• Charles Bromley-Davenport

CBD On Going to A Cathedral

Don’t let my double-barrel surname and attendance of a second-rate private school deceive – I have not always been greatly fond of Cathedrals. Too cold and oppressively monastic – I slouched through my alma mater’s bi-annual Cathedral Service, disinterested and itching for the warm release of adjournment following the Lord’s Prayer.

But then suddenly my perception changed. No longer were the towering stone pillars an annoying view blocker, they were beauty personified. The great columns standing erect, a timeless memorial to the twelfth century stone mason who so delicately carved them. The elevated ceiling that once served as a distraction from the tiresome Gospels, now a testament of ecclesiastical grandeur and exquisitery. While my spontaneous ailment seems a classic case of ‘wankeritis’, I would consider myself quite the Cathedral connoisseur.

So, dear reader, I wish to no longer stall. Please do away with your concerns – for safe hands are guiding you on your voyage into the world of Cathedrals.

I. Entrance

The first step into a Cathedral is always most daunting. Where do I go? What do I say? Will I be mistaken for an undercover communist agent?

The best thing you can do is breathe, relax, and remind yourself how much worse it would be if you were a Protestant seeking refuge inside at the height of the Marian persecution.

Before you have time to answer such questions, you will inevitably be ambushed by either two types of individual.

The first kind is Sarah. A recent English graduate, she works part-time handing out leaflets at the entrance of the Cathedral in order to make inroads into her crippling student debt and fund her stagnating poetry career. She lives in a trendy inner-city apartment along with her two cats, Mrs Fluffles and Mr Rolly, is a habitual collector of potted Dracaenas, and has come to terms with her failed love life by having regular candle-lit bubble baths. You will be able to identify her near instantly by her distinctive floral dress and insufferable friendliness. The best word of advice is to avoid eye-contact, or heaven forbid a conversation, as otherwise be forced to patiently listen to a long, rambling lecture on her own moral-righteousness.

The second kind to look out for is Bryan. Long unhappy, Bryan uses his job on the Cathedral welcome desk as an escape from his overbearing wife, Judith. While sitting behind the large glass table he is regularly found in quiet solitude reminiscing on the last time he felt true happiness – his bachelor’s trip to Vegas. Two decades later and he still imagines he is back with Honey the exotic dancer whenever he and his wife make disappointing love. When not playing Pac-Man on the work computer, Bryan is often found assessing his growing bald patch in the staff toilets, or indulging his love for Renaissance pottery. As with his colleague Sarah, the best advice is to avert any form of contact with Bryan, as otherwise be trapped in an inescapable conversation about his most recent bird-watching trip.

If you survive this ordeal, go hence with confidence in your stride, for you have just overcome perhaps the greatest foes you will ever meet.

II. Navigating the Cathedral

Once you have crawled out from the Cathedral’s foyer, you will be faced with a hard decision. With corridors shooting all at you as if on the other side of Oscar Pistorius’ bathroom door, it is easy to become overwhelmed. As with before, it is best to remind yourself of how worse the situation could be. I personally find comfort in imagining the trauma of my intimate photos being leaked to the Daily Mail.

In deciding which avenue to venture down it is best to avoid the guidance of Robert Frost. Travelling the path less travelled will most likely lead you to a hazardous ‘off-limits’ area, or worse still, the choirboys’ changing room. The best advice is to do away with everything your mother ever taught you about not following the pack, and make your way through the divine maze with the fellow Cathedral goers.

If you are still unsure in navigating the complex corridors, try periodically dropping a few bread crumbs in order to form a route back should you go wayward.

III. Should You Meet a Clergy Member

While journeying through a Cathedral, it is common to come across a member of the clergy. Once the shock of not seeing them making the most of their tax exemption in the Primark winter sale, you will likely be uncertain how to address them.

And with good reason. There is an extensive hierarchy of clergy members, each with their own respected style. Deacons are referred to as ‘The Reverend’, ‘The Reverend Deacon’, or ‘The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss’. Priests, ‘The Reverend’, ‘The Reverend’, ‘The Reverend Father/Mother’ or ‘The Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss’. Canons as the ‘Reverend Canon’. Deans, ‘The Very Reverend’. Archdeacons, ‘The Venerable’. Bishops, ‘The Right Reverend’ or ‘His Lordship’. Archbishops, ‘The Most Reverend’, and addressed as ‘Your Grace’.

It is at this moment that you regret not being born into a lowly Presbyterian community in the Scottish Highlands.

Under no circumstance should you mistake the clergy member's title. Only do so if you are comfortable with immense public humiliation and the likely pariah status amongst your friends. If you are unsure how you will take to this, try first taking a summer internship at the Resolution Foundation.

Once you have exchanged opening remarks it is your duty as the initiator of conversation to follow up with pleasant small talk. Common courtesies include: “how long have you been working in this Cathedral for?” “Isn’t the weather nice today?” And, “where were you during the 1933 signing of the Nazi/Vatican Concordat?”

Social convention suggests refraining from talk about Anselm’s Ontological Proof of The Divine, or just about anything that left Christopher Hitchens’ mouth. While your regular layman may find mild amusement in recounting how the only time The Hitch prayed was to “get a hard-on”, a clergy member will likely take to it like how a Victorian greenhouse takes to a passing RAF jet.

IV. Sitting Through a Service

The final saga of your Cathedral voyage is to attend a service. Failure to do so renders your entire journey incomplete, and so must be fiercely avoided as if like an eleventh century Leper. Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that going to a Cathedral without attending a service is like reading Playboy Magazine for the articles, or going into the Civil Service for a fulfilling career.

If I am yet to arouse your interest, allow me to tell you this dear reader. Cathedral services give you an unparalleled sense of euphoria, with the jubilation of hymn singing being only matched to finding out you are not the father of your side-girl’s child.

The best advice for sitting through a service is to ensure your phone is on silent and spare yourself the embarrassment of everyone turning to look at you as if you are the lone Northerner in the classroom as the teacher announces a lesson on poverty. If you are unfortunate enough and your phone does start blaring out, ensure you have a church-friendly ringtone. Some that first spring to mind being ‘Jerusalem’, ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’, or my personal favourite, Cardi B’s ‘WAP’.

With this my friends, I conclude my advice on attending a Cathedral. I pray you found this knowledge useful and that I have instilled a real excitement within you. As ever, stay tuned for future insights into the world by subscribing to CBDStack and make sure to regularly update your inbox. Until we meet again, dear reader, Alla prossima!

This article was written for Substack, please find it here: https://charlesbdavenport.substack.com/p/cbd-on-going-to-a-cathedral?s=r