What is Bradford Cathedral here for?
People come to the Cathedral for many reasons. It may be as visitors to a beautiful building, or as pilgrims to meet with God. For some it is familiar; for others it may seem strange.
What happens here?
What does it mean?
What is it for?
Most of us recognise that there is more to life than the everyday things around us. We look for some purpose in life. We look for love and beauty and values which will give our lives meaning. We hope that we will be remembered after we die.
Worship takes up these feelings and offers them to God.
In worship we express our trust in the God who was shown to us by Jesus. He taught us to call God ‘our Father’, and invited us to share our lives with God.
Christians believe in Jesus as the Son of God, using ways of worship based on the Jewish prayers which Jesus and his followers used. This worship is offered to God freely by us, and it reminds us that we depend on God for our existence. As one of the prayers we use in the Cathedral says, worship is our duty and our joy.
At the heart of the Cathedral is the commitment to daily worship. Worship is offered on behalf of everyone, not only those who take part. It is a form of work, of ‘service’, and was called by the medieval monks opus dei, ‘the work of God’.
How do we worship today in Bradford Cathedral?
For over a thousand years, Christians have worshipped God on the site of the cathedral. They have used the psalms, the ancient hymns of the Jewish people, from the Bible. Saying or singing the psalms has always been a central feature of daily worship, as well as songs, hymns and Bible readings.
In the Middle Ages there were seven services each day. When the Church of England became separated from the Roman Catholic Church in the middle of the sixteenth century, these were reduced to two: Mattins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong (Evening Prayer). These services are held on most weekdays in the Cathedral, and are celebrated with greater solemnity on Sundays, when there are hymns and a sermon.
Morning Prayer is said in the Lady Chapel by the Cathedral clergy (and anyone else who comes) at 8.00am each day, normally using the modern forms from the Church of England’s Common Worship Book 2000.
Evensong is from the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. If the choir are available (Sundays, and most Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays in term time) they sing some of the service on behalf of everyone there; otherwise the service is said by the clergy, usually in the Lady Chapel. It normally takes place at 5.30pm except on Sundays. Service times may differ because of festivals or other special arrangements - check with the Cathedral office or look at the notice boards around the Cathedral.
At daily worship we pray in particular for the life of the city and Diocese of Bradford, as well as offering to God particular people and issues around the world.
The service at the heart of Christian worship is that of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist (which means ‘thanksgiving’), or the Mass.
On the night before he died, Jesus had a special supper with his followers when he gave them bread to eat and wine to drink, saying: ‘This is my body - this is my blood - do this in memory of me.’ The next day, now remembered as Good Friday, he was put to death on the cross. On the following Sunday he rose from the dead. In Holy Communion we remember these events in obedience to Jesus’ command.
Eating together is an important human activity. We celebrate special times with special meals. Eating with someone brings you closer to them: you have food ‘in common’, you are ‘in communion’ with them. Also, the food and drink becomes a part of you and gives you strength.
So it is with Holy Communion. As we eat and drink together, we continue the tradition that Jesus had of eating with his friends. We celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead, and recognise that he is with us in spirit: We also eat and drink ‘the body and blood of Christ’, not literally, but spiritually - the bread and wine are symbols of the life God gives us through Jesus. To eat and drink at this service is to invite Jesus to become part of your life.
There are regular communion services on Wednesday (7.30 and 10.15am) as well as Sunday and some special occasions. They include readings from the Bible, and a sermon on Sundays. We pray for others, and ask for God’s forgiveness for our sins - the ways in which we haven’t done what we should. The priest declares God’s forgiveness, and invites us to ‘share a sign of peace’ - shaking hands with people around you, which is a sign of coming together to eat with Jesus. There follows a prayer over the bread and wine, coming forward to eat and drink, and a final blessing.
Come and Worship
Everyone is welcome to come to worship.
If you would like to attend and are unsure what to do, ask a member of staff and they will be pleased to welcome you and find you a seat. You may wish to watch and listen, or to join in as appropriate. There are simple service cards for Evening and Morning prayer, and service books by the main door and in the Lady Chapel.
You are welcome to join us for Holy Communion, and take the bread and wine if you are a communicant in a Christian church. If you do not take communion, you are welcome to come to the altar rail for a blessing by the priest - simply kneel but do not hold out your hands. Being part of a communion service links you with the life of Jesus and his friends over almost two thousand years of history.
If you come to worship, you will be joining in a tradition of worship which has taken place here for over a thousand years - give or take a few interruptions due to invaders and civil war!
Other Features of Worship
The robes worn by clergy and choir are descended from the clothes worn in very early times, and link our worship to past tradition. To wear distinctive clothes also shows that the ministers are there to serve God and others, and have a particular role to play - in the same way that policemen and others wear uniform.
Singing is an ancient way of expressing worship: it is either done together, or sometimes by a choir who sing while the congregation prays quietly (and usually standing, to indicate their participation). Saying scripture passages together is another form of worship, and the Church of England regularly uses particular ‘canticles’ (Latin for ‘songs’), which are often called by the first word in the old Latin translation: for example, the Song of Simeon (Luke chapter 2) is the Nunc Dimittis: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace’.
In the chapels you can light a candle for prayer, and spend as long as you like on your own in quietness with God. The lighting of a candle is an outward sign that you want God’s light to shine on people in need.
In the Holy Spirit Chapel next to the Lady Chapel you can write down a prayer to be offered to God in our Sunday worship.
The life of the Cathedral
As well as being a focus of worship, the Cathedral is also the seat of the Bishop of the Church of England in Bradford: his Diocese stretches west and north to Lancashire and southern Cumbria. It can be a busy place. People want to hold special services; there are concerts, events and group visits. We like to be welcoming and try to accommodate as many requests as possible. We apologise if this restricts your visit here, or if the Cathedral is not as quiet as you would like.
Whatever happens, we maintain the central vision of Cathedral life as a place where God is worshipped every day. We invite you to be part of that vision, in your visit here, and when you leave. There will be a church near where you live which also offers worship; and Jesus promises that he will be close to us if we pray to God through him, wherever and whoever we are.
What’s Bradford Cathedral for?
To share God’s love with others in worship, prayer and service.
May the blessing of God go with you!