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A Message from the Dean

A MESSAGE FROM THE VICE DEAN OF WINCHESTER


Tuesday 13th April 2021

There is only one thing in life that we can be certain of, and Prince Philip’s sad passing is a reminder of it. Please join us online, using  Winchester Cathedral’s live streaming service, at 5.30pm on Friday 16th April for the County Commemoration.  

The only other certainty we have in the Church is that things never go back to how they were. This belief stands right at the centre of Christian faith and is summed up in one word – resurrection. 

When Mary Magdalene realised that the gardener who she’d met near Jesus’ tomb was Christ risen from the dead, she tried to hold on to him. His reply was, Do not cling to me. He had not been resuscitated but changed for ever. 

If we think that returning to normal means being able to go back into pubs and on holidays abroad, then we shan’t be disappointed; but if were looking for a deeper normality where, say, our old patterns of trading and relating are resuscitated, we shall find that that ship has sailed. What a post-pandemic life will look like is anyone’s guess at present. 

The stories of resurrection show how slowly this coin drops even for those who should have understood the quickest. The first witnesses to resurrection, who run to tell his closest followers what they have experienced, are met by a wall of disbelief. Jesus’ inner circle know that just days earlier he was crucified. 

Crucifixion was not only a way of killing people; it was a way of executing people slowly, painfully and publicly, as a deterrent against crimes against the state. Anyone near the cross could have watched the life draining out of Jesus because of an incalculable strain on his lungs and heart. You do not wake up from asphyxiation. 

The first stories of resurrection are tales of fear, amazement, bafflement and disbelief, and yet, for all this, they are also stories of encounter – the new meets the old and begins to chip away at sorrow and despair. 

Someone recently asked why Jesus could not have made this newness more obvious to friends and enemies alike, so that there was no room for doubt. But there is always room for doubt. Science works very well on the basis that everything is doubtable, and that the truth can only be approached tangentially. 

Resurrection doesn’t bring the end of doubt, but a new ground for hope. It unlocks the old order and ushers in new creation. Anyone who wishes to be a public servant has to accept that ‘paradigm shifts’, as scientists call them, are not only possible but also welcome and necessary – as Prince Philip realised about the monarchy as he helped to reform it. 

Trembling and fearful we may sometimes be at the magnitude of what confronts us, and aggrieved at the lost, familiar landscape of the past, but with resurrection comes the prospect of a surprising, energising encounter with the Way, Truth and Life before us, stretching us in joy for all the adventures ahead.

Let me end with the prayer used at the first Evensong held after Prince Philip’s death: 

Eternal God, our heavenly Father, we bless your holy name for all that you have given us in and through the life of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

 

We give you thanks: 

for his long and full life; 

for his strength of character; 

and for his devotion and service to family, nation and Commonwealth. 

 

We praise you for: 

his generosity; 

the many contributions he made to our national life; 

and the encouragement he gave to so many, especially the young. 

 

Accept our thanks and praise, we pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

With blessings and best wishes,

The Vice-Dean, The Revd Canon Roland Riem


Tuesday 6 April 2021

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia! 

Dear brothers and sisters, 

It has been a great joy to worship in the cathedral again, with congregations and choirs, to celebrate the world-changing events of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.   

I would like to thank everyone who came together again, after such a long hiatus, to enable this all to happen.  Thank you to musicians and all those who work to support the choristers, to the sidesmen, serving team, flower arrangers, clergy and virgers.  I do hope that those of you who joined online knew yourselves to be part of the worship.  I look forward to the day when other Cathedral volunteers can return to their roles too.  

The Easter gospel, from St John, invites us to make connections.  In this fourth gospel the resurrection event takes place in a garden, always a potent symbol in scripture.  God himself was the first gardener, ‘and the Lord God planted a garden in Eden’ (Genesis 2:8).  When Mary Magdalen meets her risen Lord, with tears in her eyes, she mistakes him for the gardener.  This connects us to a deep truth, that Jesus is indeed the gardener who places us, tends and cares for us, and longs for us to grow in grace and virtue.   

