Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Chapter Letter

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sunday 29 March 2020

Welcome to a new look Chapter Letter, to be issued weekly during the time of concern over the virus.




In line with Government and National Church guidance, the Cathedral is now closed. The clergy are continuing the pattern of daily prayer however, and we meet each weekday with the Administrator via Zoom. Yes, I’m learning new skills in all this!

We remember daily in prayer the clergy and people of the diocese, and we pray too for our society in all its need; those ill, those anxious, those on the front line, those in government, those on the edge.

Worship is being live streamed. Details are on the website and other social media. Music is there too.

I’m delighted that a Cathedral pastoral network has been established and that this is reaching out with other organisations into the wider community. The Canon Pastor gives more details later.

And yes, we are still in Lent. I sense it’s going to be a long Lent. Lent is of course a time to do without. And our society is now doing a lot of doing without; company and connection; prosperity and purchasing; celebrations and socialising; gathering and going out. We are being thrown back on ourselves. Our lives are being heavily individualised.

But the corporate keeps reasserting itself, marvellously. The government, our corporate self really, has rallied to rescue businesses and to save lives. In streets and communities people are looking out for each other. People ring, email, call out over the fence, and yes, there is Zoom too!

And after every Lent comes an Easter. That is, after doing without, there comes a fabulous gift of new life. So it will be. Life will re-emerge. What will we have learnt? What church, what Cathedral, what society do we plan to rebuild? And what parties and celebrations do we want to hold first of all?!

Through the weeks I’ll write more. And I’ll touch next week on how we can support the neediest, locally and nationally.

With my love and prayers,

~ John Davies, Dean


From the Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset

This time a year ago we were counting the days until a visit to Somerset by Her Majesty. Our county had her party dress on. The blossom was out, the skylarks sang, the skies were blue and the pastures were green. Somerset looked joyous and at her most beautiful – and this year, again, she is at her best.

But, what makes Somerset truly wonderful is more than her scenic splendour. It is the community that inhabits our county which elevates her to perfection.

Just as last year I felt confident and proud watching our Sovereign as she enjoyed her visit to us – and indeed she did. She smiled from the moment she arrived until the moment she left. So too, I know that faced with the daunting challenge of Covid-19, just one year later, our county and the people who live here will not be found wanting.

Already that inimitable spirit of generosity and kindness, of compassion and diligence, has begun in every street, in every hamlet, village, town and city in Somerset. For we can do it and we will do it. The better we comply with directions, the sooner we will come through this. We will survive it, together and united, each looking after each other, because we can.

Noli Timere – the last words which Seamus Heaney sent to his wife – Be Not Afraid. This is what I say to myself when I set out to do something which is making me tremble. It is a biblical line which I find so very reassuring and so strengthening.

Each and every one of us, young and old and from every walk of life, has a part to play, and we can and we WILL succeed.


Wells Cathedral awarded Bronze Eco Award

The Cathedral has been examining all its practices – everything from the type of cleaning fluids it uses, the mowing regime, its carbon foot print, its recycling to the food it serves in the restaurant. The aim is to be as sustainable as possible. We have just achieved a Bronze Award, which is a huge encouragement. There is far more to be done, but we are now working on achieving Silver and our hope is to reach Gold.

In the face of the current pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of all the other concerns. Coronavirus has forced us to think about what we are willing to give up for the survival of friends, family and our health service. It is an opportunity to think seriously about our priorities. Climate change is a slower enemy, but potentially even more serious. The Cathedral wants to play its part in ensuring that our children and grandchildren are safe.

The Reverend Mary Bide, Priest Vicar


The Lonely Path to Deeper Lent

If it ever really existed, and some liturgists doubt it, Passiontide disappeared just before the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, to give a more stark prominence to Holy Week. In English use, the white veiling of crosses, statues and pictures used in Lent was replaced by Passion red. There is however a very definite sense of Lent deepening at the Fifth Sunday of Lent. There is more mention of the Cross in the liturgy, not so much as the instrument of torture that it is, but also as a lens through which to look intently at the Easter mystery and the passage through death to life beyond.

