As Exeter Cathedral seeks applicants for two very important new roles, The Very Revd Jonathan Greener explains more about the Cathedral Chapter and the new Chapter Canon opportunities.
The way cathedrals are run often appears a bit of a mystery. But all the big decisions are taken by the Cathedral Chapter. One of my key roles as Dean is to chair the Chapter meetings.
The word Chapter is used in the church world to refer to the Governing Body of a cathedral or the members of a religious order – and they are designated in this way because when gathered they have traditionally listened to a chapter of their religious rules or a chapter of Scripture. The Chapter House is where the Chapter would traditionally meet, though at present our Chapter House is too big and too chilly for our meetings.
The Cathedral Chapter in Exeter consists of the Dean and Residentiary Canons (Canon Precentor, Canon Chancellor, Canon Treasurer and Canon Steward), plus some Chapter Canons – currently three: Jenny Ellis, John Endacott, and the Ven Dr Trevor Jones. We normally meet for a morning a month, but during the current pandemic, we have tended to meet fortnightly by Zoom.
The Bishop has his seat (his cathedra) in the cathedral, in our case probably the tallest piece of medieval woodwork in Europe, and has lots of influence over us, but little direct say in our day-to-day decision making. As our Visitor, he does however have the right of Visitation – as was exercised of course in 2015/16. There is also a body known as the Cathedral Council, made up of people from around Devon, who currently have a responsibility to hold the Chapter to account: though without the sanctions to follow this through.
The current arrangements are somewhat temporary, because there is a Measure or Law going through the General Synod of the Church of England, and then through Parliament, which will change the make-up of our Chapter (and every other Cathedral Chapter), to ensure that the Residentiary clergy are in a minority. When the new legislation comes into force, the Council will no longer exist.
Why, you wonder, am I telling you all this? It’s because we’re on the hunt for two new Chapter Canons. You can find the advert here on our website. These are challenging but exciting times for our cathedral, what with Covid-19 alongside our Lottery Grant and development plans. So we are looking for two people with the Christian commitment, the experience or expertise, and the time available to contribute to our thinking and planning over the next few years. These appointments are hugely important for the cathedral, so if this might be you, or someone you know, please do respond to the advert or twist their arm to do so. The appointment is in the gift of the bishop, but for the first time, there will be interviews, and we shall make some recommendations to him. If it would help to have a conversation about this, please email Tina Robbens ([email protected]) and she’ll arrange a time that suits us both.
When the law changes, we’ll need to recruit two further Chapter Canons, so we’re likely to run this process again later next year. But our first priority is to fill two vacancies in the near future. If you can help us do this, we’ll be hugely grateful.