A cathedral is the seat of a bishop. The Church of Scotland does not have bishops, but I have found when touring Scotland that even in some places where there are Episcopalian and Roman Catholic cathedrals, tourist bureaux direct enquirers to the Church of Scotland establishments. Why does that Church still refer to its major places of worship as “cathedrals”?
The questioner asks why, since the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian in constitution and belief, what he calls its “major” places of worship are called cathedrals, thus misdirecting those looking for Episcopalian or Roman Catholic cathedrals.
Bishops in the Church of Scotland were effectively removed in and after 1560, and, though intermittently reimposed by the Crown, they were finally rejected in 1690. Why thereafter popular usage retained the term “cathedral” is a mystery, but one very easily resolved if visitors in the tourist office will only put an adjective before the object of their search: “Episcopalian” (and, if that fails, “English”) or “Roman Catholic”. Asking for “the cathedral” tout court invites confusion.
What’s more, the questioner is looking through the wrong end of the telescope: no place of worship in the Church of Scotland is of its nature more “major” than any other. Some Scottish cathedrals are tiny. Parity of ministers implies parity of charges.
All that said, a “cathedral” without a cathedra is admittedly strange. On balance, then, in such matters of nomenclature, it might be better to be radical, to heed the advice of the nearly Bishop of Rochester and minister of the High Kirk of Edinburgh, John Knox: “pull down the crows’ nests, that the crows do not build in them again.”
But if these churches are to be in some way distinguished, perhaps “High Kirk” should replace “cathedral” (though, on second thoughts, perhaps not: that might puzzle visitors looking for a “high church”).
(Sir) William McKay
I have been to non-eucharistic services recently — including morning prayer, organised by people in training for ministry, and an Archdeacon’s Visitation — when we were asked to stand because one reading was from a Gospel. It was introduced and ended with the words used in the Common Worship Order One eucharist. Is this a new trend, a directive, or mistake? In the Prayer Book, the Alternative Service Book 1980, and CW, the New Testament reading has always been treated as any other reading, in my previous experience. M. C.
Out of the Question, Church Times, 3rd floor, Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG.
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