In these Advent days much of the natural world lies dormant. Diligent gardeners heap up and clear away leaves, and the branches of trees, now stripped bare, stand clear against the cold sky.
When I first became a country vicar, in West Yorkshire, I got to know my parish in a new way, during the first winter. When trees were bare of leaves I could see the houses and farms and their relationship to the wider landscape much more clearly. Buildings and gardens, paths and even rubbish dumps were revealed.
Ever since then the season of Advent comes with a challenge to me to see things in a new way. These weeks before Christmas are a time for getting ready for the coming of Christ, the child of Bethlehem seeking to be born once again in our hearts and lives. Nothing will stop his coming, not even a global pandemic, so let us make sure that we offer him room. Part of Advent preparation is inviting God to help us to see ourselves more clearly, in relationship to others, by shining his light into our lives once again. This takes trust and also some courage because light exposes our inner landscape, our paths and rubbish dumps. But the light may help us to see ourselves, and the things that bother us, from a different perspective. Deliberately opening oneself to the light of God may be the beginning of change, renewal and new life and hope.
I do hope that you will invite God’s light and truth into your life more fully this Advent. I spoke about this in my sermon at Evensong on Advent Sunday, if you would like to read the sermon text or join in the service both can be accessed on or through the cathedral website.
Every day in Advent there will be both a video Daily Reflection and the musical Advent Calendar available for you on the Cathedral website. Also, please visit the virtual Cathedral Christmas Market, where there is much to enjoy and purchases will benefit the cathedral, our independent traders and many charities. This week the Christmas Lantern Project, led by The Revd Gill Sakakini, will be raised in the Nave. I’m so glad to know that this project has brought joy and hope to participants of all ages and greatly look forward to seeing the finished work.
As we come out of lockdown do remember to reserve a space for yourself at a Cathedral Christmas Service. All special Christmas Services from the 13th will be ticketed, for your safety. Do please also come, at any time, to see the Cathedral lantern installation and the lovely festive trees representing remembrance and faith, hope and love. We hope to share an experience of Comfort and Joy with you.
Please do take care of yourself and others. Please keep in touch with your prayer requests.
I’ll close with a prayer from Kate McIlhagga:
Christ, our Advent hope
bare brown trees, etched dark across a winter sky,
leaves fallen, rustling, ground hard and cold,
remind us to prepare for your coming;
remind us to prepare for the time
when the soles of your feet will touch the ground,
As I write, there is uncertainty about Christmas and exactly how we are going to be able to celebrate, and with whom, and where. For many of us, Christmas is a time of familiar and loved traditions and habits, so it is particularly unsettling to be faced with uncertainty.
Whatever the unfolding situation, the Cathedral is committed to offering Comfort and Joy as far as it possibly can. Plans are being finalising for Christmas services, with the hope of enabling not just our congregations, but the whole city to celebrate the festival in safety. These will be publicised soon and we look forward to seeing you in person, or joining you online. Lights are being installed and trees are being decorated.
Although the Cathedral Close isn’t buzzing with the traditional Winchester Christmas Market this year I’m delighted to say that we have launched https://christmas.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/ a ‘virtual Market’ aiming to bring something of the Comfort and Joy of Christmas wherever you are. As well as Christmas messages and traditions the virtual market offers all the charities and stalls that you would expect to find in The Close. Do go online and take a look around.
From Sunday 29 November, we also invite you to join us online in a musical ‘Advent Calendar’ countdown to Christmas. The Cathedral musicians have chosen favourite music for the season, including well-loved Advent hymns, some special new arrangements of old favourites, and one or two Christmas surprises, all accompanied by beautiful shots of the inside of the Cathedral filmed by the Virgers. A video will be released each day on the Cathedral website and social media platforms running all the way through to Christmas Day.
In addition to the musical Advent Calendar there will be a daily reflection from a member of Chapter or Diocesan clergy and the daily live-stream of cathedral worship.
All this will help you prepare for Christmas whatever lockdown rules apply. We will remember our ancestors longing for a Messiah, we will recall the prophets calling people back to faith and hope, the wise men searching for a new King and the song of the angels. We may empathise in a new way with Mary and Joseph, far from home, searching for somewhere safe to bring a baby into the world but finding ‘no room’.
