Since the present restrictions began last week, and we find ourselves mostly confined to our homes, the daily exercise, as permitted and encouraged by the Government, has become a highlight of each day. For me this has meant going for a walk, either around the perimeter of the Cathedral, or more adventurously along to Upper Parliament Street, then Hope St and back again. The exercise is wonderful, both for physical and mental well-being, but the walk also provides an opportunity to think – perhaps even to pray – in the unusually quiet and deserted streets.
My favourite view on these daily walks is the familiar one as you turn the corner into St James’s Road from Upper Parliament Street. It is the view of the steps up to St James’s Mount with the Cathedral in the background. The view has hardly changed since the photographs taken in 1924, as King George V and Queen Mary left the Cathedral by coach after attending the great service of Consecration. The only addition is the Vestey Tower, itself completed during the darkest years of World War Two.
For this present season, the Cathedral stands in complete silence, majestic and strong, but empty. The prayers of its clergy have not ceased, but they have moved, as required by national advice, into our homes beneath the Cathedral’s shadow. Its organ and its bells are silent, the great space no longer echoes with the glorious sounds of our magnificent choir, and the many familiar daily sounds - children enjoying workshops, the bustle of the shop and the tower, hospitality in the Welsford and on the Mezzanine, the busyness of vergers, cleaners and maintenance – all of these are still, for now but not for ever.
I was fortunate enough to be present, as a young curate, at the service when Her Majesty the Queen came to celebrate the completion of the Cathedral in October 1978. The preacher at the service was the Archbishop of York, Stuart Blanch, who had previously been Bishop of Liverpool. Some words from his sermon speak to me particularly in the silence of this moment:
The stones of this great Cathedral from the quarry in Woolton have been shouting since 1910, shouting about the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, but who is near to those who are of a humble and contrite spirit. This is one of the great buildings of the world, not simply performing a function, but reminding us of the greatness and majesty of God. In this temple we see the Lord high and lifted up. I have never been able to enter this Cathedral without a revived sense of the majesty of God and a revived sense of my own unimportance in the scheme of things. But strangely enough, this has managed to combine a testimony to the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity with a testimony to the God who is near to those who are of a humble and contrite spirit. The days for dogmatic utterance and thunderings from the pulpit are over – and I do not regret that – but that is no reason for keeping quiet. In art and in music, and speech and literature, in reasoned discussion and in poetry, in service to society and in sacrifice on behalf of it, we need to proclaim our faith in Christ as One who is near to suffering humanity and yet remains the high and lofty One. If we, as disciples of the Lord keep on keeping quiet, these stones will shout aloud to succeeding generations as long as this nation remains a nation, and this city remains a city.’
During this season of silence, we must largely leave it to the stones to do the shouting, and, we need have no doubt that they will do this for us, built by the people, for the people, to the glory of God, as long as this city remains a city. But we also dare to look forward with prayer and hope to another moment when the sounds which we love so much return.
Even in these most strange of times, its still amazing how God is at work. Initially one might not think so, and we’d be right to think that way – for our lives, our country, our planet has changed almost overnight because of this coronavirus, COVID-19. In the university where I work, everything changed in just a couple of days – our buildings are now locked and all our teaching and assessment is suddenly plunged into the sometimes-ethereal world of cyberspace. I realise now how much I miss my students – in terms of face-to-face contact and discussion. My lectures, in the normal fashion, are more conversation than anything else – and it’s not the same in front of a computer screen. Supporting our students, themselves now in a bizarrely different world, physically away from everyone else, is paramount for us and helping them through some very difficult encounters.
But there are some glimmers of hope in this strange, transient world; similar perhaps to those of Martha and Mary in Sunday’s gospel from St John (11:1-45); the glimmers of hope that if Jesus had only been there at the right time, then their brother Lazarus would have been saved. But then, as now, Jesus, the love of God and the spirit which works through all does not disappoint – and the miracle of Lazarus restored to life, ensues.
