Parish Magazine Article - January 2021

In the introduction to a diocesan history, written in 1888, the author speaks of Hereford diocese and its characteristics.He says that, while it may not be as ‘grand’ as some and small in population, it nevertheless ‘is expressed to us in the notion of a family rather than of a great community.’ The writer goes on to speak of our diocese as one ‘containing elements more amenable to kindly personal influence and more favourable to individual direction of character’.In many ways, those words written all those years ago, still hold true today. We are a family and I’ve always been conscious of that throughout my almost nineteen years as dean.We’ve tried to emphasise the role of the cathedral as ‘Mother Church’ and one of my great joys has been to see the cathedral shared by the parishes of the diocese:

  • regular deanery visits for service and supper in College Hall.
  • regular curate training days, introducing our clergy to the life of the cathedral.
  • big diocesan events – ordinations, Thy Kingdom Come.
  • pilgrim walks, culminating at the shrine of St Thomas.

And perhaps my greatest joy has been to see the Order of St Ethelbert established. In the four years of its existence, over 100 people from the diocese have been honoured at a special service in the cathedral –wonderful examples of Christian ministry whose service so deserves to be recognised and celebrated.We weren’t able to hold the ceremony last year, but God willing, 2021 will see its resumption.

Apart from these events, welcoming communities to the cathedral, it has been a great joy for me to preach in churches throughout the diocese.My last such visit, before the March lockdown was to Holy Trinity, Much Wenlock where we celebrated their saint, Milburga.

Rather more enjoyable that my sermons (at least to me!) are my ‘Dean’s Delight’ evenings, where I’ve brought to parishes and deaneries an evening of music, singing, poetry and generally ‘larking about’.It’s my honest opinion that we often see more of God in humour than we realise.And so often, these ‘one- man band’ musical evenings have enabled parishes to raise valuable funds.I looked through my list of such evenings the other day and found – Cradley, Ledbury, Eastnor, Ross, Much Wenlock, Alberbury,Cound, Acton Scott, Rushbury, and many others.At these, and so many places, I found wonderful, warm, caring communities – communities who loved their church buildings and the people who came to them.

Yes, indeed, it is the ‘family’ of our diocese that I shall remember so well – and I shall continue to give thanks for the privilege of being part of our story and pilgrimage together.

But I’m not quite leaving the diocese! My retirement home will be in Presteigne, a place I’ve always loved and of course, one of the 15 Welsh parishes which chose to stay in the Church of England at Disestablishment 100 years ago.So I shall be retiring to a different country but remaining in the same diocese – there’s the strange and quirky nature of the Church of England!

Thank you all – parish clergy, College of Canons, wardens, congregations - for the wonderful way you’ve supported the cathedral and its dean.I wish you every happiness and success in the future as we work together to make Our Lord known and loved among us.

God bless you all

Michael