My Research - Cathedrals making friends: investigating the
current role of, and future potential for, the Church of England's
cathedral friends network'
Full-time, second year PhD student
The focus of my research project is the
Friends’ associations of Anglican cathedrals in England. The
opportunity to be supervised by Dr Andrew Village, who has a
particular interest in cathedral studies, attracted me to study at
York St John. My project is contributing to the growing body
of empirical research on the Anglican cathedrals.
I wanted to undertake research for a PhD since
completing a Master’s Degree in the 1980s, but the chance to study
full-time arose only after I took early retirement from a full-time
job at Oxford University. I am greatly indebted to YSJ for
granting me a bursary.
Since starting the PhD in November 2009, I
have explored cathedral outreach in the 1920s/30s and the early
development of cathedral Friends’ associations. I am
delighted that this research has recently been published in the
form of an article in the Journal of Anglican
Studies. A further article on the role of royal
patronage for the cathedral Friends’ associations is in press with
Rural Theology. Drawing on the themes which emerged
from the historical work, I have analysed the groups’ present
characteristics, as revealed by their publications; and assessed
the significance of the Friends’ associations for cathedrals today,
particularly in terms of (i) their capacity to generate money,
prayer and volunteers for cathedrals and (ii) opportunities for
social networking for members.
In addition, I have reviewed the classical
literature on social and cultural capital theory, which is my
principal theoretical framework. I have a particular interest
in the difference between active and passive participation in
voluntary associations (such as the cathedral Friends), and am
currently refining a theory of vicarious social capital.
In 2010-11, I devised two postal
questionnaires, which were administered in the Spring of
2011. The first surveyed members of six contrasting cathedral
Friends’ associations, and the second surveyed all diocesan
Bishops, cathedral Deans, Administrators and Residentiary
Canons. The results should enable me to discover what
motivates individuals to belong, what satisfaction they derive from
membership, and how the cathedrals benefit.
YSJ is an extremely friendly university, with
a beautiful campus, close to the Minster and to all that the city
of York has to offer. Members of the teaching, library and
administrative staff are extremely helpful and generous with their
time, and the facilities and training opportunities at YSJ are
excellent. In addition, I welcome the chance to visit Leeds
University, the Brotherton Library there, and to participate in
postgraduate training courses on that campus.
Combining home life and PhD study is not
always easy, particularly when the research is absorbing, but I
have been delighted to take on the challenge. I look forward
to my final year (with some trepidation!).