Looking through liturgy that is unlikely to be used this year, I have been struck, unsurprisingly in the circumstances, by the isolation of Jesus throughout the narrative; the eventual shedding of everything and everyone as the story moves to its climax. I wonder if part of the strangeness of the half-life we’re all living has to do with the fact we know we’ll be marking the journey of Holy Week without the usual company and the familiar liturgy.

There is something both comforting and appalling about being part of the crowd on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. But although it might be equally appalling to stand alone, might not the opportunity that this year affords be to do just that? Something we can all do is answer ‘yes’ to Jesus’s Gethsemane question, ‘Would ye not watch with me one brief hour?’ Perhaps to sit before a candle for an hour at 8.00 p.m. on Maundy Thursday in silence, and to read the Passion on Good Friday and to be still.

Part of the power of the liturgy of the passion is the hymnody – you will have your favourites. One of the most moving for me is by Walsham How, It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, perhaps because it is all ‘told’ in the first person. There are two familiar tunes we use for it, but for this purpose, I would direct you to a setting of the words by the English composer, John Ireland, entitled Ex ore innocentium. You’ll find it free on You Tube, sung by Tenebrae. The alchemy of words and music might just go some way to convincing you that, crowds aside, it really is all about you.

Canon Nicholas Jepson-Biddle, Precentor


Wells Cathedral Guides 2020 outing to Chichester Cathedral

Sadly it has been necessary to postpone the 2020 outing due to the current emergency and move it to a new date of 24th June 2021.

Charles Crawfurd



For many of us, shutting the Cathedral down has been like a kind of bereavement – this beautiful building and spiritual space has been available to all for worship and visits for over 8 centuries, but for now, as the Archbishops have said, we have to become a different sort of church. In 21st century terms, we are at present becoming a ‘virtual church’, able to speak to each other only by the power of the web or the telephone.

But that in itself has given us an opportunity to reach out to many in our community who can no longer come to the Cathedral, but who are glad to know that we are still continuing the ministry of prayer and care, albeit from our homes.

On Monday last I sent out the first of a series of emails to our new Wells Cathedral Pastoral Network, and have had a wonderful response. People are very glad to be able to share with each other in this way, and it is not all doom and gloom – we are being sent beautiful photos of God’s creation as well as ways to share with other communities across this country and abroad.

As I said in my first email, the purpose of this new email network is two-fold: firstly it is to help us support each other by keeping some kind of human contact with each other and by offers of practical help. And secondly, it is to help us to maintain our spiritual community as far as possible now that we are no longer able to hold public services. To that end, I send out every day an extract from one of the Morning Prayer Bible readings, a very short reflection and the weekly Collect.

If you would like your name to go onto this list, please email me on and your name will be added.

If you know of someone who would like to be kept in touch but doesn’t have email, please do ask them if they would like a regular telephone call from a member of the Cathedral clergy and, if so, please ask for their number and email it to

Rosalind Paul, Canon Pastor

To  keep  in  touch  during  these  distanced  days,  do  keep  looking  at  the  website,  our Facebook page and other social media…




Light a candle

Last Sunday evening many people lit candles of hope to shine from their windows, others placed rainbows, all indicating that we have hope in a God whose grace is sufficient for our needs. Our bishops have asked that if we are able we might continue to join them in continuing this practice each evening at 7.00 p.m. whilst we are physically separated.


Lent 5: A Reflection

Rob James, Canon Chancellor

Sunday’s Gospel reading: John 11.1-45

Medieval Europe was a time a great struggle for supremacy between church and state. On the one hand, Kings wanted to assert their right to rule in their own kingdoms. On the other hand, successive Popes asserted their authority in a time when there was little or no distinction between secular and sacred matters. This inevitably led to conflict. If a King stepped out of line too far, the Pope had a number of weapons at his disposal. One of these was a collective punishment on the whole country, known as an interdict. An interdict was an order that closed churches and which meant that the Mass could not be said. In an age when everyone accepted the existence of not only heaven but also of hell, and in an age when everyone accepted that entry to heaven, at least swift entry to heaven, was through the sacraments offered by the church, interdicts caused very real spiritual and psychological suffering to many. There was an interdict placed on England from March 1208 after the King refused to accept the Pope’s choice of Archbishop of Canterbury. The interdict lasted for six years, and, among many other things, led to the slowing down of, and eventually a pause in, the construction of Wells Cathedral.

