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!
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.