We two new deans of Norwich are

PUBLISHED: 05:33 29 December 2014

Dean Jane Hedges

Dean Jane Hedges


It is a first Christmas in Norwich for the new Deans of both Norwich Cathedrals.

Father David PaulFather David Paul

The first female dean in the 900 year history of Norwich Cathedral is already feeling at home in Norfolk – and looking forward to sharing that home with lots of people over Christmas.

The Very Rev Jane Hedges will be celebrating her first Christmas as dean, and her first in Norfolk and will be welcoming guests to the beautiful old building which

became her home this summer.

What she is not looking forward to is cooking Christmas dinner – because her husband, Chris, will be in charge of the kitchen on the 25th.

“Christmas Day is obviously a busy day for me,” says Jane, who will be preaching at Midnight Mass, as well as taking part in services through Christmas Day. Jane’s job involves overseeing the life of the Cathedral. So Chris, who was deputy headteacher of a school in London before the family moved to Norwich, will be on cooking duty.

Their two sons, 23-year-old Jonathan who is training to be a doctor and 21-year-old Adam, a biology teacher, will be home too.

They will be back for Christmas. They regard this as their home now,” says Jane, from the deanery so old that parts are believed to date back further than the Cathedral itself. She has already fallen in love with the Cathedral. “You are aware that you are following in the footsteps of generations of people that have gone before you,” she says. “You think of the rhythms of religious life that they followed and we try to live out this same rhythm of prayer and worship and hospitality. We are now a modern place, but building on an amazing heritage.

“You look at these buildings and can’t believe that 900 years ago they were able to create these fantastic inspiring buildings. It’s miraculous really, and a big responsibility, to look after them and make sure that everybody has the opportunity to really enjoy them, to use them for the glory of God and the service of the people.”

She spent the past nine Christmases at Westminster Abbey, as archdeacon of Westminster and sub-dean of Westminster Abbey. It was a high profile job and she was part of some of the biggest national occasions of the century so far, including

the Royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine in 2011, the visit of the Pope in 2010 and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

“And Westminster Abbey at Christmas is fabulous,” she says.

But her Christmases have not always revolved around church services – Jane’s second job was as a hospital chaplain so she has also spent the day in hospital.

“I first felt that I might have a vocation when I was 17,” says Jane

As a younger teenager I had wanted to be all sorts of things – a vet, a dentist, a police dog handler… Then I began to feel a very strong inclination that I was being called into ministry.”

She had left school at 16 and worked in a bank for three years before returning to study.

She became a deaconess, and then, 20 years ago, was one of the first women to be ordained as a priest.

Now she is one of the most senior women in the Church of England.

She was installed in her new role within weeks of the new dean of the Roman Catholic Cathedral and hopes the two deans of Norwich will be able to work together. “There are very good relationships between the two cathedrals,” she says.

She says she feels privileged to be part of the Norwich diocese and is looking forward to a busy Cathedral Christmas of music, worship and welcome.

Father David Paul is looking forward to his first Christmas in Norwich. His celebrations will revolve around the city’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.

“I think it will be very exciting to see this great building dressed with the crib and the trees, but most of all I am looking forward to seeing the great numbers of people who will worship with us,” he says.

The new Catholic Dean arrived in Norwich this autumn and is already a fan of both of the city’s cathedrals.

“I’m very impressed with the city centre and being surrounded by lovely, historic places. The castle, the medieval Cathedral and ancient churches are wonderful, and I would have to say my own Cathedral is pretty spectacular,” he says.

Father David grew up in a small mining village near Durham and trained as a teacher after university, becoming head of history at a large comprehensive school.

“It was during my time teaching that I first thought I might have a vocation which eventually led me to ordination as a priest in the diocese of East Anglia,” he says.

Over the past 20 years he has worked in parishes in Cambridge, Ipswich and Peterborough, but this is his first job in Norwich and he is particularly enjoying getting to know everyone. “We have a very large congregation in the Cathedral made up of many different nationalities and cultures and it is really fascinating to see the different ways we worship as catholics and yet all follow the same faith,” he says.

One of the people he is looking forward to getting to know is another new arrival in Norwich - his counterpart down in the Cathedral Close. “We have arranged to meet over lunch so I am sure we will get to know one another very quickly. It would be really good to have a close working relationship when we can work together for our joint Christian witness to the city,” he says.

The most challenging aspect of his new job, so far, has been finding his way around. “I’m grateful for the invention of satnav!” he admits.

However, he needs no electronic mapping system to show him the way to a festive season full of worship and wonder. He is very much looking forward to his first Christmas in Norwich which will be sparkling with Christmas services “and trying to help everyone who comes to the cathedral at this time to celebrate the wonder and beauty of the Nativity.”

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