Although worship changed in style and language over the years since the Thirteenth century, until just a few days ago, the only other time that Worship has been stopped by order in the Cathedral’s history was during Oliver Cromwell’s rule, when the Puritans closed Cathedrals as places of worship. They are far more famous for banning Christmas festivities. It must have felt bleak to many.

Today’s gospel reading tells of both the sadness that Jesus felt at the death of his friend Lazarus, but also of the power that God has to give life, for Lazarus is raised from the dead. In the story, this is not a resurrection to eternal life, but a resuscitation. But the story points beyond itself. In John’s gospel, only the first half of the text is devoted to the first three years of Jesus’ ministry. The second half is focussed on the last week. The story of Lazarus is right in the middle of the gospel. As Jesus turns his face decisively towards the cross, we have a reminder that God is about giving life and overcoming death. The raising of Lazarus by Jesus prefigures the definitive resurrection that will be Jesus’ after three days in the tomb. Lazarus’ death is deeply upsetting and Jesus weeps. Jesus’ death will be upsetting and his friends will weep. But the God of life will have the final word.

Many are feeling bereft that the churches, along with much else, are closed. For those who have worshipped in a church every week, or even every day, all their lives, this is a disturbing time. For those who would dearly love to come in to say a quiet prayer and light a candle, this is a disturbing time. For many who have lost and who will lose loved ones, this is a deeply upsetting time. Grieving and weeping are part of life and part of faith, and it is right to do this, as Jesus himself did. All the grief that is around and that will be around over the next few months is real. But because of God, new life will come, for the Church, for civic society, for our loved ones departed and for ourselves. Life and love have the final word, because God has the final word.

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Wells Cathedral awarded Bronze Eco Award

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

The Cathedral has been examining all its practices – everything from the type of cleaning fluids it uses, the mowing regime, its carbon foot print, its recycling,  to the food it serves in the restaurant. The aim is to be as sustainable as possible. We have just achieved a Bronze Award, which is a huge encouragement. There is far more to be done, but we are now working on achieving Silver and our hope is to reach Gold. So far we have changed our energy supply so that it is green, we have done more to encourage wildlife, we are raising awareness of the issues and we are recycling more. The next challenge is to create a meadow, reduce our paper usage, and, most challenging of all, find ways of creating renewable energy that are consistent with the beauty of the architecture.

In the face of the current pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of all the other concerns. Coronavirus has forced us to think about what we are willing to give up for the survival of friends, family and our health service. It is an opportunity to think seriously about our priorities. Climate change is a slower enemy, but potentially even more serious. The Cathedral wants to play its part in ensuring that our children and grandchildren are safe.

The Reverend Mary Bide, Priest Vicar

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Stations of the Cross – Video

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

For many centuries the ‘Way of the Cross’ has been a tradition of following every step of Christ’s journey, from his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to the time when his lifeless body is laid in the tomb. In Jerusalem, many pilgrims follow the Via Dolorosa which is associated, by tradition, with Christ’s final journey to Golgotha. At the Cathedral, the Stations of the Cross make a Jerusalem for us where we are, and, in normal circumstances, on Fridays during Lent, we would follow the Way of the Cross, led from station to station by one of the Cathedral clergy, reflecting and meditating upon each station as we go.

As we are unable to do this at the moment, here is a version for you to watch at home, led by the Reverend Canon Dr Rob James, Chancellor.


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Wells Cathedral – Coronavirus update

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020


In line with guidance from the Government and National Church, Wells Cathedral is now closed for public access. Public worship has also been suspended. The clergy of the Cathedral continue to say their prayers in their homes, and they are praying for all in our society during this emergency.  Be assured of that.

A pastoral network for support and care has been established here and if that would be a help to you, please make contact with

The Cathedral website and social media channels (FacebookTwitter) will continue to carry updates, with words from the clergy and music from the Choir. We invite you to keep connected with the Cathedral in this way.

If you need to contact the Cathedral, please ring: 07799 644589 or email the Cathedral Administrator at

This comes with every blessing in challenging times and the assurance of God’s love for each and every one.


