Peterborough Cathedral means different things to different people. For many, it is the spiritual heart of the city, a centre of Christian worship for over 1300 years. Its heartbeat is the daily round of services.
For others, it is an architectural marvel, with arguably the finest west front of any English cathedral and the only painted medieval nave ceiling in the country. Many visitors come through its historical associations, as the burial place of Katharine of Aragon and Mary, Queen of Scots. Others simply enjoy the tranquillity of the precincts in amongst the bustle of the city centre.
First and foremost, the Cathedral is a place that welcomes people of all faiths and none, and engages with the community it serves. Like many cathedrals, we host a wide variety of events, including concerts, lectures, theatre and grand dinners in the nave. We provide a focus for some of the city’s key activities, including the annual Heritage and Green Festivals. These are an important way for us to engage with people of different backgrounds and walks of life who might not have otherwise come into contact with the Cathedral. Some of these schemes have proved very successful, building links with the business community through our Corporate Partnership scheme, which now has over a hundred members.
Another aspect of this engagement is that it helps us generate much-needed income to help pay for the Cathedral’s running costs, mission and activities. Many readers will have seen articles in this newspaper over recent months about its cash-flow problems. These are being dealt with and solutions being put in place that will hopefully ensure its long term sustainability.
Many people are astonished when they learn that it costs over £3,500 a day to maintain the routine operations of Peterborough Cathedral, and that this figure excludes any major restoration works. Whilst there are other sources of income such as rental from properties in the Precincts, like all English cathedrals, Peterborough receives no direct funding from the state or from the Church of England towards this figure. We rely entirely on donations and other earned income. We ask visitors to donate £3 per person, per visit, as a means of helping us to meet these costs.
It’s not merely the cost of maintaining a 900 year old building – or indeed the huge heating bills at this time of year. As well as providing services, putting on events and welcoming visitors, the Cathedral funds important educational work, through both providing school visits for thousands of children each year, and an amazing learning experience for the fifty or so 7 -13 year olds who form part of the Cathedral Choir. The choristers, who come from all different backgrounds, receive a priceless educative experience, developing life skills that stay with them for the rest of their lives.
So, next time you pop into the Cathedral, please remember to put some money in the box, or you can donate anytime online at http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1003418. All contributions are gratefully received!