New Dean of Norwich says Norfolk already feels like home

Dean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve Adams Dean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve Adams

Friday, June 20, 2014
10:33 AM

As the new Dean of Norwich prepares to be installed tomorrow, she talks to reporter Emma Knights.

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Dean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve AdamsDean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve Adams

In a special service at Norwich Cathedral this Saturday the Ven Jane Hedges is to be installed as the first female Dean of Norwich.

Previously the Archdeacon of Westminster and Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey, she will be the 39th Dean of Norwich and is succeeding the Very Rev Graham Smith, who retired last year2013.

The incoming Dean, 59, said Norfolk already feels like home to her and that she is looking forward to getting started in her new role.

“It’s enormously exciting now as we come towards Saturday, because having lived here now for about three weeks I’m keen to get going really, and I look forward to getting to know people around the city and the county and the diocese, and working with the Bishop,” she said.

Dean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges with husband Chris in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve AdamsDean of Norwich Cathedral Jane Hedges with husband Chris in the garden of the Deanery. Photo: Steve Adams

The new Dean said she felt blessed to have inherited Norwich Cathedral which she described as an “extraordinarily beautiful building”, and said she hoped to build on the great work already taking place and to welcome a wide range of people to events at the cathedral.

“I think cathedrals are very well placed to bring people from different parts of the community together and to help people make connections,” she said.

Among other things, she hopes to build on the cathedral’s existing education and music opportunities.

She said: “I suppose that’s the thing about cathedral life, that it has at its heart the rhythm of daily worship which remains constant and yet there are all these other opportunities that spring out of that to do such a range of things and embrace really the whole of life.”

• The installation is at Norwich Cathedral tomorrow at 3pm.

The new Dean will be blessed by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, and welcomed by civic and community leaders before being installed by the Precentor and Vice-Dean of Norwich Cathedral, Canon Jeremy Haselock. She will then be welcomed by the Cathedral Chapter and anointed by the Bishop. Only ticket holders can attend the service.

Due to the institution and installation tomorrow the cathedral will be closed from noon to 4.30pm and the cloister will be closed all day.

The Hostry Visitor and Education Centre and Refectory will be open as normal.

• Carol Bundock meets the Dean and takes a tour of the deanery – read the interview in the August issue of Let’s Talk, on sale July 16.

Biography

The new Dean of Norwich trained for ministry at Cranmer Hall Durham in 1978. She was made a deaconess in 1980 and ordained deacon when the Church of England changed its laws to allow female deacons in 1987. She was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest in 1994. She spent the early years of her ministry in parishes in Fareham and Southampton before becoming Stewardship Adviser in the Diocese of Portsmouth in 1988. In 1993, she became Canon Residentiary of Portsmouth Cathedral, then spent five years in parish ministry in the Diocese of Exeter before being made Canon Steward of Westminster Abbey in 2006, the same year she became Archdeacon of Westminster. Last year, she became Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey. She is married to Chris, 55, and they have two sons, Jonathan, 23, and Adam, 21. The family has a labradoodle, Rufus, and two kittens, Minstrel and Wispa.

Warm welcome

The new Dean and her family may have only been in Norwich for three weeks, but she said the warm welcome they have received has meant Norfolk already feels like home.

“We feel we have settled very quickly and we have found people are incredibly friendly and helpful and warm,” she said.

“People have come to the door to wish us well and brought things like cakes and flowers, and one man turned up on the doorstep with a box of eggs. We’ve just found that very lovely. People have been very caring and shown a lot of kindness.”

She added: “We’ve worshipped at the cathedral the last three Sundays, sitting in the congregation, and we’ve very much enjoyed just being in the cathedral and meeting the people who worship there regularly.”

Describing her return to Norwich from a recent trip to London, she said: “It was a lovely feeling that this is home.”

Exploring the county

“A very beautiful place,” is the way the new Dean describes Norfolk, and she said she was very much looking forward to the great adventure of exploring the different parts of the county. She said: “We’d been on holiday in Norfolk years and years ago, staying up near King’s Lynn and visiting Norwich on that occasion. It’s all very new, so it’s quite an adventure getting to know the city and getting out to different parts of the county, discovering the coastline.”

She added: “Our impression has been of a very beautiful place.”

Hopes for cathedral’s future

“One of the outstanding features of the cathedral is it is an extraordinarily beautiful building and it has been cherished and well looked after, and so I feel very blessed to have inherited a cathedral which is in very good order, and also has had this wonderful development of the Hostry and Refectory,” said the new Dean.

“My great hope for the cathedral over the next few years is that it can concentrate on really using its facilities to the absolute maximum in terms of welcoming a wide range of people from the city, from the county, the region to come and participate in all sorts of things happening at the cathedral and to be a place where people can really engage in conversations about things that matter to them.”

Filming in the cloister

The new Dean has arrived at an exciting time for movie fans, with scenes for the film Tulip Fever being shot at Norwich Cathedral and the cloister being transformed into a film set for the 17th- century drama. “I walked through the cloister the other day and there were two cows there, and I thought, ‘That’s interesting, I don’t suppose the cloister has had cows in it before!’” she said. The Dean revealed she was also lucky enough to meet Dame Judi Dench who was among the cast filming at the cathedral. “I’m a huge fan and she’s such a wonderful, lovely person. It was a great thrill,” she said.

Building relationships

The Dean said one of her initial challenges would be making sure she divides her time appropriately between the cathedral and the wider community.

“I think one of the main challenges for a lot of clergy but perhaps particularly for the dean of a cathedral is getting the right balance in what you are doing,” she said.

“Obviously there are big responsibilities within the cathedral itself...but then wanting to make relationships in the much wider county and also with churches across the diocese and churches of other denominations and other faith traditions.”

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