It’s amazing what can be found backstage in a cathedral. At St Paul’s in London, you might stumble upon the Great Model, a quarter-size version of the entire cathedral, made to show what Wren’s designs really looked like in case he died. At Wells you can creep behind the West Front, to find a series of holes that they used to put the trumpets through to play a fanfare on Easter day, and below them, more holes hidden behind statues of the angels, for the choirboys to sing through. In Gloucester, half of the nave roof is covered in solar panels, which provide 25% of the cathedral’s electricity; and in Manchester, the cathedral keeps bees on its roof, which you can watch on their webcam.
Many cathedrals are in a process of revealing the hidden, by creating access to high spaces, galleries and towers to create a whole new perspective. But even as more of the innermost workings of a cathedral are exposed, instead of removing that sense of wonder, for me it merely heightens it, when you realise just how incredibly extraordinary were the people who designed, built, worked and worshipped in these holy places.
I think we often fear a similar unveiling in our own lives, that the mystery will disappear, or that we’ll be found out, like the ‘wizard’ behind the curtain. But perhaps if we were to risk more transparency, we too might find that it adds to our allure, rather than detracts from it.
God our Father, from whom nothing is hidden, forgive us our rough edges and our unfinished nature. Give us time and strength to renew ourselves in your service, working daily to your glory; and raise up in us a wellspring of love and grace to nourish those who journey with us through life.