On the anniversary of the lockdown the Cathedral brought the garden inside, in a sense, when the great green cross was laid in the Nave, formed from grass turf, and filled with spring flowers and candles.  The cross leads to the new life of resurrection and to the new creation. Seeing the Cathedral gardeners kneel to plant the flowers spoke to me of the humility with which gardeners work with creation.   

This Easter, I believe we are challenged to make the connection between Easter and our responsibilities to care for the created world.  To kneel in penitence for our exploitation of creation and abuse of the earth, to work humbly to reduce carbon emissions and climate emergency, and to restore the soil. The risen Christ, mistaken for a gardener, calls us to care for one another and the earth.  

The risen Christ also calls us to love our neighbour. At Harvest last year the Cathedral made the commitment to support the Winchester Basics Bank for the month of April.  Sadly, the numbers of people turning to food banks has steeply increased in the last year because so many have lost work and income.  Please take a look at the Cathedral website to see what is needed now or how to make cash donationsThere is a collection point in the cathedral for groceries. 

I pray that each of us will grow in the new life of the risen Christ and that each of us will share his gifts of love, forgiveness, joy and hope with others. 

Please continue to take care of yourself and of others.  

Wishing you a very Happy Easter!  I close with an Easter blessing, 

 

May the risen Lord Jesus watch over us, tend and renew us 

as he tends and renews the whole of creation. 

May our hearts and lives proclaim new life and hope. 

May the blessing of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, rest upon you,  

and be with you always,  

Amen. 

 

With blessings and best wishes, 

The Very Revd Catherine Ogle

Dean of Winchester


Dear friends

In these days of Holy Week I hope that each of us can draw close to Christ in his arrest, trial, passion, crucifixion, burial and resurrection. We do so after a year of extraordinary challenge and upheaval.

On the day of remembrance, which marked the anniversary of the first lockdown, a giant grass cross was laid on the floor of the Nave of the Cathedral. Partnering with Marie Curie, the bereavement charity, the cathedral gardeners planted bright daffodils that sprang up from the grass. Primroses nestled beneath. Candles were lit within and around. The beautiful image of the enormous green, growing cross caught the attention of the media and so, Winchester Cathedral became the anchor for the national noon commemoration on the BBC and featured prominently in national and local press.

There were many ways to commemorate the year, but when Canon Andy had the idea of the green cross, it felt just right for this particular time. The living and growing cross spoke of life and hope. There has been great loss, isolation and despair, but God’s love is faithful and God’s life overcomes death. As the hymn says, ‘Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.’

The green, growing cross speaks of the promises of Easter. That nothing is stronger than the power of sacrificial love. The grain of wheat gives itself to ‘die’ in the ground in order to bring new life in abundance. The cross of shame becomes then the tree of life.

After such a difficult year, I hope and pray that each of us will experience the new life, hope and confidence of Easter resurrection, in the words of the lovely hymn by J M Crum:

 

‘When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,

Thy touch can call us back to life again;

Fields of our heart that dead and bare have been;

Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.’

 

I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the green cross and the worship around it. It was marvellous to see the talented cathedral gardeners take centre stage for a while!

Please do join in with in-person or live-streamed worship every day this week. In order to maintain your safety, most in-person worship is ticketed, so please contact the box office.

In addition to our own Holy Week offering, those who appreciate R S Thomas may like to know that Canon Roly is leading a series of online reflections for Chichester Cathedral, using Thomas’s poetry, which will be posted from Maundy Thursday to Easter Eve. They include bible readings and hymns from Chichester. Please see: https://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/ for further details. These will remain live for a fortnight only, for copyright reasons.

I pray that you will have a very blessed week and I will close with an Easter blessing, by Angela Ashwin,

 

May the power of the cross, the joy of resurrection,

and the presence of our risen Lord

be with you, now and always. Amen.

 

With blessings and best wishes,

The Very Revd Catherine Ogle

Dean of Winchester

 


Tuesday 23rd March 2021

Dear brothers and sisters

This is a day and a week for remembrance, as we mark the anniversary of the first lockdown.  It’s been a long, hard, year of loss and mourning for many of us.  In reflection and remembrance, we can honour all those who have lost their lives, all those who mourn and we can stand with families and friends who were not able to be with dying loved ones, or attend funerals.

