Lots of love (from your lawyer) - Reflection by Canon Andrew


Read Canon Andrew's reflection for Ascension Day, Thursday, 13 May, 2021.

It’s been a busy week in Parliament with the Queens Speech on Tuesday and the inevitable debates in Parliament following on from Speech itself and the elections last week. Followers of the political scene have had a lot to focus on. However on Monday a strange piece of legislation, mysteriously called the ‘Cathedrals Measure’ received Royal Assent from Her Majesty.  It had duly passed through the General Synod of the Church of England and then through Parliament; the laws it enacts only affect Cathedrals in England.

You may be surprised to learn that Cathedrals are not Charities.  The majority are ancient institutions predating the Charities Act and somehow they carried on as if little had happened as Charity Law developed.   The question of whether or not Cathedrals were well governed was to some extent down to good luck and local tradition.  A recent working party recommended to the Church a little bit of rationalisation and that all Cathedrals needed to have similar governance regimes.

The governing body of a Cathedral is its Chapter and under the new Measure it will act like a Board of Charity Trustees and Cathedrals will gradually come under the jurisdiction of the Charity Commission.  The role of the Dean as head of the worshipping community is combined with the duty of chairing Chapter and ensuring that the Cathedral operates efficiently as a business and that its staff and volunteers feel valued and are well managed.

We have been fortunate in Liverpool Cathedral to be blessed with good leadership and a cohort of Residentiary Canons with different gifts and talents all contributing to the success of the institution. The executive team lead by Mike Eastwood are also first class. As a lawyer, I have been asked to serve as a Non-Executive on many Boards and Charities and our Cathedral is one of the best run of all the institutions I know. What’s more, the atmosphere in Chapter is one of mutual respect and there is a real desire to do God’s will and help to build his Kingdom. Nevertheless, we are now to review our own Statutes to ensure that we implement the New Measure here in the Cathedral.

When we start a new job we are supplied with a Contract of Employment; but if we get on well with our bosses, it’s a document that we may well never look at again.  We only need to refer to it, if something begins to go wrong and we need to understand our legal rights. To be honest, having to revert to our legal contract is a sign that something has already gone wrong. So it is with the constitution of a body like a Cathedral. When things are going well, the constitution is very rarely referred to. Perhaps we need to check when a Chapter member is due for re-election but apart from that the document remains unread on a shelf or in a folder on the hard drive of our Computer. But it needs to be effective to help sort things out when things do go wrong. We are all human after all.

Jesus constitutional arrangements do not make much sense to your average lawyer. ‘This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.  I appointed you (to the Board or wherever) to bear fruit, fruit that will last.’ No wonder that Jesus’ Apostles teaching emphasised that the Law had been superseded by our relationship with Jesus and our love for one another. Who needs laws or Cathedral Measures when the love of God rules OK within the community.  Reverting to the lawyers and to the law, is a sign that Jesus’ constitutional arrangements have somehow gone wrong.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, it marked a new phase. His disciples needed a new relationship with each other and with God, abiding with Jesus in love, sustained by worship and prayer and encouraged by a good infusion of the Holy Spirit to guide them on their way; and with luck there wouldn’t be a lawyer or a Cathedral Measure in sight. 

Canon Andrew

While you're here:
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