Jane extends welcome at Norwich Cathedral
Installed as the first female Dean in Norwich Cathedral’s 900-year history in June 2014, the Very Revd Jane Hedges says that time has gone very quickly and, thanks to the welcome she received, Norwich now feels like home.
Helen Baldry reports.
Jane’s role as Dean of Norwich is varied and interesting. When she arrived, the development of the Refectory and Hostry was already complete and her challenge is to make the Cathedral accessible to the whole community.
Along with her team at the Cathedral, she has drawn up a strategic plan for the next five years where the focus will continue to be upon the worship of God and the service of his people. The plan contains ideas for outreach and further links with different sectors of the community.
She said: “I’m really delighted about the good relationships that we have built upon. There is a lot of goodwill towards the Cathedral. There’s been the opportunity to meet people in their places of work and people that are engaged in doing really important things in the life of the community through voluntary organisations.”
During her first months in Norwich, Jane met a lot of people and has connected with many local groups. She became a trustee of St Edmunds Society, which provides training to vulnerable young people in Norfolk. Tourism is a vital part of Cathedral life and Jane is also on the board of Visit Norwich.
Jane has forged a connection with the Norwich Research Park and a successful science festival was held at the Cathedral in March comprising lectures, events and activity days. It was an opportunity to explore how science impacts on our faith and how faith impacts on the world of the scientist.
Education and lifelong learning is another thing Jane is very committed to. Last year 12,000 school children visited the Cathedral and participated in their educational activities and there is a programme of courses for adults and an extensive library.
Jane’s role includes the stewardship of all the buildings in Cathedral close. A recent development is a small flat available to clergy and lay people who wish to come and have a short break at the Cathedral, to enjoy the environment, do some study and have time to recharge their batteries.
Jane participates fully in the daily round of worship at the Cathedral, with regular preaching and leading commitments. She said: “We are very keen to encourage some different kinds of worship.”
Jane is delighted that local group Soul Circus has made their home at the Cathedral and lead a service once a month at 6.30pm on a Sunday. There are plans to introduce a healing service once a month, regular Taize prayer and for parishes to come and bring their style of worship to the Cathedral.
The Cathedral identifies firmly with its Benedictine foundation where everything that is done matters to God. Until 1538, it was run by a prior and monks. It then became a Cathedral with a Dean and residentiary canons. Times have since changed in the Church of England with the ordination of female priests and the consecration of female bishops. It is significant that Jane is the first female Dean. She said: “I sometimes think back to then and wonder what they would have made of it all today.”
Things are different now, but Jane cherishes the Cathedral’s Benedictine history and is keen to nurture the tradition of hospitality and welcome.