In this final #BlessedIsShe, we meet Wendy Matthews, the Cathedral's Chapter Clerk.
Thank you to all the women who have made this project - and life at the cathedral - so exceptionally special.
In this centenary year of women's suffrage, we are celebrating the women who play important roles in the daily life of the Cathedral community.
Each Saturday of the year, we will be sharing a different story here and across our social media.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and search for the #BlessedIsShe hashtag.
What’s your connection with Bristol Cathedral?
I am the Cathedral’s Chapter Clerk and Chief Operating Officer, and member of the congregation.
How long have you been associated with the Cathedral?
What first drew you to Bristol Cathedral?
I was looking for a job and a new direction and saw the Chapter Clerk post advertised. I came to a lunchtime Eucharist in the Elder Lady Chapel before the interview and immediately felt very comfortable. I was born in Bristol too, so it was a good to come back to the city.
What have been some of your personal highlights?
As this is our last ‘Blessed is She’ slot I thought I would look back over 2018. A Cathedral is like a complex piece of music. The ground bass is our daily routine of worship – 3 services a day, with all the feasts and festivals included. Then you add the different voices, each with their own melody – our education work, our work on social justice, our art exhibitions and events, our visitors. Every year the pattern changes as we weave it all together.
2018 has been particularly special:
- We saw the culmination of our four year WWI project – ‘We Have Our Lives’. We had a series of exhibitions, including ‘No Man’s Land’ which explored the art of women photographers in WWI, and finished with a British Legion concert to commemorate the armistice. Through this kind of work we are able to help the community remember and commemorate the lives of local people.
- We saw the election and enthronement of the first woman Bishop of Bristol – the Right Revd Vivienne Faull. As Chapter Clerk it was my duty to help manage the formal election process with the College of Canons – I had to read out the Queen’s Congé D’Elire and Letters Missive – a historic tradition that dates back centuries. The Dean enjoyed declaring absent Canons ‘contumacious’ (rebellious) for not attending. The enthronement service was a moment of great celebration and the Bishop reminded us of our vocation to be generous and inclusive. Thanks to colleagues and our volunteers the building itself was at its most beautiful – a fitting setting for such a special occasion.
- During the re-development of part of the site which is used by Bristol Cathedral Choir School we have found the remains of the former Bishop of Bristol’s palace, and parts of the monastic complex from the period when the Cathedral was an Augustinian Abbey. This was a significant find. The palace was burnt down in the 1830s when the Bishop of Bristol refused to vote to extend the suffrage – a reminder, very relevant to our own time, of what happens when the politically powerful become disconnected from the people they serve.
- We have run ‘Blessed is She’ this year because 2018 was the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. It has been wonderful to have a project that bought women’s voices into the foreground, and I have greatly enjoyed reading all the contributions. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate, particularly Naomi Miller, our Development Director, who left us in October and is much missed. Naomi left on a high, having secured a one million pound donation for our major organ restoration project. Thanks to her work, and the generosity of the Harry Crook Foundation we have been able to start the project. We will do some further fundraising later on for the replacement of our sound system.
Behind all this is a small team of very dedicated, talented and expert people. In Cathedral-land we often do not know what will land in our in-tray next and we are always dealing with the unexpected, which usually happens in the middle of something else important, when the Lord Lieutenant is on site, and when something else has broken down. So, I must pay tribute to my colleagues – for their humour, their tenacity, and their ability to look completely calm in all circumstances.
What would you like to see the Cathedral doing over the next few years?
At the end of a year which has been marked by particularly complex politics and division I think it is important that we continue to bring people together, to offer hope and comfort where people are fearful, and that we pray for our community, for people in need, and our political leaders.
I hope over the next few years, that we continue to grow as a community, reach out through our social justice work, and make people welcome – whatever their reason for coming through our doors.
What does the Cathedral mean for you?
The Cathedral is more than a place of work for me – it’s a community where values matter and a place of worship and beauty. It belongs to everyone.