My wife and I were one of the rare ones; we both worshipped in the parish of St. Philip’s and also lived within it. The Church of England today is a broad church and gone is the day when you would traditionally attend your local parish church because it was near by and the done thing. There is diversity, choice and ‘pick and mix’ and neither is a bad thing.
However we were fortunate. During the eight years of living in the city centre of Birmingham we lived only ten minutes away from the cathedral. This was no bad thing especially when finishing a shift in a pub late on a Saturday night. It made getting to church ‘on time’ on Sundays so much easier! Now for both of us, the fact that St. Philip’s is the cathedral church of Birmingham didn’t play a part as to why we worshipped there and got involved. Yes the architecture is nice and the stained glass exquisite but it’s the people that make the church. “Where two or three are gathered together there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Yet the décor does also add something ethereal.
When attending the cathedral Jaime and I felt at home. For us there was the ‘three W’s’: Worship, warmth and welcome. For us the beauty of Birmingham Cathedral is it’s ‘parish’ feel. It’s relational. It’s local, intimate and in my opinion easier to connect with others and the Lord, than in other more ancient and grandiose cathedrals. At its heart it is a church. A church that serves its people; in worship, prayer, reflection, support and action.
The cathedral is much more than just a place we went on Sundays. We were active in the life of it. I was even privileged to work there as a part-time Verger. We felt such a strong connection that Jaime and I even got married there. Both the support, nourishment and encouragement from the cathedral clergy and the congregation has been immense. It has been especially important in sustaining and nurturing me through my discernment to the priesthood.
Joe and Jaime’s wedding at the cathedral in 2011
Birmingham Cathedral has played such a huge part in both our lives, that we really can’t explain it and put it into words. This blog post doesn’t do the cathedral and what it has given us over the years justice. However if someone by reading this, is encouraged to come along and see what Birmingham Cathedral does and is, then that is a step in the right direction. And so now as my wife and I live in Cambridge (Jaime works in a bookshop and I am training for ordained ministry at Westcott House), we both know that we will always be a part of Birmingham Cathedral and importantly Birmingham Cathedral will always be a part of us.