Who does the Cathedral belong to?

Some thoughts suggested by the "Grahamstown Cathedral Union."

The Diocesan Synod of 1902 passed, unanimously, a resolution that the Diocese as a whole should form links of fellowship and support for the Cathedral. To this end it established a Grahamstown Cathedral Union for the maintenance and fabric of the Cathedral Church.

This was a Diocesan rather than a Parochial body with the Bishop as President and the Chapter as Vice- Presidents served by a Secretary and a Treasurer. There was also to be a clerical secretary and lay treasurer in each rural deanery of the Diocese. The Objectives of the Union were (a) the collection of funds for the Cathedral and (b) the offering of prayer on its behalf.

Behind the GCU was the "principal that the Cathedral Church belongs to the whole Diocese. And when, in future years, the Nave is actually built and paid for, we shall still need the aid of the Diocese in maintaining the fabric and worship of the Mother Church."

In 1903 the Bishop (Charles Edward Cornish) pointed out the needs of the mother church on two levels - on one the need to maintain the daily round of services, especially the Eucharists and the "beautiful musical services on Sundays" on the other the need to maintain, improve and repair so large a building. Both involved special expenses. The GCU was not trying to relieve the parish of the chief financial burden "which it must always bear" but to enable the whole Diocese to recognize the Cathedral as a Diocesan institution and share in its support by prayer and by gifts.

It was estimated in 1903 that the annual cost of "administration of the Cathedral" was 1100 pounds, excluding offerings made to the Diocese and "outside objects." This cost was incurred partly by the "size and character of the building" which required inter alia an adequately paid verger and high insurance levels. Its was also incurred by the nature of the services which required inter alia a "specially skilled Precentor/Organist" and related musical expenses.

The Grahamstown Cathedral Union sought to collect money from the Diocese towards that part of the costs of the Cathedral "which belong to the Diocese as distinct from the Parish." In 1904 it listed the stipends of the Precentor and Organist, the cost of the choir and insurance as coming under this head.

All money collected by the GCU was paid to the Chapter and administered by it and Chapter resolved that such money would only be used for what were defined as Diocesan rather than Parish purposes. What the establishment of the Grahamstown Cathedral Union was recognizing was that the Cathedral belonged to both the Parish for whom it is the parish church and the Diocese for which it is the Mother Church and that responsibility for maintaining the Cathedral rested on both the Parish and the Diocese. It sought to recognize Diocesan responsibilities for a church "built largely as the Mother Church" rather than to meet the needs of the Parish, by collecting funds in the Diocese. There would have been other ways in which this could have been done. It sought also to encourage prayer for the Cathedral in the Diocese:

Collect of The Grahamstown Cathedral Union (in modern English):

V. I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem

R. Who will never hold their peace day or night.

Lord God of our fathers, who in olden times accepted them who offered willingly and gave for the House of God; grant we beseech you, your continual blessing on the Cathedral Church of this Diocese. Remember all who show kindness for your House and for its offices. Strengthen our hands to complete what has been begun and to make all according to your will; so that we and our children may praise you in a holy and beautiful house; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

{The documents from which the work of the Grahamstown Cathedral Union has been summarized can be found in C.P.S.A. Pamphlets vol. 7 in the Diocesan Archives in the Cory Library at Rhodes University. These records are open to the public)

Michael Berning