On Monday 5th September we welcomed Peter and Helen Gayler to Bradford Cathedral. The couple, who live in the Diocese of Chichester – their local church is St Margarets Angmering in West Sussex – are nearing the end of an impressive pilgrimage to visit all of the English Cathedrals, with Bradford as cathedral number 37. We caught up with them as they explored the building ahead of attending Choral Evensong to find out more about their story. Peter picks up the conversation.
“I was seventy in January this year and I wanted to do something different and memorable. I’ve taken a leaf out of our church organist’s book. When he was seventy, Malcolm Hawke played seventy organs in seventy different churches, raising money for [Christian Charity] Tearfund. His seventieth stop was Wells Cathedral. Because we have family connections in Somerset, Helen and I went to support him.
“That was the first spark that made me think about what I could do when I turned seventy. Would it be possible to visit every English Anglican cathedral in one year?
“Our journey started on the 14th February 2022, visiting St. Alban’s Cathedral. Every Cathedral is different, and I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed visiting each one. I’ve met some marvelous people, and I’ve really enjoyed getting my Pilgrim Passport stamped at each Cathedral and that has enabled me to open up a conversation about what I’m doing, and I’m also raising money for the Diocesan Family Support Work in Chichester, which is a children’s charity established in 1890.
“They initially asked me to raise £1,500. I reached that, and it went to £2,022 and I’ve just surpassed that. Hopefully we can get a little bit further!”
Fittingly, the couple arrived on the day the Cathedral’s new exhibition (Peter Marlow – The English Cathedral) was being installed, and they could re-live some of the Cathedrals they’ve visited, or will see as they near the end of their pilgrimage.
As well as visiting to explore the building, the couple have also been attending a service at each Cathedral – at Bradford Cathedral it was Monday’s Evensong – as well as getting the clergy to sign their Pilgrim Passport.
“Attending a service has enhanced our visit by 50%. To me, if you’re just visiting the building only, you’re investing time in history and architecture, but the main purpose of a cathedral is worshipping the Lord, and therefore to me, attending a service is very important.”
If you would like to follow in their footsteps, Pilgrim Passports can be bought from the Bradford Cathedral shop, and stamps and stickers are available for all pilgrims. More information on visiting Bradford Cathedral, as well as local pilgrimage routes by foot or bike, can be found on our website. More information on the charity Peter and Helen are raising money for can be found online.
You can find out more about the pilgrimage on their JustGiving page.