It’s also been a long hard year for healthcare and all essential workers and those caring for relatives.  On this anniversary of lock down we can honour everyone who has made sacrifices for the good of others. In kindness and in care, in generosity and sacrifice, we have seen the power of love overcoming the pandemic.

As I reflect on the past year it seems to me that the pandemic has exposed some truths.  Perhaps, like me, you have seen your own vulnerabilities more clearly.  Missing family and friends and missing their physical presence, hugs and smiles. Missing significant occasions that build up the bank of memories that you share with loved ones. Feeling lonely or depressed.  Perhaps you have experienced illness or emergency, of the fear of illness or emergency and not being able to find help.  Perhaps, as the hymn says, you have experienced ‘fightings and fears, within, without’.

Perhaps though, in the past long year, you have also discovered strengths and abilities that you never knew you had, of endurance, patience or resilience.   Perhaps you have learnt new skills.  Perhaps you have learnt to ask for help, or given and received, kindness.

We bring all this experience of human vulnerability and strength with us into Passiontide and Holy Week 2021.  The journey with Christ to Jerusalem and to the cross will take us from companionship and crowds to trial, isolation, pain and death.  Holy Week takes us into the most profound Christian remembrance in order to bring about a difference in our lives now.  I encourage you to make this journey and to lay your whole life, with all your strengths and weaknesses, blessings and burdens, at the foot of the cross. God has new gifts, new life and new hope in store for us all.

It is really good to welcome congregations to the Cathedral again.  For reasons of safety, Holy Week and Easter Services will be ticketed.  I look forward to sharing Holy Week and Easter with you, in person at the cathedral, or through the live-stream.  It’s going to be a deeply significant Easter journey.

Please continue to take care and to take care of others.  This week, I’ll leave you with verses from this lovely hymn by Charlotte Elliott, as a prayer:

 

Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me,

and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt;

fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive, wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

because they promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down;

now, to be thine, yea, thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come.

 

With blessings and best wishes,

The Very Revd Catherine Ogle

Dean of Winchester

 


Tuesday 16 March 2021

Dear brothers and sisters,

With children across the nation having returned to school, it’s been a great joy to see and hear our boy choristers return to sing services, with the lay clerks, in the cathedral. I notice how they have all grown in height and I am aware of just how much time has passed in lockdown.

It is now almost a year since the first lockdown. For most of us this has been an unprecedented time of national crisis. Many of us have experienced isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Individuals and institutions have been challenged and tested daily.

Next Tuesday (23rd March) marks the anniversary of lockdown and the Cathedral will be joining with others in a national Memorial Day. The day will be an opportunity to honour and to remember the 125,000 people who have died after contracting Coronavirus in the UK, part of an estimated 2.6 million deaths across the world.Each number is a person: someone who loved and was loved. Each person known and cherished by God.

In memorial, the Cathedral gardeners will be creating a ‘green’ cross of remembrance and hope, surrounded by candles in the Nave of the cathedral. A short act of remembrance will be live-streamed at noon and, later, live-streamed Evensong will take place from around the cross.

It is intended that the green, living, cross will honour the loss of life and the sacrifice of key workers. It is hoped that the cross may be a source of consolation and hope as we look towards Holy Week and the love of Christ that takes him to the cross. The God who we know in Jesus takes grief and suffering onto himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our grief.

As we take gradual steps to recovery, lunch-time Eucharists are now taking place, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the congregational Sunday Eucharist resumes this Sunday (21st March) on Passion Sunday. I’m very glad to say that a full programme of Holy Week and Easter worship will take place, both online and at the cathedral. For your safety these services will be ticketed. Please see the website for details.

Please continue to take care of yourself and others.

I will close with part of the prayer of St Patrick whom we celebrate on March 17th. This prayer speaks of the courage and company of faith:

 

I arise today through God’s mighty strength,

his power to uphold me,

his wisdom to guide me,

and his hand to guard me.

