1.1. The Science of Cathedral Studies
The notion of the science of cathedral studies was introduced and illustrated by Francis
) who drew together in one volume ten original research projects, integrated by collaboration within one research group, exploring different aspects of Anglican cathedrals in modern life
. This research group is rooted within the school of empirical theology, a branch of theological enquiry that takes seriously theories and methods shaped within the social sciences (see Cartledge 1999
; Francis and Village 2015
). Each of the ten original research projects reported in this volume stands as a complete scientific investigation in its own right and demonstrates how disciplined investigation of a clearly defined research question can advance knowledge of relevance to the development and refinement of cathedral ministry and mission in England and Wales today. Taken together the ten studies demonstrate both qualitative and quantitative methods at work, addressing the kind of research questions for which these different approaches are best suited. Taken together the ten studies demonstrate the usefulness for cathedral studies of theories shaped in sociology (e.g., social capital theory), theories shaped in psychology (e.g., religious orientation theory), theories shaped in religious studies (e.g., the spiritual revolution theory), and theories shaped in empirical theology (e.g., the theology of individual differences).
As examples of quantitative studies, Francis and Williams
) explored the experience of 269 worshippers attending the morning services at Llandaff Cathedral, Wales, UK. Drawing on social capital theory, they assessed the different forms of capital that the worshippers generated in that social arena. Contrary to some common speculation, the study indicated that the cathedral does not primarily draw those who enjoy anonymity and wish to escape from parish commitment; rather the cathedral attracts worshippers because of the friendly atmosphere, or because of the style of worship, and attendance exerts a positive impact on the development of personal, social, and spiritual capital.
Francis and Williams
) explored the motivational styles of 592 worshippers attending three different cathedrals, drawing on religious orientation theory that distinguishes among intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest motivational styles. This study indicated that some cathedrals were better at welcoming the quest orientation than others.
Lankshear et al.
) compared the profiles of the Sunday congregations at Southwark Cathedral (263 adult worshippers) with the profile of the congregations attending parish churches within the Woolwich Episcopal Area (6042 adult worshippers). This study draws attention to key ways in which the cathedral congregation is different. In simple demographic terms, there were within the cathedral higher proportions of men, younger people, people who are single, or in non-married relationships, and people in full-time employment. This demographic profile suggests that the cathedral may be reaching some people whom the parish churches may find it more difficult to reach.
Francis et al.
) reported on a survey of 2695 visitors to St Davids Cathedral, profiling their engagement with a range of spiritual practices (shaped by spiritual revolution theory), alongside their engagement with conventional Christian practices. This analysis highlighted the ways in which visitors to cathedrals bring with them contrasting worldviews and contrasting spiritual quests. Cathedrals may need to be aware of the disparate worldviews embraced by their visitors and be both willing and equipped to engage with these worldviews.
As examples of qualitative studies, ap Siôn
) focused attention on the ‘ordinary prayer’ of those who made use of the prayer board in Bangor Cathedral. The content of a thousand prayers posted was analysed in terms of the issues that concerned the authors, for whom or for what they were praying, and whether a desired outcome was specified. Comparisons were made with findings from an earlier study of Lichfield Cathedral using a similar analytical framework. It was shown that the prayer board facility was accessed by a broad cross-section of the local community, as well as by visitors from further afield, and that there were interesting differences in emphasis between the prayer requests left in Bangor and Lichfield, possibly related to the character of the cathedrals.
) focused attention on the comments written by more than a thousand visitors to one cathedral over a period of more than three years. Drawing, like ap Siôn, on the principles of ordinary theology, Burton distinguished between the cathedral as tourist attraction (engendering positive and negative responses) and as house of God (to which visitors responded as a holy place, a place of calm, a place that inspired thought, and one that stimulated reflection on personal beliefs). Burton recommended that cathedrals facilitate the gathering of such valuable reflections on the cathedral through the visitors’ book, and he encouraged cathedrals to produce a welcoming desk and an inviting chair. He also urged staff to read and analyse visitors’ written comments, which become windows into the souls of those who pass through and offer encouragement and challenges to those who maintain and administer cathedrals, whether as tourist attractions or as the house of God.
) surveyed the websites of all 42 cathedrals in England in order to analyse the characteristics of cathedral Friends’ associations and assess their significance. She distinguished between these associations’ capacity to generate money, prayer, and volunteers for cathedrals, and to create opportunities for social networking and learning for members. It was shown that this mode of Friendship is sustained by information and that passive participants appear to be able to share (albeit vicariously) benefits of and commitment to the cathedral community’s cause. The theory of passive participation in voluntary associations, on which Muskett drew for this study, suggests that cathedral staff should not underestimate the contribution made to cathedral life by those who are not squarely in the regular worshipping community, but who engage with the cathedral more remotely.
1.2. The Science of Cathedral Studies at Christmas
Within the developing science of cathedral studies, extending to include cathedral-like greater churches, a small cluster of studies is beginning to emerge around the theme of Christmas. Phillips
) reported on an exploration of the Christmas story and its meaning as told by members of the congregation at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held at York Minster on Christmas Eve 2007. Murphy
) reported on eight qualitative interviews with people who attended the Christmas Eve Carol Service at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon in 2015. Muskett
) presented a narrative case study exploring the six-day Christmas Tree Festival in St Wolfram’s Church, Grantham in 2015. This festival featured a large artificial skating rink in the centre of the nave, as well as 105 Christmas trees in the side aisles and chancel, decorated by local businesses, charities, church groups and individuals. Coleman et al.
