Michael Everitt is Canon Pastor of Durham Cathedral and has been leading some of the online worship we’ve been providing throughout lockdown. Since the cathedral reopened for private prayer and quiet reflection on 22 June, he has spent some time inside the cathedral, speaking to those who have visited for this purpose. In this blog he reflects on the first phase of reopening and what it was like to welcome back members of the community for private prayer.

Canon Michael Everitt in the cathedral. Photograph taken in 2019

“I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord”- Psalm 122

Psalm 122 was made into such a striking anthem by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry for Edward VII’s coronation that it is hard not to have his version playing in your mind on reading the words. It has been sung at so many important occasions both national and personal, that on occasions it acts almost as a theme for momentous events.

The psalm has been very much in my mind over the last 2 weeks since the cathedral was opened for private prayer and reflection. At times with the full grandeur of the choral version, combined with a yearning for the time when it will be possible to hear our wonderful choir singing again, as well as fond memories of it being sung at my own wedding in Carlisle Cathedral 28 years ago. At other times more reflectively and peacefully. “O pray for the peace of Jerusalem” reminding me of places where there are great tensions and strife and where the current pandemic is causing disruption far beyond our imagining.

The North Doors of Durham Cathedral being opened by Head Verger Jeffrey Hewitt on 22 June.

Other cathedrals had prepared us for the possibility that we might not get as many people coming to pray in the cathedral as we initially expected. The first day began appropriately with prayer. The television cameras were there, but the atmosphere was one of quiet relief that once more people could come into the cathedral and pray, for themselves, for loved ones, for the world and know that God was with them. That first day had just over a hundred people and it was a privilege to be with the staff of the cathedral as they welcomed, guided and supported people in their return. The first week saw a thousand, the second week, 1,250 people.

On the first day a man had driven up from Liverpool to pray at the shrine of St Bede. The man had grown up in Jarrow, and had found the lockdown especially difficult, spending a significant time in hospital and he simply wanted to say thank you to God and to his companion from his youth, Bede. Others have been quite emotional, some who had feared that they would never step foot inside the cathedral again. They rejoiced that once more they were able to enter the church and feel its warm embrace. The cathedral has held those who are mourning, those who are scared. It is helping focus those who seek purpose in their lives and a resolve to transform. Many who are returning are bringing others who have never been with them. An example of how the building and the faith connected to it, attracts and encourages all who come into it.

Visitors lighting a candle inside the cathedral. Picture: David Wood

It is one of my huge privileges to be part of the cathedral’s community. Durham Cathedral is both a sanctuary for all who come to it and a shrine of holy Northern Saints, whose lives had seen many challenges. The building itself, whilst steeped in prayer, has also stood through much suffering and strife and has remained faithful and present.

I hope and pray that as many people as are able will continue to come to the cathedral for private prayer and reflection (Monday to Saturday 10-12noon 1pm-3pm, Sunday 12-3pm). Hopefully, soon we will be able to begin to gather for collective worship. This will be supplemented by digital support for those unable to attend. Whether they live locally and are shielding, or join us from around the UK, as well as the worldwide community found in 6 of the 7 continents.  (No one from Antarctica yet though!)

Durham Cathedral staff standing in a socially distanced way on the crossing on 22 June

We all can now have sounding in our ears “I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord.” I am personally so grateful to the cathedral staff who are supporting our being open for private prayer, and for allowing people to have these enriching experiences inside the church once again. I am also thankful for all whose patience have ensured that our return is prayerful.

Yours, Michael


  1. So lovely to still feel connected to the Cathedral, by reading the blog. Thank you for sharing the pictures of all of our fellow colleagues, we so miss you all!

    It will be a joyous day when we can return as Cathedral Listeners and to once again be part of The Lords House.

    Keep safe everyone and God Bless you.

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