We caught up with Dean Pete ahead of his farewell service this Sunday. The Dean reflects on his time in Liverpool as he moves to become Bishop of Sheffield.
I feel honoured to be offered the opportunity of being the 8th Bishop of Sheffield. My wife Cathy and I shall find it a great wrench to uproot from a city & Diocese we have come to know and love. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your good wishes and all the more for the assurance of your prayers. My final service will be Trinity Sunday, which seems a suitable moment to bow out after almost five years as Dean of Liverpool.
We asked Dean Pete to reflect on the changes and achievements that he has seen in the cathedral over his time as Dean:
The first is the bold vision of raising £24m by 2024. It is both a practical challenge and sensible proposition. We have taken a realistic appraisal of our future needs, arising from our quinquennial inspection of the fabric of the cathedral. We have assessed what we need for future prosperity including the funding of St Aidan’s House to extend meeting and teaching space particularly for the flourishing theological training partnership with St Mellitus and All Saints. We are also determined to leave a strong financial legacy for future generations. We have made wonderful progress and have raised seven million in less than 3 years. We are just embarking on a major Heritage Lottery Fund bid that should take us over the half way point.
Congregational growth has gone up from a weekly average aggregate attendance of 438 in 2013 to 702 in 2016. This is a magnificent outcome and gives great confidence for future growth and development.
Five years ago it was not possible to train as clergy in the North West. The vision and development of St Mellitus and the St Aiden’s project has allowed that to come to fruition.
Finally, through the work of Hope+ Foodbank and our Volition employability project we have developed a programme of support for those in need. Our foodbank continues to offer emergency support to many thousands, particularly as Liverpool acts as a centre for the dispersal of displaced people, including refugees and asylum seekers. Volition goes from success to success in delivering quality volunteer placement opportunities and interview experience for the long term unemployed, to assist them in finding paid work.
How has he found the unique challenge of maintaining the balance of worship and enterprise activities?
Twice in the last five years we have won the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the Merseyside Tourism Awards. On TripAdvisor we are rated as the number 1 tourist attraction in Liverpool. Now, this is extraordinary in a city that has so much to offer tourists and a mark of what we have achieved.
We remain very clear that first and foremost we exist for worship and to fulfil our mission. The regular services are never interrupted, all other activity stops to allow these times of worship to happen. Part of our mission is outreach – connecting with people and wanting to bring people in. The events we host are not just about generating much needed revenue. It is about refreshing their understanding of Jesus. We do push the boat out with events, an example being the sell-out Cream Classical concerts held over 2 nights in April. There are of course lines that will not be crossed but our rule of thumb is that if it is an activity such as the music and dancing that was present during the Cream Concert would not make God frown in any other setting then there is no reason why it can’t be present here in this building.
What has been his proudest achievement?
All of these achievements have only been possible due to my first class colleagues. This extraordinary concentration of gifted and committed people - paid staff and volunteers, lay and ordained.
A particularly proud and poignent occasion was the funeral of PC Philips, I believe we served Merseyside well that day. Another moment that is called to mind was the Battle of the Atlantic anniversary when the BBC broadcast the service live. We do these big liturgical events and acts of worship well when the cathedral is full of people worshiping together.
What will he take away from his time at Liverpool Cathedral?
To be the 7th Dean of Liverpool has been one of the great privileges of my life. The past four and a half years have been the most fruitful and the most fun that I have known in 30 years of ordained ministry. If I am granted nearly as much fruitfulness and fun as the 8th Bishop of Sheffield, I shall be blessed indeed.
Cathy and I owe a huge debt of thanks. We have loved our time in Liverpool. The culture of the city, in the willingness to try new things, can-do attitude and wittiness of the people here. It has been a huge privilege to have worked here. We wish to say again ‘thank you’ for what will always stand out as a golden period of our lives.