This Sunday we welcome Civic, Legal and Public Service Representatives from our City and across the Local Regions for the Annual Civic Mass within our Cathedral as we pray for the well being of our City and of all the local Boroughs within our Archdiocese. This is not an easy time for those who carry responsibility in political and public life not least due to the financial pressures on local and national government and so we not only give thanks today for all the life of our City and region, but pray for all those in positions of leadership and responsibility.
Next Wednesday we mark the beginning of the Season of Lent with the Reception of Ashes. Masses on Ash Wednesday are at the normal times with the 5.15pm Mass celebrated at the High Altar. There is also a later service of the Word and Distribution of Ashes at 7.30pm in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Whatever you are planning for your Lenten Resolutions this year the readings on Ash Wednesday challenge us to a growth in prayer and reflection on the Lord’s life, a simpler lifestyle through fasting and some form of greater charitable witness. May we approach Lent with a generous spirit hoping that the efforts we make will draw us closer to Christ and lead to a fruitful celebration of Holy Week and Easter.
Last Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of the first ringing of our Cathedral Bells and we marked the occasion by ringing them a few times during the morning and afternoon. The bells were cast and installed by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, London. Sadly this Foundry, which has been in existence since 1570 and cast bells for such buildings as St Pauls, Westminster Abbey and the Liberty Bell, is due to close this year. Our Cathedral Bells were designed as a set of four named after the four Evangelists with Matthew being the largest and John the smallest and each one has the name cast on it. (Apparently, one of the local tour buses relates the story that they are known locally as John, Paul, George and Ringo but that was news to me!). In keeping with the experimental design elements of the building, the bells are operated electronically with motors swinging the bells, the largest of which weighs almost 5 tons. It is remarkable that the system has lasted relatively trouble free over the last 50 years apart from replacement of some of the relays and mechanical repairs and adjustments. The same person, Mr Philip Irvine, has serviced the mechanical operation for these bells and the main doors for the last 50 years since they were installed and he still manages to climb up to the bell tower to do the work.
Last week we also received some good news regarding St Vincent’s Church. We were given approval about six months ago from the Diocesan Trustees to be able to repair and re- plaster the side walls of the church. This meant that we would have had to take out a loan and add it to our St Vincent repayment debts of over half a million pounds giving us even more sleepless nights! In light of this we applied to the Gubay Foundation for a grant and the news this week is that we have received an award of £29,700 to cover the cost of this work. It is hoped to start the first phase of re-plastering in the near future.
Next Sunday at 6.30pm the ‘Bach Collective’ (a group of musicians and singers) will perform a Bach Cantata at St Vincent’s Church during a celebration of Lutheran Evensong involving congregations from the German and Nordic Churches along with any parishioners from the Cathedral or St Vincent’s who wish to attend. The service is at 6.30pm on Sunday 5th March.