I arise today, through Christ’s mighty strength,

through his death and resurrection,

through the Spirit’s empowering,

through the presence of angels

and the love of the saints,

through the threefold Trinity to protect me from evil.

Amen

 

With blessings and best wishes,

The Very Revd Catherine Ogle

Dean of Winchester


Tuesday 2 March 2021

Dear Friends,

‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for …’ so runs a famous definition of faith from the first century, from a letter in the New Testament.

What most people hope for at present is for things to get back to normal. Normal would include being able to get out of our homes without worry, to do the ordinary things, to open for business, to take a holiday in the sun; and top of the list, to see and touch those whom we have, for months, had to love remotely.

All these simple and wonderful aspirations we hope we shall soon be granted. They will make our lives immeasurably richer. But can it ever be a case of going back to how it was before? Sadly, this won’t be possible for those who have lost loved ones or livelihoods to the Coronavirus.

The writer of the letter I mentioned was realistic about this: we have no ‘abiding city’, he said, no resting place in this world where we can lay down absolute foundations. The virus hasn’t caused this to happen but has exposed and hastened the reality that nothing lasts for ever.

But this is where faith comes in.

Faith is a working frame for our lives. Without it, we have only fleeting moments, which we can’t rely on but can rather only enjoy as sand running through our fingers. Faith frames our often-troubled lives with an ever-lasting reality, an eternal home.

Building a cathedral is one way our ancestors attempted to say something about this. Though war and disease, with little medicine, meant they had no illusions about the transience of life, they set about building the largest and most durable structure they could.

In some ways it was just one building among others, doomed to decay; but in other ways it was a sign pointing to an abiding city prepared by God, where the living could come to look for a brighter future and even the dead could rest in hope.

If we have come to see ourselves as more fragile because of the virus, that is no bad thing in itself. We may then search for a way to become sturdier, to grow in assurance that what we find in the top layers of life, what gives us pleasure and causes us grief, is by no means the whole story.

Some people worry about this. ‘Life is not a rehearsal’, they say, fearing that a focus on anything other than what we can grasp is going to distract us from squeezing the juice out of the few moments we have left on this earth.

Life is indeed not a rehearsal, but it is not the brief, final act of a tragedy either.

By faith it becomes possible to move mountains when otherwise we may have been defeated. And the Christian faith is that this future lies not only in an afterlife, but also, here and now – as solid ground on which we can build back better, with hope.

Given the vital role of faith in our lives, members of the community will be anxious to know when the cathedral will be open again for public worship. As I have said, we are fortunate that our predecessors built a vast cathedral in which social distancing is possible, and we are confident that we can return to keeping people safe, as we have done in previous phases of the pandemic.

Chapter, in consultation with the Bishop, is designing a roadmap which fits with the wider moves out of lockdown proposed by the Government. From the week beginning 8th March, we intend to hold two weekly public services.  This will allow a good and natural spread across services:

 

  • Wednesdays, 12noon, starting 10th March – sung Eucharist (CW), Presbytery
  • Fridays, 12noon, starting 12th March – said Holy Communion (BCP), location tbc

 

The Wednesday service will be live streamed, as will additional Feast Day Eucharists at noon, whenever they occur.

We hope to develop the pattern of public worship in time for Passion Sunday, 21st March, and the following days of Holy Week. Further news about this will be available at the Open Chapter meeting on the  9th March, 7pm, which will take place by Zoom. Please contact deanspa@winchester-cathedral.org.uk, if you would like to attend.

As I write looking out of my office at home, the sunshine is giving the south side of the cathedral nave a welcoming face. There is promise in the air, well expressed in this prayer by Frank Colquhoun:

 

Lord God, with Lent we approach the springtime of the year,

when the face of the earth is renewed and life emerges out of death.

We pray that this season may be a veritable springtime for our souls,

so that our lives, quickened by the breath of the Spirit

and warmed by the sunshine of your love,

may bear abundant fruit and be made radiant with the beauty of holiness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

With blessings and best wishes,

The Vice-Dean, The Revd Canon Roland Riem