Liverpool Cathedral’s first-ever female Dean says welcome from city has been ‘amazing’

Welsh-born Very Rev Dr Sue Jones officially took up her post on Saturday, May 5, joining from the Diocese of Derby where she served as Director of Mission and Ministry. Tony McDonough reports

Very Revd Dr Sue Jones
Very Revd Dr Sue Jones, the first-ever female Dean of Liverpool. Picture by Rob Walker

 

The first-ever female Dean of Liverpool says she is overwhelmed by the warm welcome she has received from the people of the city.

Liverpool Cathedral announced the appointment of the Very Rev Dr Sue Jones a few weeks ago and she officially took up her post on Saturday, May 5, joining from the Diocese of Derby where she served as Director of Mission and Ministry.

She replaces the previous Dean, the Very Revd Pete Wilcox. He liked to be called ‘Dean Pete’ and Dr Jones is adopting the same format, wishing to be known as ‘Dean Sue’.

Welsh-born, Dean Sue has already served as Acting Dean at Derby Cathedral and prior to that Dean of Bangor, where she was also the first woman to hold the post.

Big role

However, in an interview with LBN she acknowledges the scale of the role at Liverpool takes her career on to a whole new level – both in terms of the size of the cathedral itself and the size and history of the city.

Liverpool Cathedral is the biggest in Britain and the fifth-biggest in the world and Dean Sue said: “The sheer scale of this place is on a different level to what I have experienced before.”

She has spent some time at the cathedral, and in the city, in the days leading up to her official start and added: “The response from people so far has been amazing – I have never experienced such a great welcome.

“There is an openness and generosity about people here – much less of a barrier – and I feel part of it already. Liverpool is such a vibrant place.”

Making her mark

Despite being bowled over by the welcome – and the scale of the building – Dean Sue is not daunted by the task ahead and is keen to get started and make her own mark in the job.

Her remit is the Cathedral and the surrounding area whereas the Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, has a wider remit for the whole Liverpool Diocese. She is keen to explore ways to make it easier for people to get to the cathedral and improve their experience when they get here.

An integral part of the city region’s visitor economy, Liverpool Cathedral welcomes up to 500,000 visitors every year and Dean Sue aims to grow that further.

Very Revd Dr Sue Jones
Very Revd Dr Sue Jones, the first-ever female Dean of Liverpool. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

“One of the first things I have noticed is that the Hope Street area, which also includes the Catholic Cathedral, is not as easy to get to as it could be,” she said. “There is a steep walk up the hill and no direct bus here and so I would like to look at ways that could be improved.”

She would also like to explore ways to create a ‘wow’ factor when people arrive at the cathedral for the first time. Although once properly inside, the visual effect is stunning, that isn’t immediate when you first walk in the door.

“It may not be possible but I would certainly like to look at ways we can improve that as well as possibly making changes to the disabled access,” she added.

Focal point

Dean Sue acknowledges the importance of the cathedral’s core function as a place of Anglican worship but adds it needs to continue to be much more than that – a focal point for people in Liverpool and the many visitors to the city.

Many different kinds of events are held there and later this month she will see one of the highlights of the year when the cathedral takes part in the city’s annual LightNight cultural festival.

Liverpool Cathedral
A Liverpool LightNight event at Liverpool Cathedral in 2017. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

“I want this to continue to be a place of welcome and hospitality,” she added. “When I observed people in the cathedral for the first time it struck me how comfortable they were in the space.

“Despite the fact this building is huge, there is an intimacy about this cathedral. It is about being a facility for the local community. They carried on building it through two world wars and two recessions.”

Public face

Dean Sue is also keen to engage with people and organisations across the city, not least the Catholic Archdiocese and the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral at the other end of Hope Street.

“As well as overseeing the management of the Cathedral, I am also its public face,” she explained.

She admits she never expected to get the job, saying: “They did encourage women to apply so I did so in what I thought would be a learning exercise. So I believe that God has placed me here – to me that makes sense.”

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