The Blogging Dean of Belfast chalked up another milestone when his 250th Blog was posted on the St Anne’s Cathedral website on Saturday February 20!
The Very Rev John Mann started blogging during the last Diocese of Connor Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November 2013, providing a daily summary of the experiences and adventures of the pilgrims for the Connor diocesan website as well as the Cathedral website.
Inspired by the reception to the Pilgrimage Blog, and realizing that this new media method was a great way of keeping people informed, the Dean published his first ‘Dean’s Blog’ on the Cathedral website on November 26 2013.
It began: “It is sometimes said that so much is happening at St Anne’s week by week that it is difficult to keep in touch and maintain good communication, so, having practised writing a blog over the course of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I am going to try producing a few words for all interested in Belfast Cathedral, twice a week…. I will try it until Christmas initially, to see how it goes!”
Two years and three months later, and Dean Mann is still faithfully blogging every Saturday and Tuesday. He reflects on activities in the Cathedral, faith, music, his garden, and life as he sees it. The blogs are always personable, often funny, and a wonderful reflection of life as a Dean in a City Cathedral with the wonders of the Northern Ireland coast and countryside within easy reach.
You can read his 250th blog (cricket fans will be particularly interested) in full below and also access all the Dean’s previous blogs through the Blog Archive.
The 250th entry in this blog does form a watershed of sorts, and I have been thinking whether or not I should make some reference back to some lines that people have referred to, on and off, over the past couple of years. Reaction falls roughly into three groups: comments on faith and cathedral related matters; jokes, corny or otherwise; the garden. So, in true swimming against the tide style, I will not mention any of these things, but take a different tack altogether.
Bedside books are of the easy to pick up and put down sort. One author that I like to dip into and out of for a paragraph or a few pages is Neville Cardus. Now, in the seventies and early eighties, when John Arlott was still writing for the Guardian, Cardus was very much still in vogue. His expertise as a critic spanned cricket and classical music, but his literary associations were common currency in his articles too. Arlott, who died 25 years ago now brought a similar beauty of prose to cricket commentary and coupled it with expertise in wine and poetry – a fairly heady mix – but with a Hampshire burr, rather than the Lancashire accent of Cardus.
In Good Days Neville Cardus speaks of the Ashes Test Matches of that year, 1934, spending half the book on these few days of a splendid Summer. He comments on individual strokes, the mindset of particular batsmen, the conditions under which an over is bowled. At the Old Trafford Test Match (the third of that Summer) he paints such a picture of a hot, sunny day and the sizzling heat of the square, as seen through the windows of the press box, that he likens himself to Nebuchadnezzar looking into the fiery furnace and seeing men walking free in the haze of the seven-times fanned temperature.
Herbert Sutcliffe was opening for England, as he often did. Somewhere I have a signed book of his on batsmanship, but no written account in such a work could match the description by Cardus of the moments of both batsmanship’s folly and genius that flow from his pen. England made 627 in the first innings and it reached the stage of a few supporters speaking sympathy for the Australians (ignored by others who knew that the pain would be returned with interest – Bradman was about to make 304 in the first innings at Leeds and 244 at the Oval in the next two tests) before the declaration came. Living through these descriptions transports one to the scene and, “England’s score mellowed in the warmth like fruit on the wall”.
A long way from the T20 of 2016. Perhaps as we look back, one of the things nostalgia recalls is of the slower pace of things; the longer view, the building for others to enjoy, the planning for a future that cannot be assured it is so far distant. Cathedrals are of this nature, so is the work of the Kingdom, so to some extent is our own individual faith. The psalms we mull over, the prayers we repeat, the talk of where the love of God leads us in action, social justice, reconciliation, healing – compassion. Where we might desire instant gratification for work done, we accept that we cannot see the distant scene, one step … on our Lenten journey … one, sometimes stumbling, step … can be … enough … for me.