At the heart of Christmas is a family needing shelter and a baby needing a crib. Advent is a time of preparation. The most important thing is preparing our own heart to receive the Christ-child and along with him, our neighbour in need. Do think about your own personal preparation for Christmas, and I’ll write more about preparing our hearts, next week.
I’m very happy to let you know that our new Chief Operating Officer Alison Evans, joins the Cathedral this week. Alison joins us from The National Trust where she has been working across properties in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Sussex as Regional Assistant Director of Operations. She has a specialist role in curatorship, the arts and visitor experience, with a particular interest in welcoming and engaging as many people as possible. Her earlier career was spent as a university lecturer and project manager in the construction and landscape sectors. This new role, along with that of the CFO, Gary Carpenter, replaces the former role of the Receiver General, in line with the pattern of the new Cathedrals Measure. It’s really good that after the challenges of 2020, the cathedral will begin 2021 with a renewed senior team.
I leave you with a prayer of William Temple, slightly adapted for Advent:
We pray you, Lord, to purify our hearts
that they may be worthy to become your dwelling-place.
Let us prepare and never fail to find room for you.
Come and abide in us,
that we may also abide in you,
for you were born into the world for us
and live and reign, King of kings and Lord of lord,
now and for ever.
With blessings and best wishes,
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle Dean of Winchester
Tuesday 17 November 2020
‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith the Lord’ Isaiah 40:1
Dear brothers and sisters
The phrase ‘Comfort and Joy’, from the Christmas carol ‘God rest ye merry, Gentlemen’ will figure large this year as the Christmas message of the Cathedral, and indeed of the whole of the Church of England. It’s both traditional and timely as, at the end of this year we are surely in need of both.
I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort and discomfort recently since a wise cathedral colleague said, of social distancing, ‘Unless it feels uncomfortable, you probably aren’t doing it right.’ Correct. There is so much about living with pandemic that is uncomfortable.
Human beings need personal space. A distance of 2 m is comfortable for talking with a stranger, but usually, (psychologists tell us) this distance shrinks with people we know better. With close friends and family, we seek less personal space and then none at all when we hug and kiss. Maintaining social distancing is uncomfortable.
One definition of comfort is ‘a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.’ When we practice social distancing we are willingly agreeing to feeling less than comfortable in order to preserve someone else’s safety. The same applies to wearing a face mask, which is accepting a constraint for the greater good.
Some of us are living with really high levels of discomfort, such as health care workers who work long shifts in hot and cumbersome PPE impeding movement and communication. For most of us there is also the mental discomfort of having to rethink how we do normal things like getting work done, doing shopping, childcare and looking after dependents.
I want to encourage you that working through all these discomforts, and the hard sacrifices involved, is a tangible sign of love and commitment.
A further meaning of the word comfort is ‘the easing of a person’s feelings of grief or distress’. Many of us are living at this time with the grief of loss. Bereavement and sickness, loss of work and opportunity, loss of time with family and friends, loss of holidays and activities. I imagine that most of us, in some way, long to be comforted.
The message of comfort that the prophet Isaiah conveys to the people of God is that the promised Messiah is coming with good news for the poor and broken hearted and comfort for those who mourn.
So at its very core, Christmas is a time of comfort. At Christmas we open our hearts to the Messiah born among us in the Christ child. God’s love made flesh.
Because of the second lockdown the Cathedral is having to revise its December plans, once again, but we pledge that the Cathedral will be celebrating the comfort and joy of the Christmas season with you as well as possible and as soon as we are able. The Christmas trees arrive this week. But more importantly, in scripture, poetry and song, the Cathedral will be offering the comfort and joy of God born among us, Emmanuel. The one who, for love of us, suffered every discomfort. He who took on the constraints of mortality and the pain of suffering to give us new life.
As we continue to live with discomfort let’s look forward to preparing for Christmas and meanwhile, please continue to take care of yourself and others. Please take advantage of what the Cathedral is offering by way of worship, both live-streamed and available afterwards. We have just launched a poetry competition in which you are warmly invited to reflect on what this Christmas means to you, details can be found on the website. Also, each day during lockdown and then throughout Advent there is a daily video Reflection for you and much more on the website.
