The Cathedral Launch

The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, and the Very Revd Jerry Lepine, Dean of Bradford, together with The Revd Canon Mandy Coutts and The Revd Canon Paul Maybury of Bradford Cathedral, alongside the choir led by Director of Music Alex Berry, in a break in proceedings during the Centenary launch services and events.


The launch of Bradford Cathedral’s Centenary events began on Sunday 6th January 2019 with the Epiphany Choral Eucharist, led by the Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, which saw the Bradford Cathedral choir in full voice alongside a solo performance of Psalm 100: Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord by Una Barry, a special composition for the service by Colin Mawby.


Bishop Nick began by considering how the story of Christmas might be different if it had been three wise women rather than men, before talking about the Epiphany and its importance as a time between Christmas and Easter.


The Bishop also took time to mark the one-hundred years celebration: “2019 is the Centenary of Bradford Cathedral. The building has been here for many centuries before, but it was designated a Cathedral in 1919, and through all of that time it strived to offer faithful worship, witness and service of the community in the Diocese of Bradford, which is now part of the Diocese of Leeds. This is a time when we can look back, and look forward, to maintaining that tradition of faithfulness.


“Epiphany is a great day to launch the Centenary year of Bradford Cathedral because the Epiphany is primarily about people going on a journey and when they meet Jesus, and we don’t know what happened there except they brought gifts, they go back a different way. They go back changed; transformed. We don’t know in detail in what way, but it does say you can’t have an encounter with the real Jesus and go away the same. You may reject him but you need to know what you’re rejecting. You may find your life challenged, encouraged, disturbed, warmed, but you cannot go back on the same road.”


The Eucharist also saw a reading from Diane Pacitti, the Cathedral’s poet in residence for 2019, entitled ‘Siting’, which features in the booklet highlighting the events at Bradford Cathedral in the first four months of the year. Diane, who spends her time writing poetry either at home over-looking her garden or often whilst away, in places like Normandy, writes poetry on a wide variety of themes and is composing poems to mark the Centenary of the Cathedral.


“Writing about the Cathedral is a huge privilege; it’s such a wonderful place. I’m also looking at the City of Bradford, and this excites me. I’m looking at its communities; the migrations that have produced these communities. I’m looking at its history; the pre-history, at the geological time sequences that have produced the Dales, the seam of coal, which was so instrumental in fuelling the Industrial Revolution, the Empire [and] all the factories. I look at recent events such as the riots [and] the ‘We Are Bradford’ response to the EDL. There’s a poem called ‘A Second Story?’ which shows how so-called news can be reported two ways. There’s always a second story.


“I’m also interested in the fabric of the city; the very stones hold stories. Look at the Odeon: it had the Beatles, the film stars. I’m very interesting in Bradford as a place of sanctuary, of hospitality.  A place that houses divergent thinkers and allows them to speak out. There are so many aspects of it that interest me.


“It’s a city of faiths, as well as faith. I see the Cathedral making connections. It’s a still presence which has been here so long, holding the whole city in prayer. To me that’s really important; being faithful and working with [refugees] and the homeless. [The Cathedral] is involved in the city, as Christianity always has to be. Christ is incarnate in the city, not on some remote place on a hill.


We asked Diane what she hopes for by the end of the Centenary year. “I’d like to have a collection of poems that reflects the city; that imagines the city in all its complexity, with all its communities. I’d like it to strike a note of hope and pay proper respect to the role of the Cathedral and to faith and I hope that I when I do readings other people will be touched and moved, and perhaps they’ll move around and [discover new things]. There’s so much in this city which is hidden.”


The day’s events continued with the formal launch of Eva Mileusnic’s exhibition ‘Counter-Flow’, a collection of 100 pairs of porcelain feet, marking the struggles of migrants whilst embracing the cultural impact of their traditions. The opening was conducted by Artspace organiser Maggie Peel who thanked the audience and introduced the work. “They’ve got patterns on them to reflect the movement of people across the world. Eva Mileusnic has made all of these especially for us to celebrate the rich and diverse communities that are in Bradford. The themes are memory, migration and identity, and I think all of that comes through in the installation.


Diane performed another poem fitting in with the theme whilst the Very Revd. Jerry Lepine formally opened it. “I find this [installation] full of thoughtfulness and what I see is that each pair of feet is a story and that is the same as how each human is a story, but is also a collective: the gathering of humanity, symbolised.”


Following refreshments Bishop Nick returned to the stage to discuss the topic of ‘Going back a different way – being Christian in a populist world’, a topical look at many of the issues facing Christians – and the wider population – in 2019.


The talk begin: “This building has been a cathedral since 1919, but the building has been here for many centuries before that. It is living evidence of Christian worship, service and faithfulness through times of peace and conflict, change and challenge, struggle and joy. It was designated a cathedral within just one year of the end of the so-called “War to end all wars”. European and wider global manhood had been cut to shreds by the developing technological weaponry disposed at the hands of people the Enlightenment had told us were progressing. So, this cathedral witnessed the loss of Bradford’s youth and innocence and tried to shape a lens of experience and perception through which a bruised generation might look at its torn world and find ways of making it better.


“Fifteen years later Adolf Hitler took power in a democratic election in Germany and twenty one years later Bradford was back at war. Do we ever really learn from history?”


The enthralling hour-long talk and question-and-answer session covered many topics including the rise of populism, fake news, Brexit and the rise of far-right politics, and how people – including Christians – can respond to it.


“We can call out inconsistency between articulated policy and delivered reality; but, we can also encourage where hard and costly decisions are made, often with limited foresight and contested will.


“Christians must love the light by looking at the world – and our politics, and our media – in the light of the Christ who is the light of the world. Don’t just look at Jesus – look at the world through his eyes, say what you see – always with the humility that we might be myopic or wilfully blind – and be trustworthy and faithful.”


Questions at the end included a discussion on the Bishop’s thoughts on the European Union over the last thirty years and whether the church could learn anything from the populist movement, to which he replied “We’ve got to pay attention to language. The people who lead populist revolutions are not the common people.”


The Centenary year was launched formally at 4pm with the Festal Choral Evensong, featuring songs performed by the Bradford Cathedral choir and a sermon from Bishop Nick, where he used television sitcom ‘Father Ted’ as a springboard for the story about turning water into wine at the Wedding at Cana.


The day’s services and events came to an end with the cutting of the specially baked Centenary cake, the first slice cut by Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon, and Artspace organiser and choir member, Maggie Peel under, of course, the careful guidance of Dean Jerry.


Dean Jerry said of the event. “It was a joyous and thought-provoking beginning to Bradford Cathedral’s Centenary Year. It was ‘cathedral’ at its best with hospitality, beautiful music and people drawn from all over the region and beyond.


“I was deeply touched by the people that travelled a distance to be with us. It showed not only their generosity of spirit but also the affection that people have for this cathedral. Bishop Nick’s address on Populism and Faith was a brilliant example of someone who is really on top of his subject, giving leadership to the church at this challenging time.


“If you missed the beginning, there’s plenty more coming during the year, which you can see on our website.”


Bradford Cathedral now looks forward to hosting further events in January including a chamber music concert with Tasmin Little and John Lenehan, and an address by Judge Laurence Saffer entitled ‘Torn From Home’, before more events from February through to the actual Centenary date on 25th November 2019, one hundred years after King George V decreed that the parish church of St Peter would become a Cathedral.