Roger Bush writes:
This month sees my retirement as Dean of Truro, a post I have held for almost exactly ten years, having been installed on 22 September 2012. It also brings an end to thirty-six years of public ordained ministry. I was ordained deacon in Derby Cathedral in June 1986 and ordained priest a year later, and after serving in parishes in Chesterfield and Leicester, I have served in the Diocese of Truro for twenty-eight years, as Rector of Redruth with Lanner and Treleigh, Residentiary Canon of the Cathedral, Archdeacon, and latterly as Dean. It has been a rich, diverse and rewarding ministry, and I do not doubt that I have learnt more from others in that time than I have ever imparted to them.
Clearly, space prevents a comprehensive survey of my time as a deacon and priest, but it behoves me here to give a brief survey of my time as dean. Little did I know what was in store when Bishop Tim Thornton installed me a decade ago! I have to admit, I didn’t really have much of a clue what I was taking on, and when you discover that my induction as dean consisted of travelling all the way to Durham to have a literal fireside chat with the then dean of Durham about how you get on with your Chapter colleagues, then I think it is safe to say that the Church of England also didn’t have much clue about the role and responsibilities of deans!
Of course, the best way to learn the job is to do it, and this I have done over the years. I do think it is fair to say that, as I leave the post, I am still learning, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Of course, I have made loads of mistakes on the way, but it is true to say that we all learn from the mistakes we make, not always so when things go swimmingly well, and, believe me, I have had plenty of opportunities to learn as I have gone on! The other important thing to say is that, in these ten years, the job of the dean has changed beyond all recognition. Without being too simplistic, I think it is fair to say that, in 2012, the role was couched in a significantly smaller scale than it is now. There were distinct ‘executive’ aspects to the job, but there was also a prominent liturgical and pastoral role to engage with as well. I would say now that, whilst the liturgical role is still significant, the pastoral nature of the job has almost been marginalised as executive functions predominate. It is not far-fetched to say that deans now are pretty much chief executives of cathedrals, running what is, in effect, a moderately small business. Certainly, the executive function of the cathedral has now much more business to deal with than it did ten years ago, and the Chapter has morphed more into a board of trustees, something that the new Cathedrals’ Measure recognises with the necessary governance changes that need to happen in order for all cathedrals to register with the Charity Commission, which we must all do by 2024.
However, this hasn’t come about simply because we love dealing with governance and compliance issues: it has come about because the cathedral is in a more prominent position than it was ten years ago, especially with regard to the wider community of Cornwall. Whilst it is a myth to say that cathedrals in the past served only themselves, today, they are much more aware of their mission to the people they serve throughout the area of their respective dioceses, and Truro is no different: we have always been Cornwall’s Cathedral, and now we are more geared up to celebrate and honour the people of Cornwall as much as we can: so, in recent years, we have hosted tourism awards, had silent discos for NHS workers, had a Radio Cornwall awards’ ceremony, fashion parades, craft fairs, and many others, all recognising the skill, service and talent that the people of Cornwall show in abundance.
We are also here, of course, to shower God’s blessing on our people to celebrate their gifts, as well as proclaim the hope of the Gospel wherever it is needed. What has struck me about all this is firstly the cathedral’s willingness to work with all sorts of groups across Cornwall; secondly, the desire to value those groups in an act of worship, to specifically ask for God’s blessing upon them, but thirdly, and most importantly, those groups’ desire to seek God’s blessing upon them, to see that blessing as something that is not just there for religious people, but for all: God is indiscriminate in his love, and if the Church has occasionally signalled that God’s grace is primarily something only for Christians, then the cathedral has definitively indicated that this is not so. We are here for all, whatever people’s faith affiliation.
There are many things I could point to over the years that I am proud of being involved with, and in highlighting the following I am not belittling other things that are not mentioned. However, I need to point to the admission of girl choristers to our choral foundation as a major development, and not on a part-time basis either. The moving of the office from the crumbling St Mary’s buildings to the Old Cathedral School is also something that has delighted me, as well as the blossoming of our educational programme, particularly our Windows courses. Of course, Covid curtailed much of this activity for eighteen months or so, but as I write, I am glad to say that much of activity is coming back on stream with new and exciting developments in the offing.
There are, of course, countless people I need to thank in supporting and tolerating (!) me over these years: I hope they won’t mind if I don’t mention any names here; to do so, and omit others, would be invidious. But I will say this: the cathedral is a wonderful place to bring people together, for worship, for events, for volunteering, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life to have served at the heart of such a community for ten years. Thank you.
There have, as in the way of things, been the occasional bump in the road and the odd crisis to deal with, but I leave a place in great heart, and I can only pray that my successor will have the same blessings I have been showered with over these years. Above all, I wish any future dean to have lots and lots of fun. What can get lost in discussing balance sheets and diary clashes (yes, they do still happen occasionally!) is the absolute joy of the Gospel. That joy runs through all Christian endeavour, and it is something that needs to be shared far and wide. I trust that this will be a prime element of the cathedral’s mission for years to come.
Some of the services leading up to 25th September (my last Sunday) will have a slightly valedictory feel, in the same way that our departing musicians have when they leave us at the end of the Choir year in early July. So here are the services which will mark the end of my tenure as dean:
Sunday 18 September at 16:00. Choral Evensong attended by the College of Canons
Saturday 24 September at 17:30. Choral Evensong with members of the Truro Cathedral Old Choristers’ Association
Sunday 25 September at 10:00. Sung Eucharist. Although this is not actually the Dean’s last service at the cathedral, this gives most people the chance to say their farewells.
Sunday 25 September at 16:00. Choral Evensong