I’ll finish with the well-loved prayer of Richard of Chichester:
Thanks be to thee, O Lord Christ
for all the benefits which thou has given us;
for all the pains and insults which thou has born for us.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may we know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly;
for thine own sake.
With blessings and best wishes,
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle
Dean of Winchester
10 May 2020
Dear brothers and sisters
Amongst the smaller treasures of the cathedral are two fine 17th century Blaeu globes, one terrestrial and one celestial both housed in the Morley Library. The terrestrial globe shows how our sea-faring forebears were making sense of the world of land and sea, coastlines, rivers and nations.
The globes have been recently conserved and even the conservators report is, to me, a thing of wonder. The report documents the closest attention and most painstaking care that the conservator, Syvia Sumira ARC, brought to her task. The globes have been lovingly cleaned, repaired and conserved, not so that they now appear ‘brand-new’ but so that their age and history are recognised and honoured.
Globes hold an enduring attraction. Perhaps because they seem to give us a God-like view of the world. I remember the chorus we sang as children, ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands…’ Christians believe that God made the whole world and holds it in being, with loving care. We see just one time and place, while God sees the eternal whole.
The current Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the whole world. Through the wonders of technology the cathedral has been in ever closer contact with partners in faith across the world in Norway, Uganda, Myanmar, Newcastle and France. We have all been profoundly affected and have, in prayer, been bearing one another’s burdens more closely.
Whilst the whole of humanity is vulnerable to the tiny virus, it’s now clear that the poorest and those living in crowded conditions and with other health needs are in greatest danger.
There is so much that needs to be mended, put right and healed in our world. Climate change, environmental destruction, injustice between people, poverty and preventable disease all cry out for healing. So many of our relationships need mending.
Yet God, who creates and sustains the world in love, attends with painstaking care to each one of us. God, like the conservator, attends to what is worn and broken and longs to mend and restore. Every time we choose the way of justice, faith, hope, forgiveness or loving kindness we are enabling that work to take place, of putting something right, of mending and restoring. Each time you act justly or show kindness you are mending the fabric of the world and the human relationships by which life is sustained. What can you do, even during lockdown, to assist God in his great task of mending and renewing the life of the world?
‘Let us not neglect to meet together..’ Hebrews 10: 25
These are days of social distancing and self-isolation and many of us are staying at home to keep one another safe. In this strange season, we have no opportunity to meet up with friends or get together in the usual ways and we miss one another.
Normally, at this time of year, we gather together for the Cathedral Community Day, and consult about the life and ministry of the cathedral. This year the normal meeting was not possible but it still felt really important to offer an opportunity to gather on-line.
I’ll admit to feeling some trepidation about this. ‘What could possibly go wrong?’ came to mind, and I could think of a multitude of things that could go wrong in a potentially large digital meeting! But in the event, all seemed to agree that it was a tremendously good meeting. Thank you to the 70 – 80 who joined the meeting and the conversation. For me, after six weeks of separation, to see one another’s faces and to hear one another’s voices brought great joy. Some members of our community have experienced pain, illness and bereavement in recent weeks. It was very good to gather and to pray together.
On Friday 8 May the nation celebrates the 75th anniversary of VE Day when Nazi Germany formally surrendered to the Allied Forces bringing an end to the war in Europe. The war continued in the Far East for a further three months. After the terrors and privations of war, the street parties and celebrations of the victory in Europe were heartfelt and joyful. In peace-time people could gather again without fear, in their homes, in churches and on the streets. VE Day ushered in a time of national rebuilding and of hope.
Normally we would be marking this significant anniversary with celebratory anniversary gatherings of our own. As we inch forward through this current crisis, with the hope of a gradual end to lock-down, we know that large public gatherings are still some way off.
So the cathedral will be offering a special VE Day act of worship for you on Friday through the cathedral web-site. Although we are not able to gather together in person, I do hope that this worship will unite us spiritually and give each one of us a sense of being with others on this significant anniversary.
During the meeting of the cathedral community, several people said that the daily reflections, on-line worship and the daily Evening Prayer have brought them to a more personal sense of connection to God and the community. It’s great that modern technology gives us new possibilities for building Christian community. Please be assured that the cathedral will take the lessons we’re learning into our planning for the future, particularly that cathedral ministry should be available to people in their homes.