We might not find them miracles, but all through this last week I have heard wonderful stories – small miracles in themselves perhaps; of how people are finding hope through so many different ways in these challenging times. Through new community and new church in an online fashion now; through renewed interests, talents and skills; through revisiting the common values which bind us all together in the volunteers and communities amassing to help each other and especially the vulnerable. The green shoots of hope are there, through things we can see and feel – and know that God loves us still.
But we must wholly be aware of the tragic loss of life too, and the change for many of livelihoods at present and in the days to come. Just a few hours ago, I heard of a dear friend seriously ill with the virus; our prayers lie with him and many others. The tragedy of lost loved ones, and the painful realities of not being able to grieve or celebrate passed lives together must be totally appreciated. But our faith, our prayers can help sustain us in some small way through even such – in knowing that we are indeed within a Good Friday period of our life history; that will result in an Easter day – when life is restored and renewed when we can indeed properly revisit our nearest and dearest. For now, we follow the wisdom of those leading scientifically and medically, support those on the new clinical frontline by observing the best way and surest path through all this, and know that our prayers will be answered in the best possible way….through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With my love and prayers for you all; stay safe….
For many years, folk at Liverpool Cathedral have met over a simple breakfast on many Sunday mornings to open the Bible and be fed spiritually, as we prepare for worship. Whilst we cannot do that together in one place at the moment, we can individually continue that practice, either on Sundays, or some other day of the week. It doesn’t even have to be over breakfast!
This Lent, we have been working through the set Psalms for each Sunday’s principal Communion service. You are welcome to make use of the notes for the Psalm set for Passion Sunday, Psalm 130.
It is Sunday; well that is what the diary tells me. It does not feel like a ‘real Sunday’. There is no physical church and, like all of you good citizens, I am not going to church. We are all staying at home.
As life changed this week from worshipping in the Cathedral behind closed doors to no worship in the Cathedral I have begun to re-think what it means to worship ‘the God who knows and loves us’. Gradually, and I have to say gradually as I am no technical expert, I have begun to discover what is and what is not possible through technology.
So this week we are trying once again to connect with the Cathedral community and the people of Liverpool and Merseyside through this web site (prayforliverpool.org). To access today’s worship and reflection by Canon Leslie Francis, Canon Theologian, click on this link to the Cathedral Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LiverpoolCathedral/videos/503838456953743/. You can download the text of the service below.
As a Cathedral Chapter and with other colleagues we will also be worshipping at home through Microsoft Teams. Canon Myles will be leading us in a Eucharist which will be offered on behalf of us all. This will take place at the usual time, so please do stop for a moment and think about sharing with us in prayer, as we remember Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, when he instituted the Eucharist.
The institution of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday led on to Good Friday the day when Jesus died. It continues to feel like we are still in Good Friday and that we have a long journey to go until we reach resurrection and Easter Day. We will continue to pray for you all and wish you God’s Blessing in this strange, odd and difficult time.
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah Liverpool (https://micahliverpool.com/) has continued supporting people who need emergency food aid. On a Tuesday at St Vincent’s Church and a Thursday at St Brides. This work is also supported by our sisters and brothers at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Liverpool Parish Church (St Nicholas and Our Lady).
Every day I pray for Micah – for the staff, volunteers, trustees, people who donate and most importantly for everyone who currently, has, or will ever need, the support of Micah. These are challenging times but for many in our city, diocese and region their need is intense and frightening. Micah brings to those is most need not just food but also kindness. Please join me in praying for this charity and the work they do.
If you’d like to donate food or money to support this vital front line work please click on the website for more information.
Twitter: @MicahLiverpool for daily updates
In the iconic Disney film ‘Bambi’, there is a lovely section of the film set in the spring when, according to the wise old owl, ‘nearly everybody gets twitterpated’. Bambi and Thumper, his young rabbit friend, are adamant that they won’t get twitterpated: “It’s not going to happen to me’, they say. Well, of course, little did they know….but I don’t want to spoil what happens next. You’ll have to watch, or re-watch, the film to find out!
