A reflection: Churches and Cathedrals

We are about to start a new virtual pilgrimage of England’s cathedrals, mainly from the Northern Province of the Church of England but not exclusively.

At a practical level churches and cathedrals are buildings that protect us from the worse effects of weather. They provide a meeting place where we gather to pray, sing, celebrate, commemorate key moments in our lives. We become familiar with them, secure and woe betide anyone who suggests changes.

Church and Cathedrals are more than just practical shelters from the vagaries of the weather. Within Christianity we are familiar with the phrase ‘Sacred Space’ which is often associated with worship and our churches and cathedrals but not exclusively. Places, creation and our environment, music and our liturgy also can strike a sacred chord. We also need to realise that how people respond to the notion of sacredness can vary and we should be sensitive this.

It is good that we set aside places, buildings that take on a sacred role. Places that that have been saturated with the prayer, song, and presence of people on their faith journey and also those who visit our churches occasionally.

In the busyness, confusion and stress of daily life having a place to go to, a Sacred Place that can absorb some of the burden that we carry can be important for our well-being. On visits to our cathedrals, I have often noticed people sitting, quietly with their thoughts, some mouthing words others not. There was no rush just people absorbing the stillness and hopefully leaving refreshed having spent time in their Sacred Space. Of course, some people may sit quietly in a church or cathedral appreciating the environment without any religious undertones, appreciating the place and space.

As we reflect on some of the cathedrals within the Church of England let us honour those from other traditions who have buildings that are their sacred spaces. Buildings that provide security, a sense of belonging and where they can lift their voices in praise.


Cathedrals in the Church of England

This series of reflections will be based on the theme of cathedrals and cathedrals in the Northern Province of the Church of England but before I start I wish to acknowledge those Anglicans within the Diocese in Europe.

The Church of England’s Diocese in Europe has its own cathedral in Gibraltar and two pro-cathedrals. Holy Trinity in Brussels and St Paul, Valetta, Malta.

On the cathedrals web page, you will find reference to a royal document sealed by Queen Victoria on 21st August 1842. Holy Trinity Church Gibraltar became a cathedral with its first bishop, Gibraltar also became a city. Later this document was revoked, except for Gibraltar’s city status. A few weeks later another royal document was issued appointing a new bishop and expanding his geographic range to the continent of Europe, the Canaries, the coast of Morocco, and the islands of the Mediterranean.

The architecture with its arches and porch gives the cathedral’s exterior a strong ‘Moorish’ appearance. It is a cultural recognition of the Moorish influences in this part of the Mediterranean.

The interior photographs give us pointers to the cathedral’s Anglican heritage.

The cathedral of Holy Trinity, Gibraltar may stand out architecturally as different from the cathedrals we visited on our virtual cathedral pilgrimage and at 281 years is considerably younger than the medieval cathedrals that are so much part of the England’s cathedral heritage.

The nave

The cathedral of Holy Trinity, Gibraltar has for its 285 years (firstly as a church then as a cathedral) been a place of worship. A place set aside for Christians to gather, share faith and stories, share hospitality and grow as a community.
Cathedrals have special associations for people they are places that can envelope them in a sense of sacredness which goes beyond just the architecture.

The communion rail and altar.

Our Christian heritage has created buildings across the world, sometimes so English and European and yet at times reflecting local culture. There is much to celebrate and give thanks for.


In our time of reflective prayerfulness

Time of reflective prayer

Pause and Reflect 1st week of Advent

Slow down, breath calmly
and relax.
Opening Prayer

A prayer for Gibraltar’s Cathedral and the Diocese in Europe, its people and those who service the cathedral.

Loving God, draw us on the journey
to the places of holiness, the places of peace,
the places of encounter, the places of beauty,
the places where faith has been lived, your love made known,
your hope held out in the past, for the present, into your future. Amen


Almighty God,
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The Gospel reading for Advent Sunday begins with words of warning and dramatic events in the cosmos culmination with the Son of Man coming in clouds
The reading ends with these words of caution.

The Necessity for Watchfulness
‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ Mark 13.32-end

Pause and reflection on the words from the Gospel reading.

Read again and ponder these closing words again:

Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.
Click for the hymn ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’ – Chet Valley Churches

Let us draw into our circle of prayer our:
Family and Friends
Local church and its leaders
wider community
widening our circle to include:
those in government and positions of authority
those who are oppressed, those who are hungry and homeless
those who are ill, those facing death
Merciful Father, accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

When asked about how to pray Jesus gave these simple but profound words, so let them be our prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil. Amen

Closing Prayer

Adapted from Bury Mission Community Prayer (Diocese of Manchester)

Loving God,
Jesus called his disciples to seek your kingdom and follow him.
You summon us to share work of our Pilgrim Community
Open our hearts to hear his invitation to be his disciples in this generation.
Grant us courage.
Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit.
Give us compassion, wisdom and resilience.
Pour on us your endless grace that we may flourish, and our parishes grow in faith and love, service and compassion,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen


+ In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Click for ‘Lo he comes’ – Chet Valley Churches


You may wish the finish this time of reflective prayer sitting silently and enjoying a peaceful moment or two. You may also think about listening to some music that has touched you or a favourite hymn or song. Enjoy these moments! God bless!


Fr. Derek Akker

(Derek is a retired Anglican Parish Priest and a member of the congregations of All Saints & St James. Prior to his ordination he was accredited as a Methodist Preacher in 1968 and served within the Methodist Church until returning to the Anglican Church in the mid 1980’s)
Parish of Kirklees Valley, Bury, (All Saints, Elton & St James, Woolfold) – In the Diocese of Manchester


Opening prayer from the Association of English Cathedrals
Collect -The Archbishops Council 2004
Candle Image – Dodecaeder – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0