Guildford Cathedral

I missed the entrance to the Cathedral twice. The road/driveway is immediately off a large roundabout, and given my experience with wormwood (the car) on previous roundabouts and it’s uncanny habit of turning off, I was more concerned about getting around the thing than watching the satnav. Second time round I was in the wrong lane. The joy of driving just gets better and better.

As I drove up to the Cathedral precinct on the third attempt, I was surprised at just how similar our two buildings are, right down to the Lady chapel. The setting is very different (there’s a lot of land attached), but the design was obviously stolen at our end. Though I have to say, ours is a chic pink and not bland brick – just saying.

I was warned that the building would be in in disarray, and I wasn’t dissapointed. There is significant renovation work occurring almost everywhere. Actually, renovation is a bit misleading. The ceilings and upper walls were plastered in an asbestos material, and as we know in New Zealand it’s a nightmare to have removed. In the process they are reordering the nave and putting in New wiring. By the time I got there the stripping appeared to been completed, and painting was taking place.

As you can see from picture, there’s a fair bit of scaffolding. The cieling is 20+ meters high, so vertigo is not your friend on a job like this. The picture below gives an idea of how much scaffolding is required. It’s been suggested that the Wellington Diocese should buy a scaffolding company given the amount of churches that need earthquake stregthening at home. Looking at this, it might be a good idea.

None of this comes cheap. Guildford is looking at the thick end of 7 million pounds worth of work (that’s 14 Million in kiwi’s). It’s a sobering reminder that these ‘listed’ buildings only remain at huge ongoing expense.

Our Cathedral and Guilford share not only design but also organists. Katherine Dienes-Williams who is the current Organist and Master of Choirs, was the Assistance organist in Wellington before heading overseas. So for many of our congregation there is a unique affection for the church. 

Unfortunately I did not get to meet the Dean. I arrived on the same day that the office is usually closed, so I got the run-down on most things from the a very friendly guide. However, Safety and Health being what it is, I only got a glimpse from a distance. I offered to wear a hard hat, but I was told by the guide that I would need to perform the equivalent of a bureaucratic rain dance to get permission. Anyhow, the high priest of building construction wasn’t there, so it won’t going to happen. The guide was old enough to remember when the prospect of being seriously maimed was what made cathedral life so much fun. some of us yearn for the good old days.

Perched on a hill, the Cathedral surveys the local town. I met a woman here in Bath who grew up in Guilford and said the best part of Cathedral life, when she was a child, was to trolley in down the driveway. I guess that was the equivalent of having a skate ramp in your church building to attract youth. 

Given the fact that we are going to need to find a safe way of reaching high places, and storing scaffolding is not really an option, I really want one of these. It looks very cool.

That’s it. No reflections to offer on Guildford or its community ministry. It has a great Cafe, which locals seem to drive to, and of course services the many tours that come through.


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