Manchester Cathedral: Likes and Dislikes

Manchester Cathedral is a delightful building in the heart of Lancashire’s biggest metropolis. Although it seems to be in a constant state of repair and refurbishment, it is a fine link to our spiritual past. During my visit this summer, there were three things I liked, and three I disliked.

As a non-Anglican, I shouldn’t be too sniffy about how the Church of England manages itself and its properties. Nevertheless, a number of things disappointed me.

1)      There is no pulpit. That the church of Richard Heyrick, seventeenth century puritan preacher and warden, should fail to have a pulpit is something of a tragedy. Perhaps preaching is not so high a priority? I see there are plenty of altars about the place.

2)      The tourist information boards claimed that the church was ransacked by puritans during the civil war. That’s odd, I explained to the guide. Manchester never saw any real fighting during that war, and the church was a puritan hot-bed. They’d hardly smash up their own church. The guide didn’t know what to say, so I wrote to the management. The archivist’s reply conceded there was no ransacking, although he pointed out some damage to a wooden screen. I sometimes think old churches’ managers rejoice at having been damaged by wicked puritans.

3)      I also encountered the eastern doorway, over which were painted the words Diversity, Healing, Glory, Wholeness, Inclusion. The three middle words are fair enough, I suppose. We give glory to God when we worship, and by so doing we receive healing and wholeness by Christ’s sacrifice. What about diversity and inclusion? The words themselves are harmless; nay, they have positive meanings. Churches are made up of all sorts of people. Though one body, we are different members. We also seek to include everyone, regardless of background or education. The early church was made up of slaves and the poor as well as doctors and local officials. Worryingly, these two innocuous words have now attached to them loaded agenda, stemming from government and lobby groups, especially regarding sexuality. That this church appears to be promoting these worldly hobby-horses is something of a disappointment.

So what did I like?

1)      Well there’s a memorial to John Bradford, a native of Manchester who was burnt at the stake for his faith in Christ, by Bloody Mary. In the Tower of London, he shared a cell with Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley. As the flames began to lick him, he called out to a fellow martyr: "Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!". That this cathedral should commemorate this man of God is commendable.

2)      The cathedral’s website has a section called ‘theology’…. which tells you something of what its members believe! I wrote in so surprised a manner because most Anglican websites don’t bother, as though doctrine and belief are secondary or tertiary elements of faith. It’s not the strongest theological declaration I’ve read, but at least it’s there:

3)      Thirdly, it’s free. London and York’s cathedrals both charge for admission. Manchester, thank God, still allows people in without first demanding their money.