For us humans, it’s a very strange spring indeed and becoming ‘twitterpated’ is probably pretty far off our radar. But on my daily exercise recently, as allowed by the current ‘lockdown’ rules, I was reminded that, for all our woes, the rest of creation carries on regardless, doing what it normally does at this time of year. Around us, there is a lot of ‘twitterpation’ going on!
I am fortunate to live within a short walk of the delightful St. James’ Gardens, adjacent to the Cathedral. I had already been trying to make a point of a short walk around it as many mornings as possible (let’s face it, I need the exercise!). But the current stringencies have persuaded me that I need to make a brisk walk each day a key priority of my daily routine. And what a blessing it has been.
Admittedly the fine weather of recent days has been a great help, but it has been a profoundly enriching experience to wander round that little bit of parkland in the heart of this large and normally buzzing city, and see nature in all its glory. The spring flowers are looking lovely in the morning sunshine: daffodils, primroses, hyacinths and violets. The buds on some of the trees are starting to swell. Grey squirrels are scampering around the trees. Even the odd butterfly has been venturing out into the early spring sunshine. And there are lots and lots of birds. I counted, on one half-hour walk, no fewer than 17 different species. There were robins singing away to each other – it sounds beautiful, but what it really means is ‘keep off my patch’. Long-tailed tits diving into a bramble bush with beaks full of feathers, lichens, moss and spider-silk to make their incredible Easter-egg shaped nests, that will soon be packed with a mind-boggling number of tiny youngsters. A redwing (a type of thrush) filling its boots with juicy worms before heading off to northern climes to breed, and a chiffchaff (a kind of warbler) that, unsurprisingly has a song that goes ‘chiff chaff’. It will probably have just arrived here and will be getting ready to find a mate and camp out for the summer. I was halted in my tracks simply to stop and watch and listen. Which is all the more easy when there is rather less traffic zooming along the neighbouring streets.
It struck me so powerfully that we have such treasures on our doorsteps, and yet I am often in too much of a rush to take them in. Yes, I am a bit of a wildlife nerd, but it’s helping me to get through this time of confinement. Maybe it might help you too? There is something quite cathartic about getting outdoors especially as the days grow longer. And if it helps us to take a bit more interest in our environment that surely should be a good thing? You don’t have to know all the names of the birds to enjoy it, but maybe it would be an opportunity to learn about some of them. Perhaps, too, it might take us a bit closer to the Creator of the world – the One who formed the earth and ‘every living creature that moves’. Not without good reason did the Psalmist declare (Psalm 19:1), “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”. Admittedly, he didn’t talk about getting twitterpated, but the sentiment is surely there….?
So, if you’re not confined to barracks because of self-isolation or ill-health, and are able to get outside for a wee while for your daily exercise, keep your eyes open to see what the rest of nature is up to. The fact that all of this is moving on apace, apparently oblivious to the woes of humanity at this moment, is something that I find strangely re-assuring.
This morning I said my prayers from the third floor of my house. The third floor has wonderful views over the city and on such a clear sunny day the city looked magnificent. I lit my candle to remember the people of Liverpool, Merseyside and the world and prayed earnestly for an end to the Corona Virus. I remembered all people suffering from the virus. I prayed for all who have died and I thanked God for our NHS and for all those who are working so hard to relieve the pain of others.
Please do take time in your day, as you sit at home, to be grateful for good health and kind people.
In our digital world it’s hard to escape the news and we know that many people are feeling quite overwhelmed in the current situation. For our congregation, like for so many of us, being stuck at home is a difficult time but to fight the spread of this horrible disease, we all need to play our part.
Keeping everyone safe and healthy is a key priority and we’ve had to close the doors to the Cathedral for the time being. So while you’re not able to join us in person to worship at Liverpool Cathedral, we’ve introduced Prayer for Liverpool. It’s a way for us to come together as a church community virtually.
You’ll be able to find prayers, view the worship services we’ve filmed or find inspiration from our Education Team on how children can engage with us.
Prayer for Liverpool
brought to you from Liverpool Cathedral
St James Mount
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter.
Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God