Cathedral Is Struggling to Survive and It Deserves Better Support; IN Last Week's Your Life, Reader Valerie Flynn Criticised Coventry Cathedral for Hosting Commerial Events - Including a Students' Summer Ball in the Ruins - Saying It Amounted to Desecration. Today the Dean of Coventry, the Very Reverend John Irvine, Responds
VALERIE FLYNN raises some interesting issues in her article about Coventry Cathedral.
She mentions our "Remember our child" ministry which is a great support to bereaved parents. She might also have spoken of our youth ministry where our team is in touch with hundreds of the young people who hang around in the city centre, or our choirs drawing in young people from many of the city's schools or any other of the many ways we seek to serve our city and all those who visit.
Like all cathedrals, Coventry hosts a wide range of events throughout the year, including choral concerts, gala dinners, conferences and student balls. This is very much part of the cathedral's ministry of welcome and often offers opportunity to present the good news of Jesus and reconciliation to all our visitors - be they attending an event, or arriving as a tourist or pilgrim.
In the secular society we live in today, with only seven per cent of the population attending church regularly, we are glad to welcome people to one of Britain's most striking spiritual buildings.
It is important to us to share this with everyone of whatever faith or none in many ways. We do not hold such a sharp distinction between sacred and secular as Ms Flynn.
I would not consider hosting Question Time for the BBC, or the Water Aid charity dinner last week a "shameful" activity. God is concerned for society and social justice is high on his agenda. Coventry University is next door to the cathedral and we are proud of our partnership with them and glad to host their graduation ceremonies and their ball.
This is not new thinking, but was also the view of our forebears. History tells us that cathedrals were often the venue for secular events including courts of law, markets and festivals. Jesus himself loved a party, turned water into wine and was accused of being a glutton and drunkard. "Well people don't need a doctor," he said and came to minister to the needy. Of course, there are boundaries, and so all events are carefully considered by our leadership team before we consent to host them, and supervised by staff to ensure boundaries we have set are not crossed.
With regard to financing, I could not agree more about the dismal state of government funding for England's cathedrals. Coventry Cathedral receives no financial support from either Coventry City Council or national government. To make matters worse, at the end of 2009, English Heritage's Cathedral Grant Scheme was closed - withdrawing pounds 4 million of annual funding. We have to work hard to generate all our income. We need that income to sustain our ministry.
People do not seem to appreciate that we have two cathedrals to maintain - the ruins and the new cathedral. We have no healthy endowment which many older cathedrals enjoy. This is a heavy burden. Like the rest of the country in the midst of a deep and ongoing recession, and with annual cathedral operating costs of pounds 1.8 million, or pounds 5,000 per day, we have to look at all possible opportunities for increasing our income simply to maintain our core purpose as a church.
In 2010, such events brought in pounds 80,000 of critical income. Even so, we were forced to make very deep cuts, including making staff redundant.
It is sad that often the people who complain loudest about the occasional us a"shame...
YOURviews secular event (we only have about 20 per year), which help us generate income to sustain this precious place, are often those who neither seek to understand how the cathedral is funded, or navely think we can run the place on donations and fresh air. IS commercial which VALERIE thinks "I HAVE spent most of my life in Coventry studying at local schools and colleges before gaining an MSc at the London School of more cathedral. to happen. …