A weekend spent in the splendour of Norwich Cathedral, 900 + years of worship and prayers which we were adding to with our renditions of Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man, Elgar’s The Spirit of the Lord, Howells, Dyson, Guerrero, psalms, hymns and Responses. Such a joy. Despite the City itself being so full of treasures to explore, it was not a penance to stay inside for rehearsals and services, coming thick and fast; no, Storm Dennis put paid to any thoughts of sitting in sunshine with a sandwich, visiting the churches (one for every week of the year) or pubs (supposedly one for every day of the year) or boating on the Broads – in any downtime we might find.
To jolly us along, we were joined by the Cathedral cat, white with black and ginger markings. Budge (who has a Twitter account @BudgeofNorwich with lots of photos) wandered around, with clergy and congregation batting nary an eyelid, while we, unused to cats in a church, restrained our hilarity and maintained our focus on the music and the music director. I’ve not sung to a cat before and luckily, Budge didn’t sit in front of the altar (or us) and start to lick clean various parts of his/her anatomy, which might have broken us apart. No, he/she just ignored us (tells you something about how well we sang) and carried on with his/her exploration of what might be under the seats.
The only other time I’ve experienced a cat wandering around during a service was on a hot Australian Christmas Day, in a church in the back of beyond; candles wavered in the breeze from the open doors, robes fluttered and the cat followed the “altar party” down the centre of the church to join in. He/she, too, was pretty well behaved, not lying down or performing embarrassing cleaning rituals, just curling up in the sunshine, so people had to step over him/her.
A curious coincidence – both churches were led by women clergy! In Australia 20 years ago, she was my first experience of a woman priest leading worship; and such interesting, new and different insights were brought to bear on the familiar stories. In Norwich, the new-ish Dean is also a woman, and excellent, of course.
In neither place did cat or female clergy generate surprise! Hurrah – equality in some senses at last!