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Great Expectations

By Revd Canon Deborah Parsons

I once asked a book editor for a national magazine how she decides which books to feature each month given the hundreds of hopeful authors, who send in their work. “It’s simple,” she said. “I take a pile of books to bed and read the first paragraph. If it doesn’t capture my attention, I discard it and move on to the next one.”

I recently watched the new BBC adaptation of Great Expectations. Many Victorian novels first appeared serially in periodicals and only later in book form. Charles Dickens, used to write in weekly instalments, which enabled him to respond to the reaction from readers and encouraged them to buy the next installment. Each week would end in a cliffhanger, rather like the Dean’s weekly newsletters.

Last week, more than twenty million people in the UK alone watched the Coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort. Their enduring love story and the trials and tribulations they have both faced is worthy of any Dickens novel.

In the weeks leading up to the Coronation, there were great expectations ranging from who had been invited; the musicians who might perform and what the coronation dish of the day would be. Whether you decided to make the coronation quiche (or should I say flan) or not, it was certainly lovely to witness the way in which communities came together to celebrate this historic occasion.

Of course, we have our very own Great Expectations at Exeter Cathedral. I’m not speaking about my cathedral colleagues, some of whom are as colourful, as any of Dickens’ creations, but of the first building work we’ve had at the Cathedral for 100 years. We are writing a new chapter to ensure we’re here for generations to come: Improving accessibility; reducing our carbon footprint; and introducing innovative ways to tell our story.

But of course, the Cathedral is only part building, part people and part complete. We, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5) At his coronation King Charles committed himself to “a true proclamation of the Gospel and to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely.” Perhaps at the start of this Carolean age, we too can dedicate ourselves afresh to the service of God and the building of kin(g)dom values in the networks of which we are a part. If you’d like to find out more about how Exeter Cathedral can support your spiritual growth or if you’d like to support the development project in this new chapter in the life of the Cathedral do get in touch and be a part of history in the making.