ON January 24, 2015 Bradford City went to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Cup. They played like Barcelona and deservedly won 4-2.

I remember the City supporters singing their way through the match. It was a joyous moment! As a lifetime Chelsea supporter, I couldn’t help feeling a certain pride in my adopted city. Bradford had gone to London and made a name for themselves.

What has that got to do with cathedrals? On the face of it, not much, but one thing I have noticed as Dean of Bradford over the last eight years is the way that institutions - including football teams - can influence the mood of a city.

A cathedral exists for the benefits of the city and diocese that it serves. It’s not just for Christians or those who are ‘into that sort of thing.’ It is part of the very fabric of a place from its very beginning.

In Bradford’s case it has stones that were part of a Saxon Cross on this hillside in the eighth century. It holds the story of a place. But it is also a place of connection. By its very presence it is assuring people that God is present to us, a sacred space where prayer is offered at least twice a day every day of the year. But it is also a ‘gathering space’ where a diverse diocese and city come together for key moments, a place where we celebrate our joys and confront our sadness, a place for dialogue over what it means to be the best humans in our current context.

There have been too many highlights to mention over the years but here are three: In 2014 the Church of England embarked on its biggest project in over one hundred years - the creation of a new diocese (Leeds) from the historic dioceses of Bradford, Ripon and Leeds and Wakefield.

It was ambitious, but under the outstanding leadership of Bishop Nick Baines and the commitment of many, it happened. Unique to this was a diocese with three cathedrals - Bradford, Ripon and Wakefield. Now this might not sound like an exciting adventure to most but it was and still is an extraordinary achievement. We have made history.

Secondly, responding to tragedy. Over the years I have stood in Centenary Square with other faith and civic leaders for vigils after terrorist attacks. Bradford always responds quickly to these dreadful events. We pray for the injured and grieving but we stand together for peaceful co-existence and community relationships that make for a truly flourishing city. Sometimes that needs to be publicly expressed. I have always been really touched by the response to these moments. The Bradford Fire memorial service is another annual moment for remembering the families who live with the pain of their loss.

In early July the Cathedral hosted a special service for all those who were on the front line during the coronavirus pandemic. Its aim was to say ‘thank you’. Yet again Bradford turned up and although we had a restricted congregation size there were so many connections from schools, the NHS, civic and voluntary sectors. These occasions matter.

Finally, 2019 was our Centenary Year as a Cathedral and we really went for it with so many events, exhibitions and services.

It was exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. Throughout the year we had a Poet-in-Residence, Diane Pacitti, and she published a book of poems reflecting her engagement with the cathedral and city.

In ‘Siting’ Diane finishes her poem by speaking of the cathedral being present ‘to site a crossing; to sight hope.’ That’s what we are about.

This city has a long history of welcoming people from all parts of the world. From the beginning that was my experience here.

I remember two Syrian pharmacists speaking at the cathedral about their experience and how, after the trauma of what had happened in their country, they were learning English and looking forward to making a contribution to this country. They were exemplary citizens.

Through its welcome of asylum seekers and refugees Bradford put me in touch with my own roots, Huguenots who fled persecution in the 17th century. We found a home in this country. We were welcomed. Thank you Bradford for that welcome. I have always felt welcomed here and it has been a joy to be part of this city’s story.

The theme of welcome is the core value for cathedrals. All the staff and volunteers are committed to it. When welcome is done properly it makes a difference to all who come, whatever their age or background.

Bradford has a cathedral at the heart of its life. It is a house of welcome, hope and joy that, hopefully, influences the mood of this city!

* Following the announcement in February that the Very Revd Jerry Lepine would be retiring as Dean of Bradford at the end of July, a series of farewell services have been held at Bradford Cathedral. Earlier this month the ‘Civic and Diocesan Farewell to Dean Jerry’ service included a welcome from the Right Reverend Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, and readings from the Revd Canon Mandy Coutts, and the Revd Canon Paul Maybury, who becomes Acting Dean following Dean Jerry’s retirement.

On July 11 Dean Jerry held his final Eucharist service and was presented with gifts including a specially written poem, A Dean’s Journey, performed by Diane Pacitti, the Cathedral’s Poet in Residence in its centenary year, and hand-painted copies of Cathedral kneelers.

His final service was the last Choral Evensong before the summer break, and featured the whole choir for the first time since December 2019.