A Christmas message from the Dean of Derby

The Very Rev Dr John Davies, Dean of Derby Cathedral

The Very Rev Dr John Davies, Dean of Derby Cathedral - Credit: Ashley Franklin

A Christmas reflection by the Dean of Derby, the Very Revd Dr John Davies DL

The Christmas Crib

Look in imagination around the Christmas crib scene, and pick out a particular hero. There are plenty of candidates. Mary, open to God, caring for her baby. Joseph, stoically standing by his little family. But there’s someone else in the background, and he is my hero for this month: the innkeeper. My job, working with an excellent team at the Cathedral, is to be a kind of innkeeper.

The Innkeeper

The inn was full, every room taken, and with not a space left. But some lateral thinking led to the suggestion of the stable. Yes, the innkeeper needed to make a living and a profit, but he was also, we might think, a person of principle. He wanted everyone to have a bed, a place to rest: and here was a pregnant woman in particular need. Then, when the child was born, everyone wanted to have a look, to rejoice and look for fresh meanings. The innkeeper needed to allow everyone their due access. And then Mary needed time to rest too.

Visitors to the Cathedral and the Crib

The innkeeper took in the homeless. And so will the Cathedral this winter. Yes, there are events almost every day in the run up to Christmas, but some lateral thinking has identified Monday evening as the quietest slot, and this is the night we’ll take in the homeless, giving them a bed, some food, and a warm welcome. The Christmas story is all about this, so corporately (vergers, volunteers, Cathedral staff) we are going to be the innkeeper. Other city churches are doing the same.

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But many others want access and space too, a chance to look into the crib, see the child and his meanings, and all will be allowed equal and due access – the Hospitals Choir, Rainbows Hospice, Derwent Brass, the Salvation Army Band, the Derby Choral Union, BBC Radio Derby, Wathalls, youngsters on Experience Christmas visits; and all the host of supporters who will come with the various organisations named here. And there will of course be all those who come to the set-piece choral carol services led by the Cathedral Choir. In recent years this stable/cathedral has welcomed ten thousand people at Christmas. I expect no less this year.

Then, after all the visitors and activity, like Mary, the building and its staff will need a bit of a rest! Even so, the doors will remain open, and the welcome will be warm.

The innkeeper is the model for every church or cathedral this Christmas: organised, principled, inclusive, generous. Don’t be shy of seeking access – there is space for everyone.

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