) explored how Christmas presents both an opportunity and a challenge for cathedrals, drawing on data from an interdisciplinary study of four English cathedrals: Canterbury, Durham, and York (all Anglican), and Westminster (Roman Catholic).
Working within a quantitative tradition, in a series of papers, Walker
) reported on detailed surveys conducted at carol services held in Worcester Cathedral and in Lichfield Cathedral. The first of these papers (2012a) reported on data provided by 393 participants at the carol services in Worcester Cathedral in 2009 who completed the New Indices of Religious Orientation (Francis 2007
). This instrument distinguishes between extrinsic religious orientation (where religion serves other ends), intrinsic religious orientation (where religion is an end in itself), and quest religious orientation. Quest orientation seeks to capture the concept of doubt, provisionality, and tentativeness concerning religious questions. It recognises that an important part of religiosity can be the attraction of living with questions and continuing on a religious journey of exploration. The core finding from Walker’s analysis was that the quest orientation was in much greater evidence among those who attended the cathedral carol service than among those who attended churches on a normal Sunday. Walker noted this as an opportunity for cathedrals to engage with people who come with religious questions, seeking further progress with their religious quest.
In the second paper, Walker
) reported on data provided by 239 women and 164 men at the carol services in Worcester Cathedral in 2009 who completed the Francis Psychological Type Scales (Francis 2005
; Francis et al. 2017
). This instrument generates a psychological type profile in terms of two orientations (introversion and extraversion), two perceiving functions (sensing and intuition), two judging functions (thinking and feeling), and two attitudes (judging and perceiving). A series of congregation studies has demonstrated that churchgoers are far from being representative of the population as a whole. Anglican congregations are somewhat weighted toward introversion and toward sensing, and heavily weighted toward feeling (see Francis et al. 2007a
; Francis et al. 2011
; Francis et al. 2016
). The main finding from the study reported by Walker
) is clearly reflected in his choice of title, ‘O come all ye thinking types: The wider appeal of the cathedral carol service’. Reflecting on this finding, Walker observed that the comparable data on Anglican clergy (see Francis et al. 2007b
) suggests the likelihood that Anglican church services are largely planned and led by feeling types who will have a predisposition to assume that the idiom that works for them on Sundays is also the one to use when devising services for special occasions like Christmas carol services. Working on this assumption, however, may misjudge the distinctive needs of those who present for the annual cathedral carol service. Walker’s findings were subsequently replicated in a study by Francis et al.
) among 193 participants attending Christmas carol services at Bangor Cathedral.
In the third paper, Walker
), drew on data provided by 1151 participants completing questionnaires during two carol services in Worcester Cathedral in 2009 and two carol services in Lichfield Cathedral in 2010, in order to examine closely the responses of the 460 individuals categorised as occasional churchgoers, that is as attending less often than six times a year (see Francis and Richter 2007
). Walker examined these responses through the lens of ‘ordinary theology’ as refined by Astley
). Walker’s data allowed him to apply this lens to six themes: reflecting on attending the carol service, reflecting on the carol service experience, reflecting on the Christmas story, reflecting on Christian belief, reflecting on moral issues and concerns, and reflecting on public religion. Walker concluded that for these occasional churchgoers, rather than faith collapsing into a combination of sentiment, culture, and aesthetics, it retains for many a significant religious content from which can be constructed a picture of the ordinary theology of the participants. Walker finds within this ordinary theology that:
a high expectation is placed on the possibility of encounter with God through participation in the style of worship offered at a carol service; the high return rate to the service suggests that their past experience supports that expectation. The attraction and positive experience of carol service worship may owe much to the fact that the Christmas story is heard there as a narrative gateway to the mystery of God, rather than as coded doctrine; and it would seem that there is a real intention on the part of the occasional churchgoers present to enter through that gateway, rather than passively to observe what is going on beyond it.
In the fourth paper, Walker
) addressed the two direct questions ‘who attends and why?’ drawing on the data provided by the 1151 participants from Worcester and Lichfield. The demographic data demonstrate some clear contrasts with the typical Anglican Sunday congregation. There are higher proportions of men (42%), of younger people (36% under fifty), and of occasional churchgoers (40% attended less than six times a year). The attitudinal data suggests that what is most likely to appeal to these participants at the Christmas carol service is an inclusive and liberal Christian faith, a faith that engages them in their daily lives, invited them onto a mystical journey, is visible and engaged in the public realm, accepts and respects their ordinary expression of faith, does not require them to hold fast to details of dogma, accommodates prevailing views on human sexuality, and works in open partnership both with other Christian traditions and with other world faiths. Walker concludes also that:
there is evidence that these attendees are flexible in their church attendance and hence may be more open to regular churchgoing if what is offered engages with them in an attractive and well-presented way without requiring them to change their fundamental positions. For those who believe such a faith to be a parody of Christianity, such attenders present a forbidding challenge, but for other such attenders present an opportunity to engage with a favourably disposed population.