I’ll end with a prayer from the great leader of the church during the war, Archbishop William Temple. Temple’s vision of a post war society reflected the innate dignity of each person created in Gods image and influenced the development of the Welfare State in 1945.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who prayed for thy disciples that they might be one, even as thou art one with the Father, draw us to thyself, that in common love and obedience to thee we may be united to one another, in the fellowship of the one Spirit, that the world may believe that thou art Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
As the church continues to celebrate the season of Easter, I’m wondering how you are experiencing Easter this year?
Those who join us in Evening Prayer (via Zoom) are hearing the wonderful Easter stories of how the friends of Jesus met their risen Lord and come to understand the wonderful world changing event of the resurrection. Our prayers each day are punctuated with ‘Alleluia!’
The natural world around us is bursting with new life, a visual reminder of Easter joy. In the Inner Close the grass is verdant again, wisteria hangs in swags over the Cathedral Offices and we’re celebrating the hatching of peregrine falcon chicks.
St Augustine writes, ‘We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song.’ Christians live by faith in Gods purposes as revealed by the resurrection: that our Saviour has conquered evil and death and brings new life to the world.
Yet for me, and perhaps for you too, day to day reality doesn’t really feel like Easter. Humanity, throughout the world, faces a microscopic threat to life and we are all at risk. Many are working with self-sacrificial dedication to save and to serve. Many of us are feeling lonely, isolated and emotionally vulnerable. Many have lost work and are worried about feeding their families and paying their bills. These are challenging and uncertain days.
With closed churches and Easter celebrations taking place at home, this has been a quieter Easter for us all. I’ve really missed the shared joy, the music and worship. However, I’m discovering that a quieter and smaller Easter, can still be very real. The other day Nigel Slater, the food writer, spoke about his solitary life in lock-down and that he realised he is noticing things more clearly – such as a flower blooming outside his window. Paying attention and noticing new life and beauty may be a real source of Easter joy.
Easter is made real for us every day in the example of self-sacrificial love in our hospitals and care homes and from hearing the stories of health workers and patients. For these people, and for all our essential workers, we are enormously grateful. Easter is also made real in acts of kindness that we receive, from a kind letter, phone call, or even a greeting or enquiry, ‘How are you?’
Small occasions of new life and of Easter joy can transform a whole day. I do hope that you are able to experience Easter, despite everything, and be fed and renewed to take on each day.
My prayer at this time is that as well as experiencing Easter, we might make Easter real for someone else. That each of us may be able to offer some joy, kindness, attention and hope to someone else.
You gladdened the hearts of the disciples
With the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us, we pray, an experience of the new life and hope of Easter,
that we might serve one another
and share the joy of Easter
through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
There’s a story deep in the pages of the Old Testament about facing fear.
Moses has led his people out of slavery in Egypt into the wilderness, where life was not at all as they expected. They complained bitterly about the food and water, and they spoke against God and Moses. God’s answer was to make things worse: he sent poisonous serpents among them!
Once the people realised their folly, God offered a solution. He told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole, so that those who had been bitten could look at it and live. To be cured, they had to face what they most feared.
In this Covid-19 crisis, many fears swirl in the air, such as those to do with our care homes. We are beginning to understand the fear of residents and staff, who have felt cut off and not given adequate protective equipment, and not even included in Government statistics. Thank goodness this is changing.
Fear is a basic human emotion, a natural response to danger and threat, and we need to learn from our keen sense of fear. However, we can’t be paralysed by it. Unless we face our fears, we can’t live with any degree of freedom.
As Jesus looked toward his death on a cross, a brutal execution, he remembered the story of Moses and the serpent: ‘When I am lifted up’ he said, ‘I will draw all people to myself’. He knew that what we fear above all is the poison of death; his death was going to provide the antidote to any who looked upon it.
Looking there, we see someone able to rise above suffering and pain because of his faith and trust in God, and because he believed that it was right to lay down his life for his friends. Christ was able to rise above fear to serve and save humankind.
