Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A day to remember

And what a day!

Two lane traffic in each direction along the Kingsway, with work on the new pedestrian crossing finished, opening on time. The first new sign posts going up in Queen Street - nice design too. All the trees along the Hayes are now planted, although I am tempted to say 'installed' thinking of the way they arrive all neatly packaged to be lowered by crane into their neatly dug holes lined with special soil. Half the Hayes pavement is now accessible to pedestrians, and Mr Bachelor's statue is almost free of building site materials at last. How long before he is crowned by the first traffic cone of the season, I wonder?

The Echo did our conference and its purposes proud with an article that appeared today, with a suitably humorous and quirky headline. It certainly helps get across the message we set out to promote. I'm so grateful for that.

After the lunchtime Eucharist, I popped over to St David's Cathedral, just at the end of the final Mass associated with the tour visit of the relics of St Terèse of Lisieux. The place was crowded to the doors,and there was a lovely atmosphere. We Anglicans are discouraged by our foundation documents, the Thirty Nine Articles from having any devotion towards saints or their relics, but I didn't go there out of curiosity or nor to protest, but as a small expression of ecumenical solidarity in this age when all sorts of excuses seem to be made for not giving much priority to the practice of reconciliation between faith communities.

St Terèse was a remarkable woman of faith, much bigger in spirit than the institutions she was part of. She longed to be a priest, but given the impossibility of being anything other than who she was where and when she was, she gave her life to prayer in support of priestly ministry. The Catholic church is suffering from a dearth of vocations, because of the exigent demands it sets on candidates, or because the Spirit is moving in oher ways - we cannot tell. The message of St Terèse is a reminder to Catholics everywhere that they need to pray, both for the priests they have and the priests they need.

Our ministerial ranks have shrunk with membership numbers but not as steeply as Catholics, as there are no gender or martial status restrictions on non Catholics. Nevertheless all baptized Christians are called to prayer, holiness and social engagement. It's good to be reminded of this, and of one of God's people who steadfastly pointed to Christ, by her devout life and writings. The presence of a few of her bones in an ornate casket before the Cathedral altar in its way reminds us that she's not just a story, not just a plaster figure or an image in stained glass, but someone just like us, who was flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones, as Genesis puts it.

Then by way of complete contrast, an invitation to the 'thank you' reception put on by the John Lewis Partnership in their new store, the day before it opens to the public, to the City Council's members and officers most intimately involved in seeing through the redevelopment and making possible the building and opening of the store on time. We were given champagne and canapés in the top floor restaurant quirkily called 'The Place to Eat', and a couple of speeches were made before we were given a guided tour of the building. Everyone seemed pleased - the staff were all smiling, the council people smiled occasionally, but mostly attempted to look serious, as if it was utterly sinful to be partying at teatime with an hour or more to do in work before home.

Paul Mannings managed a grin and a twinkle for me, however. "I told you we'd get there Vicar." he said. I just had to congratulate him for getting the Kingdway work over in time. Not all of the retail partnership members were there. I realised I was fortunate to get an invite. It was great to have an opportunity to ask questions about the running of the store, with its 780 staff. I learned that all the building maintenance and cleaning is carried out by the landlords rather than JLP. What a complex task when you're running sayven days a week around the year.

The building has huge volume, and trades on four floors with access by escalators around a central well. Ceilings are high, making each trading floor very spacious, and giving lots of room to display goods in aesthetic and imaginative ways. There's so much that's delightful to the eye. I worked overtime with my camera, and the results are to be found here. I hope their opening days will give the staff the response they need. There's been a huge amount of hard work in a few months to get ready to retail, to the point that most staff could take yesterday off.

It's quite extraordinary to think that right at the heart of the parish a new community is springing up. Yes, that's the right word. All employees are stakeholders in the enterprise and can share in its decision making, shape its future. No wonder they had ten applicants for every job. Someone pointed out that this is the largest retail department store to open in Cardiff for a century. Given its sound business ethics and good practice, let's hope JLP's presence will be an influence for the good that will lift the standards of work and workers' welfare across the city centre.

No comments: