The Observer’s Matthew Salisbury has been writing a blog on visits to churches, mosques and temples. Here he pays an early morning call to the cathedral’s Easter service on Sunday morning.
Perhaps it’s Easter, perhaps it’s the very early start, perhaps it’s just the fact you can drive into the city centre without seeing another car and take your pick from any number of parking spaces – but there’s something rather special about this dawn service. And it’s a feeling which is sustained all morning.
The gathering starts in the old cathedral ruins. Lit only by a flaming brazier there is a brief service celebrating the creation of light and all it stands for.
The appearance of this light picks up the symbolic extinguishing of light at the Maundy Thursday service which ends in complete darkness. It’s an arresting sight as the first hint of daylight creeps through the windows of the old cathedral.
Easter is, it’s somewhat obvious to say, a big event in the Christian calendar. The biggest really. And this is a big service.
As well as two people who have taken the decision to get baptised on this day, there are a number of others being confirmed in the faith, some young some not so young.
As the light begins to build through the cathedral’s wonderful stained glass and plain screen Easter is proclaimed accompanied by full-throttle organ music, fevered peace bell ringing and – despite the early hour – party poppers sounding like starting pistols in the echoing acoustics.
It’s an unrestrained moment of joy and sets the tone for much of what is to come.
The focus moves to the slightly incongruous plunge pool where the full immersion of those being baptised is carried out by the Bishop.
No danger of a dipped finger on the forehead here as the two taking part are laid back under the water and then raised back to their feet with much acclamation and applause.
It’s an experience neither of them will ever forget, which is as it should be.
There’s a huge feeling of joy about this service.
There are lots of smiles not just from those being welcomed to the faith but from the whole cathedral team.
After the dark reality of Good Friday it’s the new life, new dawn the whole church is built upon.
And it’s enough to send you back out into the still early Easter morning with a spring in your step.
Outside I pause, along with quite a few, to view and take pictures of the Knife Angel.
This imposing metal figure of an angel holding out empty hands is constructed in the main from thousands of knives surrendered to police in the fight against knife crime.
It stands, temporarily, next to the cathedral’s own celebrated sculpture of St Michael subduing the Devil with a very sharp-looking spear in his hand.
Many people have come to see the Knife Angel and left tributes to people they’ve lost through this current wave of senseless violence. There are pictures, ribbons, messages and so on. It’s very moving.
I pause to wonder how much those bereaved in such circumstances would love to be able to vanquish death and bring back their loved ones.
Or to believe with certainty that they will all meet up somewhere in the future.
This is the comfort the church is offering through the story of the resurrection and all it means and Easter is the embodiment of that.