My wife Sophie Hacker is an artist. Over the last few weeks, in response to the crisis, she’s been making a cross of recycled wood, painting it green toward the bottom and rising to gold at the top. Green stands for renewal, the renewal of creation, and gold stands for God’s glory revealed in this process of renewal.
With the Moses story in mind Sophie has added, spreading up from the base of the cross, representations of the virus, those ominous suckered sacs we see on the daily news. Though at first it might seem disturbing to have this foreign body being absorbed into the cross, it makes the same point as the Moses story. We must face what we most fear in order to overcome it, even the deadly virus.
As we do this, we’ll become better able to help others needing our care. This doesn’t mean being reckless, putting ourselves and others at unnecessary risk, but it does mean making whatever contribution we can to their health. Hats off to those on the front line; but how can we all, with more courage than fear, be key workers for the wellbeing of others?
This has been an extraordinary Easter. Our churches and cathedrals have been closed and silent. But nothing, not even the coronavirus, can separate us from the love of God. The church, in its people, is alive and well and celebrating resurrection. Alleluia!
Happy Easter. Despite the dangers and difficulties of our present situation I hope that you experience Easter joy and hope and that you continue to do so in the days ahead.
Of course we have missed being together in our dear cathedral. Worship here has been disrupted by plague, politics and Civil War, but not in living memory. Closing the doors of the cathedral has been a real sacrifice, but one made willingly, in order to promote everyone’s safety and to support the stay at home message. We look forward to gathering again in the cathedral, to worship and welcome, to choral music and bell-ringing, when we are able.
I’d like to share with you, if I may, some personal experiences of joy and hope in recent days, some sparks of grace.
Chapter discovered that Custos had been quietly and faithfully carving and preparing the 2020 Easter candle, though there was to be no Holy Saturday first Eucharist of Easter. So a short video was made, showing him finishing the candle and then I prayed and lit the candle from the porch of the Deanery. This felt like a great expression of joy and hope. Despite everything Easter happens! God brings about resurrection. We face restrictions and limitations, cancellations and postponements, but nothing cancels Easter. Lighting the candle filled me with ‘sure and certain’ hope, for now, and for the days when we will be lighting it again in the cathedral.
It’s also been a great joy to me to see the cathedral staff and clergy, under challenging and changing working conditions, maintain the essential life of the cathedral. We have even had a real person at the end of the Cathedral Reception phone, most days! The challenge of offering daily reflections and Holy Week and Easter services has seen your clergy learn new 21st century ways of doing traditional things. (Thank you so much for words of encouragement). We know that all we are learning will be helpful for ministry in the future, especially enabling those unable to be present physically to remain connected with our worshipping life. This will continue and develop beyond coronavirus.
Finally, there is great hope for me from the growing social awareness that we are all in the same boat. Pope Francis has written wonderfully, in Urbi et Orbi about Jesus calming the storm: ‘We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disorientated.’ http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/urbi/documents/papa-francesco_20200327_urbi-et-orbi-epidemia.html The coronavirus is indiscriminate. Because of this there seems to be a new awareness of our common humanity, and common need. This new sense will enable us to live with greater justice and compassion when this threat has passed. I hope so.
Please continue to keep yourselves and others safe. Please stay connected with the cathedral and one another, until we meet again,
May the power of the cross,
the joy of the resurrection,
and the presence of our risen Lord
be with you, now and always, Amen.
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle Dean of Winchester
Thursday 9 April
The Power of Love
Dear brothers and sisters
For Christians, these days are the most significant days of the year. Traditionally, we mark them as ‘The Triduum’, from Maundy Thursday evening to Easter Day. These days mark the journey in which we travel, in our hearts and imaginations, with Jesus on the way of the cross. From the Last Supper, to Judas’ betrayal with a kiss, to arrest and trial, to carrying the cross to Calvary, to crucifixion and death, to a tomb and then to resurrection joy.
I do hope that you will be able to take this journey in company with the cathedral and the worship that is offered on-line, via the cathedral web-site. Morning and Evening prayer is said each day, with evening prayer offered as a public on-line event. You can find daily reflections and other short films from the clergy, a Maundy Thursday Eucharist followed by a Watch, Good Friday devotions and the Holy Saturday vigil. On Easter Sunday, the Eucharist comes from Wolvesey led by Bishop Tim and Sally Dakin, and an Evensong is offered by English Cathedrals. I do hope that you will take part and feel connected with others drawing closer to Jesus Christ.
