Prayer for Liverpool
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.
supporting you during these uncertain times
Liverpool Cathedral is a place of encounter. Built by the people, for the people, to the Glory of God
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