.

  4. I recall standing in Winchester Cathedral after Archdeacon Adrian's leaving service and an Incumbent of a parish not far from yours (not in Romsey Deanery) was musing as to how many cars it would hold if it was turned into a multi storey car park.
    Dave F

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