Taking this journey is hugely challenging, because it opens our eyes not just to Christ’s suffering, but to suffering and sacrifice around us in the wider world. Travelling the way of the cross with Jesus causes us to become more aware of our common humanity.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment: to love one another as he loves them. God shows us over these three days that he loves everything that he has made, completely, and invites us to live in love and peace with one another and creation.
And the lesson of Easter Day is that, in the end, love wins. The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us that nothing on earth is more powerful than the power of love. After suffering and pain, after death and darkness, comes new life for the whole world.
Today, as the nation faces the threat of Coronavirus, there is much fear and anxiety, not just about illness, but about making ends meet. People have lost work and incomes. There is nothing good about Coronavirus, but perhaps it has caused us to remember some important things that are easily forgotten. It has reminded me that we were not made for isolation, but for relationship. It has reminded me that what we do and how we behave affects other people in very tangible ways, for good or ill. It has reminded me that much lower paid work is absolutely vital to the health and well-being of society. I’ve been more and more aware how much the rhythm of worship, hymns, scripture and liturgy shape my life and give it meaning. We have also learnt vital lessons about how we can change our behaviour, so that pollution is reduced and climate disaster averted.
When we are through this pandemic, may we never forget the lessons learnt this Holy Week and Easter about our shared humanity, about self-sacrifice, and the power of love.
With blessings and best wishes
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle Dean of Winchester
Friday 3 April
Dear brothers and sisters
This weekend, with Palm Sunday, we stand at the threshold of Holy Week and the world changing events of the cross and resurrection. These are days when we share the deepest and most fundamental Christian memories and truths. We take a faithful journey through Holy Week – the world begins to change because we are changed. This isn’t difficult to do but it is deeply challenging. We just need to journey with Jesus, and stay close by him, into Jerusalem and an unjust trial, into condemnation and carrying the cross, on to Golgotha and to death. Then we wait.
Taking this journey with Jesus is challenging, because it opens our hearts and imaginations to his great love for the world. As we draw closer to his suffering and sacrifice we will find that we become more aware of the suffering of our brothers and sisters. We are drawn into Christ’s compassion.
Across the nation people have lost work and incomes. Our food banks are appealing for more support and charities with reduced incomes are trying to meet ever greater need. There is much fear and anxiety, not just about illness, but also about making ends meet.
I pray that we will all find a way of taking a full part in Holy Week from our own homes and be refreshed in our faith and commitment to loving our neighbour and being ready to serve and share the gifts and resources with which we have been blessed.
In the last few weeks we have devised a special ‘Holy Week at Home’ journey to support your participation in Holy Week, including locally devised daily reflections and worship from the cathedral clergy and our diocesan and suffragan bishops, and content materials from the national resources of English cathedrals. Please join these via the cathedral or diocesan web-sites. Try to take the journey gradually and carefully, day by day. Each day plays its distinctive part in the unfolding drama.
During the current crisis, despite the closure of the cathedral, the centuries-old daily pattern of prayer has been maintained with Chapter meeting remotely from our homes. We are now able to invite you to join us in Evening Prayer at 5.30pm. Guidance for how to do this is on the cathedral web-site. Whether or not you can join us we are here to pray for you. You can contact us by letter or at firstname.lastname@example.org with prayer requests and these will be prayed by Chapter in confidence.
On Palm Sunday I invite you to join worship from Wolvesey led by Bishop Tim and Sally Dakin, offered on both the cathedral and diocesan web-sites rom early Sunday morning. I will be joining this Service remotely at 11.00am, perhaps you can too. We will then be offering a many-voices reading of the familiar Passion Narrative.
May God bless us all during the coming week, and may we be a blessing to our neighbour in need.
Whose most dear Son went not up to joy
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With blessings and best wishes.
28 March 2020
Dear brothers and sisters
For the first time in living memory the churches and cathedrals of the nation sit silent and empty. For many of us this is an indescribable sadness and significant loss. But, as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have reminded us, the sacrifice is a necessary contribution to keeping everyone healthy and safe. By staying at home, we will be saving lives.
