My second reason for welcoming this season is to do with the power of story. Every culture works out what it values and believes through telling stories. Stories have power to take root in the human heart in a way that propositions do not. From the earliest days, people have sat round fires or meal tables sharing stories, some of them historical, some of them fictional, and very many a combination of the two. Some of those stories would be about things that the culture fears or wants to avoid. After all, many of the fairy tales which we were told growing up, and which we may have passed on to our own children, had elements which were disturbing or a bit scary. And Christians, of all people, should understand this. The Scriptures on which our faith is based consist primarily of stories. Jesus didn’t write a book of theological statements to leave to his followers, but rather gospels which recorded stories about his life. And in his own teaching he understood the power of story, which is why he spent so much of his time telling parables. The stories on which our faith is based are not all lovely and uplifting. If for example we were to show a film of the story of Salome, Herod, and John the Baptist, it would probably have an 18 certificate. But of course, to tell – or show – a story in which bad things happen is not to condone the actions of people in the story. The story is told to provoke, to challenge, to make us think. It is in that spirit that some of these stories of faith, doubt, fear and obsession are coming to the Cathedral.
The third reason for hosting this season of films is, of course, financial. Cathedrals are expensive to run. Contrary to what some think, they are not funded by the Government, nor are the majority of our costs covered by the Church Commissioners. Most of what we need to sustain the ministry of our Cathedral we have to find ourselves. I am very clear, in a challenging financial climate, that I will ensure Derby Cathedral is solvent and financially sustainable. That means thinking outside the box about new income streams which can make the mission and ministry of this place possible, as well as creating resources to respond to new opportunities as they come along.
We will shortly be announcing a couple of special events to help people reflect theologically on these films, which I hope people will find helpful. In the meantime, to be clear, Derby Cathedral remains primarily a place of worship and mission, with at least three services offered daily. Nothing changes that, and nor will anything do so for as long as I am Dean.
The Very Revd. Dr. Stephen Hance
Dean of Derby