Sermon preached at the Parish of St Richard of Chichester, Lockleys by the Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral on 10 July 2016.

It’s 7.05am on Tuesday morning when Philip opens the Barnabas Door, flicks on a light and turns off the alarm system. He moves down the aisle towards the Lady Chapel, lighting the first candle of the day at the pricket stand en route. Dust covers folded carefully, bible marked and prayer book open, the candles are lit and the altar is ready for the Archbishop. Today, as every Tuesday, one of our bishops is the celebrant at the daily Eucharist. “The Lord be with you. And also with you.” The service begins and the heart keeps beating. For this is the heart of Cathedral life – the daily worship of God in the Cathedral, a building that owes its name to a single seat, the cathedra or seat of the bishop of the diocese. Today Archbishop Jeffrey will pray particularly for those parishes or schools or hospital ministries that are on his mind. Monday to Friday, the Diocesan prayer cycle is prayed and the sacred places of worship in our Diocese are mentioned, each in their turn – including the people of St Richard of Chichester, Lockleys. Today there are three bishops present, along with a number of Diocesan staff, Dean and a handful of other people. Yesterday there was just the priest and a server, on Friday the Lady Chapel is full and most go for breakfast together.

This is the beginning of daily life for St Peter’s Cathedral, your Cathedral, our Cathedral – a sacred space of worship, hospitality, education and outreach. For nearly 150 years our Cathedral has been an iconic landmark in Adelaide – standing proudly at the northern side of the city, looking east over the parklands, and across the River Torrens to the city and universities and hospitals as immediate neighbours. Thousands of people in buses and cars, on bicycles and on foot, or flying above (for we are on the flight path into the airport) pass the Cathedral doors daily. Most have never been inside. Most know well the distinctive twin towers of St Peter’s Cathedral, from which, on Tuesday evenings and Sunday mornings the heavy bells ring out.

Shortly after 9am on Tuesday, following morning prayer said by the Dean and others, Warren and Graham arrive. They are today’s first shift of welcomers – people ready to welcome the visitors, pilgrims, tourists, pray-ers who come, some intentionally, some quite randomly, into the Cathedral. Along with Meredith, today’s volunteer shop-keeper, theirs is a ministry of hospitality, enabling the Cathedral to remain open 365 days of the year, a place of quiet prayer for some, of historical interest for others, of jaw-dropping beauty and awe and wonder for yet others. Much of the time it is simply a friendly smile, an invitation to enjoy the Cathedral and perhaps spend time browsing in the Cathedral Shop, that is offered by the welcomers – people drawn from across the Diocese and beyond. At 10.00am the tour bus arrives and disgorges its camera-clad occupants. First stop for many is the toilet block! And so the day settles into its routine as people come and go, some 35,000 visitors a year.

Across the car park, in the Cathedral Office, Dean and clergy staff are discussing the week’s readings and planning Sunday services. Being early July the Dean reminds his colleagues that he will not be in the Cathedral on Sunday, but at Lockleys – one of several parish churches this year where there will be a Cathedral presence – either one of the priests to preach, or the Cathedral Choir to sing. This is a reversal of the normal pattern where people from parish and city come to the Cathedral for the special events – the annual Synod Eucharist or Mothers’ Union service; the ordination of deacons and priests, or the much rarer consecration of a bishop; the solemn Chrism Eucharist in Holy Week when, surrounding the Archbishop, clergy of the Diocese renew their ordination vows. The heartbeat of the Cathedral is the daily round of worship, but the Cathedral will also play host to a number of special services.

Last month these ‘specials’ included another “Adelaide as One” event when the more normal robed choir singing Haydn and Stanford, incense, bells and robes are replaced with a music group from one of the city’s Pentecostal churches and modern worship songs, amplified almost to compete with last Thursday’s Port/Hawthorn footy match, brings other people into the Cathedral. Eyes closed, arms uplifted the lead singers croon and sway before the microphones singing, “My Jesus, I love you” rather than “Dear Lord and Father of mankind, forgive our foolish ways.” Just a month ago, in the presence of the Governor, a choir of nearly 100 voices, some from this church, sang Parry’s magnificent music for Psalm 122, just one of the great coronation settings of music, as we honoured Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. From where I stood in my stall behind the great brass eagle, the congregation singing “Jerusalem” pretty much drowned out even that large choir. The pipes and drums played Scotland the Brave as the recessional, and many of the large congregation gathered on the forecourt after the service, feet tapping in time to the bass drum. Three days later the doors were again open for a very different type of service as, during the gentle plainsong of Evensong, candles were lit for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. This is what cathedrals do – opening their doors for celebration and lament, inviting people into the sacred space and presence of God.

For twelve years now I have been Dean of a cathedral: in Wellington, NZ for the first eight, the past four here in Adelaide. But I am something of a cathedral junky and have worked and worshipped in about ten cathedrals, in South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and now, here in Adelaide. There is something special about a cathedral and the people who come. I love the sheer variety of never knowing quite what or who today will bring. Cathedrals attract ‘pillar people’ – not the ‘pillars of the church’ we clergy are all so deeply grateful for, those who can be relied on in our parish churches to do all the tasks that need doing – the weekly cleaning and flower arranging, the polishing and tea-making, the visiting and Sunday school teaching – these are the backbone of the church, what Jesus called ‘the salt of the earth’. No, I am thinking of other pillar people. This time the ones who hide behind pillars, who slip in and out anonymously. Those who, in that very anonymity, find their way to God. St Peter’s Cathedral is there for them. A place of safety. A place to be. A place to be unnoticed until they are ready to come out from behind their chosen pillar. A place to weep, to wonder, to grieve.

Last Thursday I was talking to a former ‘pillar’ person. He and his wife arrived some months ago. For years he has been searching, trying church after church – of all denominations and persuasions. Then, one Sunday, he walked into St Peter’s. Something got to him and, he says, he was overwhelmed with a sense of peace and God’s presence. That’s a common experience for people – to feel the presence and the peace of God, that which passes our understanding. Speak to one of the welcomers and they will all tell similar stories – of meeting people who come in to St Peter’s, troubled, seeking a place to pray, to think, to be. Some engage in conversation, some light a candle, some simply sit. Better still, become a welcomer and share that ministry of hospitality, of being a neighbour, a Good Samaritan. Help us keep your Cathedral open, help us keep being a neighbour to the stranger, the pilgrim, the needy. Probably one third of our welcomers are people absolutely committed to their parish churches but who find a fulfilling and rewarding ministry in the Cathedral.

A former colleague in another cathedral, who had joined the staff with great hesitation, confided in me after about six months that she was amazed at how ‘missional’ the cathedral was. By its very presence, by the open doors every day of the year, by the daily round of prayer and worship, by its commanding presence and sheer beauty, a cathedral draws people to God, inviting them to meet the One who told parables such as we heard this morning, who himself invited people into that deeper relationship and experience of loving God with all ones heart, soul, mind and strength, and constantly to seek to love one’s neighbour as oneself.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Let me finish by asking you to pray for St Peter’s Cathedral, your cathedral, even as we pray for you, the people of St Richard of Chichester, your hopes and dreams, your challenges and successes. For we are all one in Christ, and He is our head, our Lord and Saviour.