The good news is that the agencies, charities and institutions on which we rely are finding new ways of working. Churches are finding creative and imaginative ways of being available, enabling prayer and worship and listening to everyone’s needs and anxieties.
Despite the closure of our building, your cathedral is maintaining the centuries-old daily pattern of prayer. The clergy are ‘meeting’ remotely from our homes morning and evening to pray together. Please keep in touch. You can contact us by letter or at email@example.com with prayer requests and these will be prayed by us, in confidence.
I will be joining at 11.00am, perhaps you can too. We will be able to experience ‘spiritual communion’ with one another and the communion of saints.
Please be assured that when human touch and closeness are taken away from us God’s love is still real. God is with you in your isolation and in your household. God is with you in your essential work or volunteering. God is close to you when you are distanced from other people.
This weekend Passiontide begins and our focus turns increasingly to the cross of Christ and to the events of his passion. These are usually days when we share the deepest and most fundamental Christian memories and truths. I hope that you will feel able to take part and to draw strength from these memories and truths. The world has changed around us but faith, hope and love abide.
When you feel anxious, you may like to remember the timeless words of a much-loved hymn:
Dear Lord and Father of mankind, Forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind, in purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise. In deeper reverence praise.
Breathe through the heats of our desire Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm! O still small voice of calm!
With blessings and best wishes
25 March 2020
We are living through exceptional times. Because of the coronavirus crisis, and the conditions needed to keep ourselves and others safe, our usual habits are challenged and our every-day activities curtailed. Thank you for all that you are doing to keep yourself, and others safe. Thank you to cathedral staff who are adjusting to new ways of working. I am so grateful for the spirit and values that are being lived out in our community.
Yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury gave instructions concerning clergy staying at home. Church buildings are now to be closed for private prayer as well as public worship. Sadly, this means that we will no longer be able to ‘live-stream’ services for the cathedral in the morning and evening.
Chapter will continue to seek new and creative ways for us to live out the cathedral calling and ministry through these days so that prayer, community and service can continue. Please do keep in touch and continue to send your prayer requests by letter, email or through social media. You will continue to receive regular messages and updates from me and each day there will be a new message and prayer on the web-site, recorded by one of the clergy, from home. I’ve just recorded my first thought, from my garden.
Today is the feast of the Annunciation and we remember the love of God for the whole world. We believe that God loves the world so much, that he wants to be with each of us, in person. Mary said ‘yes’ to God and through the birth of her son, Jesus, God’s love is unleashed in the world.
We will need resilience, resourcefulness and patience to get through these days and weeks. My prayer is that each of us will know, personally, the comfort and peace of the love of God. Though we stand at a distance from one another, I pray that, like Mary, we will carry God’s love and share it with others.
We are all invited by Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin, to pray the Lord’s Prayer, today, at noon:
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Monday 23 March
We are living through exceptionally challenging times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The situation is fast moving and the conditions needed to keep ourselves, and others, safe means that our usual activities are changing. I do hope that you are adjusting to changing circumstances and keeping safe and well.
Over the weekend, while public worship is put on hold, Winchester Cathedral rose to the challenge from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to become a ‘different sort of church.’ For the first time ever we are now offering live streaming of daily services, through our own website and via Twitter and Facebook so that people can still worship with us from the safety of their own homes. I am deeply grateful to all those who worked tirelessly, and late into the night, to enable this to happen.
These are all ways that will help you to stay connected with the cathedral, one another and with God. We plan to offer more written resources and can also keep connected, by phone, email and letter.
As we move into this new week we’ll be continuing to develop positive responses to new challenges, including how cathedral staff can continue to work safely. Our priority is to take care of one another and make sure that we’re offering the safest possible environment.
We will need resilience, resourcefulness and patience to get through these days and weeks. I do hope that everyone who is self-isolating can continue to feel connected to the cathedral. Do please send your prayer requests, for yourselves or others. These will be prayed and placed on the altar. For now, here is my prayer for each of us:
God of healing and hope, may this time of danger by your Holy Spirit, bring out the best and not the worst in us. Show us the ways in which we can share faith and love, while standing at a distance, and honour our connection with one another, and with you, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, Amen.
