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© Antony McCallum and used under license
Church of St Peter at Exeter, Devon, England.
of England, Diocese
A church dedicated to St Peter has been on the site since 1050.
A cathedral in the Norman style was begun in 1133 but was already
outmoded by 1258, when the present Decorated Gothic church,
following the example of Salisbury Cathedral, was begun. The
new cathedral incorporated much of the Norman building. The
interior features the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling
in England. The misericords are the earliest complete set in
the United Kingdom. A minstrels' gallery is replete with angels
playing a variety of medieval instruments. An astronomical clock,
dating from 1376, tells the hours and minutes as well as the
phases of the moon. A hole was cut beneath the clock so that
the bishop's cat could have at the mice that were attracted
to the animal fat used to lubricate the workings. The cathedral
has been subject to neglect and refurbishment at various times
throughout the years, including a direct hit by Luftwaffe bombers
on 4 May 1942 that blew out the windows and caused other damage.
The cathedral chapter oversee the running of the building. There
is a cathedral fellowship whose aim is (quoting from their website)
"to get to know each other better, ensure newcomers feel welcome
and not least of all enjoy." There are groups set up for children,
a community committee, outreach, Friends of Exeter and many
others all described on their website. Once each month they
hold Holy Ground, for people who are "interested in the
Christian faith but would not necessarily call themselves Christian"
and those who find "more traditional models of church a
little inaccessible" to "engage with Christian spirituality
in a contemplative and creative way."
The cathedral sits in a grand square with posh shops and restaurants
around it. The city itself is undergoing a huge make-over, with
new shopping malls opening up. The university is one of the
The only information on the news sheet was that the preacher
was the Revd Olivier Ruffray, rector of the Sanctuary of St
Therese of Lisieux. The celebrant and deacon were not identified.
The date & time:
Sunday, 19 January 2014, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
Sung Eucharist, Common Worship, Order One.
How full was the building?
Two-thirds of the nave was filled, probably heading toward 300
Did anyone welcome you personally?
"Here you go" as someone handed me a news sheet and copy of
Common Worship, Order One. Others had also received
a booklet entitled Good News from the Diocese of Exeter,
but I had not, and so I went back and asked for a copy. It was
rather begrudgingly handed over!
Was your pew comfortable?
A nice chair with a padded seat, attached to the ones on either
side, with a pocket on the back for books.
How would you describe the pre-service
It was reverential, hardly a whisper anywhere. The organ kicked
in at exactly 9.50am. The building was filling up quickly and
I was surprised to find the chairs on either side of me occupied.
I am not used to having fellow worshippers so close!
What were the exact opening words of the
"Good morning and welcome to Exeter Cathedral." This was followed
by a series of announcements.
What books did the congregation use during the
Common Worship, Order One; Common Praise hymn
book. The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version,
was in the book slot if needed, but the readings had been printed
in the news sheet.
What musical instruments were played?
The organ. The main organ seems to be undergoing restoration
and I think this could have been an electronic one. But it was
played fantastically, as you would expect in a cathedral.
Did anything distract you?
The deacon, who was also holding the book for the celebrant,
led the penitential rite but then couldn't find the correct
page for the absolution, so there ensued a long pause and lots
of page turning. The Sunday school all arrived during the Benedictus,
taking their place in the front row, then having books handed
out and hoods pulled down. This ruined the moment of the holiness
of the eucharistic prayer. The communion hymn started before
many of the congregation had been ushered forward for communion,
which I get annoyed about. One of the lay people who helped
with the distribution of communion was in an overcoat with a
big red scarf tied around his neck.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Cathedral worship with the odd glitch, but nicely done and dignified, and the choir sang beautifully.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 Not the most dynamic style, but Father Olivier was
preaching in English (his mother tongue being French) and reading
it from his notes. He is a Roman Catholic priest, and his preaching
in an Anglican cathedral lent an ecumenical touch to things.
In a nutshell, what was
the sermon about?
The ecumenical exchange of spiritual gifts one being
preaching, the second being the Word of God. We are loved by
God and called to love God. As St Therese said, "My vocation
Which part of the service
was like being in heaven?
The music the choir were excellent. The mass setting
was the Missa Euge Bone by the English composer and
organist Christopher Tye (1505?-1573). We also had Eastern
Monarchs by Andrew Millington, the cathedral's director
of music, and Omnes de Saba Venient by the Slovenian
composer Jacob Handl (1550–1591). I love Buxtehude and
we had his Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern,
BuxWV 223, as the recessional it was a shame that only
a dozen or so people remained to listen to it.
And which part was like
being in... er... the other place?
If I have to say something, the welcomers or, rather,
the people standing at the door handing out service books with
a "Here you go" and a "What do you want with
the Good News, then?" (or so they might as well have said).
What happened when you
hung around after the service looking lost?
There weren't many people around by the time the recessional
had finished, so I made my way to the chapter house for coffee.
How would you describe
the after-service coffee?
A proper decent size mug and a good cup of coffee. As to whether
it was fairly traded, there was no clue. Tea and juice were
also on offer. The only biscuits left were boring looking hobnobs
(traditional British oak biscuits) maybe this is why
people race off at the end of the service, to get the best biscuits,
rather than wait for the voluntary to end. No one seemed to
want to chat, but the contemporary sculptures surrounding the
chapter house were enough to occupy one for the duration of
How would you feel about
making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 I love cathedral worship and would definitely return
when next there. But if I lived in Exeter I would want to try
out the numerous other churches in the city.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Trying to find the words of the absolution! And the music, of
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