When did you last see a queue of people waiting to go into a Church?

Northern Male, a self confessed ‘Church Crawler’, sees something unexpected in Bradford Cathedral in this, another in our series of 5 minute stories to read online.

When did you last see a queue of people waiting to go into a Church? Like many public venues they have suffered in the last couple of years. Attendances at Church of England services were already nose-diving before the pandemic for a variety of reasons.

The situation remains dire and funds for these wonderful places are drying up. Just because they have been there for centuries doesn’t mean they will remain so. Particularly if you run a Cathedral as the costs of keeping it functional and maintained are enormous. What to do.

Most see baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals as their mainstay. They are expected to be there even by atheists. Places of worship have long been the centre of communities, but they are much more than that – and in C21 this is what might just save them.

My father was a Church Crawler. That’s the term used to describe someone who, whenever they are in a new place gravitates to the local church – and of course as a child I went with.  He told me “if you want to know about a place, this is where you will find out about it”. So now, ever curious I am one too.

Hence why I recently discovered Bradford Cathedral was to be the venue for one of my all-time favourite bands. Lindisfarne.

This North East folk/rock band formed originally in 1968 as “Brethren” by Alan Hull and Rod Clements, Lindisfarne hit the big time in 1971 with their LP “Fog On The Tyne”. Their 50th Anniversary tour included a Sunday evening gig at Bradford Cathedral. I had a front row seat.

Their original band member Ray is almost 75 now and he’s still rocking out. The order of the songs they play were written on paper and taped onto the floor for each performer so they knew the order but it was their job to remember the chords and the words.

With half a century of music-making to draw on, they played their newer songs together with their greatest hits and ended to a standing ovation. They played Lady Eleanor, Meet Me On the Corner and finished with Clear White Light. They have been through many changes of personnel but remain an English musical legend.

Some might wonder if a rock band playing in a Cathedral is a good idea but it makes sense to me. These places were built to praise God with words and music so the acoustics are amazing. I watched the lighting guy having a ball highlighting the architecture.

Lindisfarne

The staff looking after the audience were also just the best. Normally, you don’t get personal service at music events but I was guided to my seat and I watched as their people did the same for others. This is because it’s in their DNA to look after folk as part of their ministry as the Parish Church of the city centre. They want to help you. As I left the Revd Canon Paul Maybury himself was outside using his torch to help those leaving up the path. That is how you do it.

I’m waiting for a replacement left hip operation. I could go private and pay almost £13000 or I could gamble and hope. Non-essential operations here could wait years. I don’t think praying about it would help but it did cross my mind as I sat in the Cathedral to see the band. Should I ask God? Surely He’s got better things to do.

Instead, I turned to the memory of a village elder, Mr Woodcock. After his wife May passed away he lived alone in a wonderful old house on Clarke Street in Calverley and sorely missed his life partner. I sat with this gentle soul one evening as he stared into the fire at the end of his life and me at the beginning of mine. There were no words spoken there either I can remember. It was just a feeling of contentment and peace which has always stayed with me. I felt his longing for her and as she was gone it was his time and there was nothing I could say. They are at peace together and quite possibly forgotten now. I have no idea where they are buried. I wish I knew. If there is a Heaven they will be together. I hope so.

“She gazed with loving beauty like a mother to a son
Like living, dying, seeing, being all rolled into one
Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
The same old song I’d heard for years, reminding me of home.

But it’s all right, Lady Eleanor
All right, Lady Eleanor
I’m all right where I am”.

More five minute stories from Northern Male can be read here