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle Dean of Winchester
Thursday 19 March
Dear brothers and sisters
This Sunday, 22 March, marks two very different but significant issues. Sunday is both the National Day of Prayer, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and it is also Mothering Sunday when, by long tradition, we give thanks for loving mothers (and all who have mothered us) and for the love and nurturing of Mother Church.
Although public worship is currently suspended throughout the churches, I’m very glad to say that Winchester Cathedral remains open. You are invited to come and stay awhile in the security of its ancient walls, in which daily prayer has been said for more than 1000 years. You are welcome to come, light a candle, and pray for all that is in your heart.
Although we are not able to invite you to public worship at this time, morning and evening prayers are being said and sung in the enclosed area of the Quire and the Eucharist is being celebrated by the ministers, each day, on behalf of everyone. You can leave prayers in the cathedral, or send them to me, or any member of the clergy, directly, or through the cathedral office, or on twitter or through the web-site. These prayers will be offered each day at the altar.
Please monitor the Cathedral web-site for further messages and information as the situation develops. This will be the primary way of communicating with our congregations and community.
My prayer is that Sunday may be a focus of faith, hope and love. St Paul wrote: ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’
On Sunday perhaps we can all take time to thank our own mothers and the nurturing love that we have known from them and from other family members, carers and friends. We can take time to pray for everyone affected by the coronavirus, here in the United Kingdom and around the world, for those who are isolated, lonely or anxious, for those who are ill and for those who are worried about employment and making ends meet. We can give thanks for all who are working to take care of our daily needs and, especially, those who work in medical and emergency services. We can pray for those who are seeking a vaccine. The cathedral is a faithful witness to the enduring power of faith, hope and love. These three elements provide a deep-rooted strength in which to stand strong in times such as these.
A virus is infectious in ways that are unseen but real. I believe faith, hope and love can be just as infectious and real. If we can be people who share kindness and care, our behaviour can be infectious in ways that bring life, comfort and joy.
I do hope that this weekend is a blessing to us all as we celebrate love and find ways to practice kindness and care. You may like to use this Mothering Sunday prayer:
God of love, passionate and strong, tender and careful: Watch over us and hold us all the days of our life. We thank you for mothers who gave us life, Those by whose sacrifice and love we have been blessed. May our lives enable love to abound in the world today That no one need be anxious, lonely or afraid. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I will be in touch again in the coming days.
With blessings and best wishes
Catherine Ogle Dean of Winchester
17 March 2020
Dear brothers and sisters
Today the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have advised that, in the light of Government guidance around non-essential contact, public worship be suspended until further notice. Winchester Cathedral will therefore be suspending formal public worship from tomorrow. We will remain open and prayers will be said daily, morning and evening, by clergy and ministers on behalf of everyone.
The cathedral seeks at all times to be a community of care. At this very difficult time we will do all that we can to keep one another safe and well. Plans for continuing cathedral ministry are being devised including the opportunity for ‘live-streaming’ of daily and Sunday worship so that you can join in at home. We will also seek to provide you with web-based and printed materials to enable you to be nourished by daily worship and ‘Holy Week at Home’. Please contact me, or any member of the clergy, directly, or through the cathedral office if you would like us to pray for you or someone else for whom you are concerned.
Chapter extends warm thanks and appreciation to our wonderful cathedral volunteers. Volunteers are responding to this situation, in consultation with their Section Heads, and many have decided to step back from volunteering during this time. If you are in this situation, please do keep in touch and we’ll look forward to seeing you when it is safe for you to return.
I believe that the cathedral is called to be, at all times, a beacon of faith, hope and love and its more important than ever to be a place of continuing prayer. Please be assured that you can continue to come to pray in the inspirational and beautiful cathedral, if your circumstances allow.
This wonderful place is a daily reminder that our nation has come through times of war, plague and destruction in the past. The cathedral is an icon of Gods loving presence, standing and withstanding, for all ages.
Please monitor the web-site for further messages and information as the situation develops. This will be the primary way of communicating with our congregations and community.
I will also be writing to you regularly with updates.
I’m writing this on St Patrick’s day and hope that his prayer will give us inspiration for the days ahead. You may wish to say this for yourself, or on behalf of others.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.