The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Chichester, is the smallest medieval cathedral in England, the oldest part dating back to 1075. That, combined with the clean unpretentious lines, give it the intimate feel of a parish church. Chichester Cathedral is famous for its free-standing 14th century bell tower, and has the longest uninterrupted aisle of any English cathedral. The spire, rebuilt after it collapsed in 1861, fortunately without loss of life, is the only English cathedral spire visible from the sea. The shrine of St Richard is located in the retro-choir. The quire boasts a fine set of wooden misericords from the 14th century, and the Lady chapel has been beautifully restored recently. Chichester Cathedral holds together modern and ancient art in a unique mixture of artifacts, with a number of modern works of art especially commissioned for the cathedral in the 20th century. The green inside the cloisters is regularly used for modern art exhibitions.
It regularly hosts concerts (some of them free), lectures, social and educational events. The small choir of 14 trebles, six lay vicars and up to four probationers is one of the last bastions of the all-male cathedral choir in England, though interestingly the master of the choristers has been a woman since 2007. Since 2002 peregrine falcons have been breeding here. The cathedral entertains ecumenical relations with both Roman Catholic and Lutheran cathedral communities in Germany as well as Chartres Cathedral in France.
The origins of the city of Chichester are Roman, and large sections of the old city walls survive. It is one of the few English cities that retains its ancient street pattern very noticeably in the city centre, with four intersecting roads corresponding to the major compass points. The cathedral is very close to the geographical centre at the heart of the city. Nearby are some civic buildings. A little further, but still in the centre of the city, is an art gallery, the university, and the famous Chichester Festival Theatre.
The Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner, whose enthronement as Bishop of Chichester took place at this service; the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham; the Ven. Sheila Watson, Archdeacon of Canterbury; the dean and chapter of Chichester Cathedral; the Worshipful Mark Hill, QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Chichester; John Rees, Registrar of the Province of Canterbury; John Stapleton, Registrar of the Diocese of Chichester.
What was the name of the service?Enthronement of the Rt Revd Dr Martin Warner as 103rd Bishop of Chichester.
How full was the building?
Packed with all the great and the good of the diocese both ecclesiastical and secular: all the parish clergy and licensed readers, visiting clergy, and one lay representative from each parish.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
The regular stewards were supported by additional helpers, all of them friendly but overwhelmed by the occasion.
Was your pew comfortable?
No. The cattle-class plastic folding chairs broken out in the aisles and transept for occasional events are among the worst available, in my opinion. They were highly uncomfortable and also placed much too close together, with almost no leg room. The business-class padded chairs in the nave are much better, though a bit 1970s.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
This was a great civic and ecclesiastic occasion and therefore had none of the usual reflective pre-service quietness. Ticket-holders were instructed to be in their pews at least half an hour before the start of the service, and the reason for this became clear when the minutely choreographed procession commenced and a hush descended on the congregation.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
From the dean of Chichester Cathedral: "My brothers and sisters in Christ, we have come together in the presence of Almighty God to inaugurate the ministry of Martin, Bishop of Chichester, and to place him in the episcopal chair of his cathedral church."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
In the pews had been placed a 32-page booklet containing the whole order of service, with introductory notes by dean and chancellor of the cathedral and the words of the oath of allegiance sworn by the new bishop in his private chapel before the start of the service.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and cathedral choir, and the gospel choir of the University of Chichester during the welcome following the enthronement. Sadly, where I was sitting the choir was barely audible.
Did anything distract you?
So many clergy and other dignitaries could not help but be a distraction.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Traditional high Anglican evensong with additional full pageant for the occasion, and with the cathedral clergy sporting for the first time vestments commissioned for high days. Alas, the taking of photographs was expressly prohibited.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Bishop Warner delivered the sermon with conviction and the urgency of someone constantly on the move and looking ahead – a tonic much needed in this diocese. He pulled no punches.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The diocese cannot escape the full responsibility of its institutional failure to protect young people in its care in the past. The political processes of synodical government have failed to endorse the desire of the majority of people in the Church of England. It is not the institutional Church, but the life and witness of individual Christians, that provide the real reference points for Christian truth. He neatly linked this to the gospel reading from Matthew 14:22-33 (the calming of the storm), stating that faith is discovered, and the nature of divine love revealed, in suffering and the grind of daily life through the transformative redemptive mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the wake of past failures we now have to learn a language of new righteousness and truth, drawing on all creative resources available to us. Perfect love casts out fear. Do not be afraid to share the gospel of Christ in this diocese.
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The sermon, which addressed the problems facing this diocese openly without pussy-footing around and avoiding uncomfortable truths. But the icing on the cake was the fact that the new bishop, who was one of only three senior clergy to vote at the general synod against the appointment of women bishops, was himself enthroned by a woman, the Archdeacon of Canterbury.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The feeling of being merely an observer having to sit in the aisle and watch the proceedings on screens to make way for the one-off visiting dignitaries in what is my own diocesan cathedral. It gave one an idea of what it might have been like in the Middle Ages when the ordinary people would not have been allowed anywhere near the sacred.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
This was not an occasion to hang around looking lost, but rather to join the throng.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
A big marquee had been erected in Paradise (the cloister garth), where champagne in glasses and coffee and tea in styrofoam cups were being served. The bishop cut the cake produced by trainee caterers from the local college. I missed the canapes, though.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I'm glad an enthronement is a rare occasion. I would not like to give over the cathedral to occasional visiting dignitaries too often. I do live close, but unfortunately not quite close enough to become a regular.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. This diocese will be resurrected from the grave and emerge in glorious light.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
The sermon and the very deep voice of the Archdeacon of Canterbury.