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Pastoral Care and Prayer for the Day

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

During this difficult time it is important for us all to stay safe but connected.  We encourage you to check in regularly with your family, friends and neighbours, and if you would like to stay in touch with the Cathedral community, you will be able to do so from next week via a Cathedral email group.  If you would like to be part of this group, please email the Canon Pastor (, and she will add your email address to the group.  This group will not breach any data protection guidelines as, by giving us your email address, you will be giving us your consent to contact you in this way. Your individual email addresses will not be shown in any messages.

Through this group we will be able to send you messages about the Cathedral, but most importantly it will be a way of staying in touch with each other, supporting each other in prayer, and also offering each other any practical support that is needed.  So if you need your prescription to be picked up, or some shopping to be done, or you need a lift to a hospital appointment, you could send a message to the email group and someone will be bound to respond with an offer of help.

We shall also be sending out regular prayers and ‘thoughts for the day’ so that we can support each other spiritually as well as practically.

If you are not on email and would like to be telephoned on a regular basis by a member of the Cathedral clergy, please let the Office have your telephone number to pass on to the Canon Pastor.

Rosalind Paul, Canon Pastor

Other resources

The Church of England website also provides a way of engaging with thousands of other Christians around the world.

Listen to or read the Prayer for the Day by following the link below.

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Wells Cathedral Choir are looking for boy Choristers!

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

UPDATE: Due to the current situation, it is unlikely that we would be able to organise a physical audition, however we would be very happy to organise a Zoom/Skype audition – please do get in touch if this would be of interest.

The internationally renowned Wells Cathedral Choir is looking for boys in current school years 3 and 4 to become choristers from September 2020.

The choir has a long, impressive history, having been formed over 1,100 years ago before the current medieval Cathedral was built! Boy choristers have sung at Wells since 909, with the girls’ choir being introduced relatively recently in only 1994.

Wells Cathedral Choir has been voted the greatest choir with children in the world by Gramophone magazine.

The choir’s principal and most important responsibility is singing the services at the Cathedral. This is at the heart of its worshipping life, with the choir singing (in its various forms) for nine services each week during school term time. The repertoire is very wide-ranging, from the Renaissance period to the present day, including world premiere performances of music by some of today’s finest composers.

Choristers receive a world class musical education singing in one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. There is also the opportunity to sing on international tours (which in recent years have included Scotland, The Netherlands, China, and Hong Kong); on commercial recordings (at least one new CD is recorded each year), and radio and television broadcasts (including an annual live broadcast on BBC Radio 3). In recent years there have also been royal gala concerts at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and St James’s Palace, London. Other amazing opportunities have included singing with the Berlin Radio Choir and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle OM, in a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the BBC Proms, and performing with The Script at the ITV Pride of Britain awards.

As well as receiving an outstanding musical education, the choristers also learn how to organise their time and develop the essential life skills of self-reliance and self-discipline, working as a team member seeking the highest possible standards. The choristers also develop close friendships and have a lot of fun. They all lead very full lives outside of the choir as well, playing in sports teams, learning musical instruments, and whatever else they like to do in their free time!

All choristers are educated at Wells Cathedral School, for which scholarships and additional bursaries are available to assist with fees. It is now one of the finest specialist musical schools in the country, and provides a first class academic and all-round education within its beautiful historic backdrop.

The choir is looking for alert and keen children with a love of music. They do not need to have had any sophisticated musical training, but a clear voice and signs of a good musical ear. It is important that being a chorister is something that your child wants to do and not just the parents, although essential in all of this is the support of the parents and family given the demanding schedule and commitment required.

To find out more about auditioning for the choir, please contact Diana Armstrong via

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Rainbow Church

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Seeking the full integration of LGBT people, Rainbow Church met at the Cathedral last Saturday with Andrea King as speaker. Further meetings will happen through the year across the diocese.

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Appointment of Revd Philip Harbridge as Priest Vicar

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

The Chapter is pleased to announce the appointment of the Revd Philip Harbridge as a Priest Vicar of Wells Cathedral with immediate effect. Philip is the School Chaplain at Millfield School.

