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New Dean of Peterborough praises ‘charism’ of cathedrals

03 November 2017

Peterborough Cathedral

Successor: the Very Revd Christopher Dalliston

Successor: the Very Revd Christopher Dalliston

THE next Dean of Peterborough, the Very Revd Christopher Dalliston, has said that deans must be “both good managers as well as holy priests”, and is confident that cathedrals will retain their individuality and “unique charism”.

His appointment was announced on Wednesday. He succeeds the Very Revd Charles Taylor, who, in a final sermon, spoke of those who “would like to see power concentrated at the centre, in order to impose a bland, uniform theology” (News, 7 October, 2016). His resignation came at the same time as news that a cashflow crisis at Peterborough Cathedral meant that there was a danger that staff would not be paid.

Dean Dalliston, who has been Dean of Newcastle since 2003, said on Wednesday that a “huge amount” had been done over the past year to “turn round what was a very critical situation into a very positive one”. He was confident that staff had “a real grip on finance, and clarity about what needs to be done”.

In his sermon, Dean Taylor was critical of the training offered to newly appointed deans, in the form of a “mini-MBA” (News, 7 October, 2016). But Dean Dalliston said that he had found the training “very beneficial. As a Dean, clearly one’s first priority is to lead a spiritual foundation and to preach the gospel . . . but also you are stewards of these extraordinary buildings and lots of staff. . . I am really sure that we need to be good managers as well as holy priests.”

Since events at Peterborough, the Archbishops have launched an investigation into the management and governance of cathedrals (News, 13 April), and there has been debate about their independence (News, 13 January). Dean Dalliston is confident that cathedrals will “retain their individuality and unique charism and distinctiveness, because they have a deep history and because of the breadth of stakeholders. . . I do not feel that there is a danger that they will become swamped, or become bland, monochrome institutions.”

Reports of growth in attendance at cathedrals (News, 21 August, 2015) could be attributed to the fact that they offered “a sense of wonder”, he said. “They feel like very special places. . . The thresholds of cathedrals are, in many ways, lower: people feel [that they have] permission to be able to enter one.”

Neither Newcastle nor Peterborough charges visitors an entry fee. Dean Dalliston described cathedrals as “remarkably resilient” in their fund-raising, which has left them “in a better place than they have been in many centuries”. He acknowledged, however, that there were “huge continuing challenges” in sustaining them. “I think the country needs constantly to review how we maintain these great treasures houses of national life.”

Having grown up in Norfolk, he regards the east of England as home. He was Priest-in-Charge and then Vicar of St Botolph’s, Boston (Boston Stump), from 1995 to 2003. At Newcastle, he led a successful bid for a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and had a vision to “care for the most vulnerable”, the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Christine Hardman, said.

He will be installed on 20 January.

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