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Sheffield Cathedral announces permanent closure of church choir, prompting backlash

by Premier Journalist

Sheffield Cathedral has announced that it will be scrapping its historic church choir, prompting a critical response from one of the Church of England's leading sceptics. 

In a statement, the Cathedral's Dean and Chapter noted: "Following a review of the Music Department in 2019, Sheffield Cathedral Chapter has decided that a completely fresh start is needed. As a result, Chapter concluded this is the right time to close the current Cathedral Choir.

"This decision has not been easy because it will directly impact several colleagues and indirectly impact us all in our close-knit community. However, we believe this is in the best interests of the long-term mission of the Cathedral." 

The Chapter added that it will now commence "recruitment of a new music team and the development of a fresh vision for our worship" which will become part of a "new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion". The new expression will "require flexibility, imagination and experiment," the Cathedral noted.

In response, the Rector at Great St Bartholomew's, Fr Marcus Walker, said that it had become "increasingly clear that the leadership of the Church of England wish to change the Church of England beyond all recognition".

Walker added: "This isn’t a surprise as the leadership of the Church of England has given every impression that it does not like the church which they lead. 

"At some point all those who love the CofE - the good, honest, people of the pew who are paying for all these experiments with their faith; and those who don’t often come to church but love its liturgy, history, culture, architecture, music - are going to have to revolt.

"(On a practical note, cathedrals are the one institution in the Church of England that have bucked institutional decline and have actually seen significant growth in the last few decades - but now the people who brought you parochial collapse have got their claws into Cathedrals)."

The Chapter qualified that it was "committed to retaining the distinctive choral life of an Anglican cathedral, drawing fully on our long heritage of music-making" and that they "look forward with working with our partners throughout our City and Diocese to make this renewed vision a reality under God".

In response to Walker's tweets, one vicar suggested that "maybe there are things going on behind the scenes that we are not aware of" in relation to the major change. "Still maybe thanking them publicly for their past contributions wouldn’t hurt anyone...?" he added.

Another Twitter user responded to the Cathedral's announcement: "If you want a good model for inclusive singing, have a look at Leeds Catholic Cathedral. Full of BAME kids from estates, lots of contact with schools, plus a large choir including lots of of tenors and basses." 

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