Philip will preside and preach at services as all other Priest Vicars do and will be involved in aspects of Cathedral ministry to enrich and broaden his experience as a member of the clergy. He will also share creative ideas and best practice from his present expertise and work with the Cathedral team to see how the ideas may be applicable in a Cathedral setting. It is also hoped that together Philip and the Cathedral will find ways to deepen the connection and working relationship with Millfield School. A very good development opportunity for all parties!

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Appointment of new Assistant Director of Music

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

From an exceptionally strong field of candidates, Chapter is very pleased to announce the appointment of Alexander Hamilton, currently Organ Scholar at Westminster Abbey, as Assistant Director of Music at Wells Cathedral, subject to satisfactory checks. Alex has served in his current post since September 2018 and before that was Organ Scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read Music. Alex will join the Cathedral staff for September 2020.

Jeremy Cole, the Director of Music, said: “I am delighted that we have appointed Alexander Hamilton to be our Assistant Director of Music. Alexander’s skill and experience both as an organist and choir-trainer will make him a huge asset to the Music Foundation at the Cathedral. I am very much looking forward to working with him when he joins us in September.”

Alexander said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed as the new Assistant Director of Music of Wells Cathedral. Music at Wells has a strong reputation for excellence and innovation, and I am delighted to be asked to join the team as the choir enters a new chapter in its development. I am very much looking forward to working with terrific colleagues, serving the community and moving to such a beautiful part of the country.”

The Chapter was advised by Mr Colin Walsh, Organist Laureate at Lincoln Cathedral.

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Somerset Volunteers Celebrate Victory over Storm Ciara at Wells

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Last Sunday responding to an invitation from the High Sheriff of Somerset, Wells Cathedral saw 600 hardy unsung heroes and supporters congregate to Celebrate Somerset Volunteering, kindly hosted by the Dean and Chapter at Wells Cathedral.

In the teeth of storm Ciara, they came windswept and sodden to be recognised with over 100 organisations represented from across the county. It was an opportunity to say a massive thank you to so many who give their time without seeking recognition for the help they provide to others in need from young and old, the homeless, hungry and mentally or physically sick.

Choral Evensong was a multi faith celebration of volunteering in Somerset. The Cathedral’s regular and volunteer choirs sang together; there were readings from Somerset and Quartet Community Foundations, and prayers from the High Sheriff Chaplain and Police Cadets. This was followed by reflections on the importance of volunteering from Muslim, Hindu and Jewish faith groups.

Johnnie Halliday also took the opportunity to recognise individuals from organisations that he has met during his year by presenting High Sheriff Community Awards to:

Gill Brown: for her many years of raising money for Children’s Hospice South West and her care for vulnerable children. (right of High Sheriff)
Katy Massey: for her volunteering and advocacy for Mentoring Plus and Bath Youth Partnership. (Left of High Sheriff)
Peter Renshaw: for his multiple services to volunteering and fundraising via Rotary Taunton, Somerset Pride of Youth Awards, and for League of Friends Musgrove Park Hospital. (Right on end)
Lt Theresa Torr: for her services to Taunton homeless and the extra mile she goes in her work for the Salvation Army. (Middle left of High Sheriff)
Suzie Wilkinson: for her many years of voluntary service to the Rural community in Somerset via the Farming Community Network (FCN). (Left on end)

Afterwards many of the congregation stayed to enjoy refreshments including the opportunity to toast the many volunteers represented across our historic County. The High Sheriff thanked all those involved in organizing such a great event together with refreshment sponsors Lye Cross Farm, Old Mill, Clark Wilmott Solicitors, Savills and Lawrences Auctioneers.

In thanking the Dean and Chapter at Wells and Jackie Croft in particular (pictured with the Dean and High Sheriff), Johnnie Halliday in closing said “What has inspired me during my year in office is to meet so many people from all walks of life and backgrounds who give their time and energy to improve the lives of others’ in our county” adding “lets spread the word and encourage the next generation of volunteers across our beautiful county of Somerset to get involved”

The Dean of Wells, the Very Reverend Dr John Davies, said “It was inspiring to hear the contributions that volunteers in Somerset make to their community, day after day, without asking for anything in return. The service celebrated the richness and variety of volunteering as well as the diversity of those who give their time: it was a pleasure to welcome the County of Somerset’s volunteers to their Cathedral.”

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