The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark writes the following as we welcome Hodge our new Cathedral cat

It was a very strange day when Doorkins, the Southwark Cathedral cat died. We had been talking for a while about whether or not we should have another cat. On a practical level we needed help with keeping the number of mice and rats down. Situated where we are, between the river and the market you can imagine that at times the place resembles Hamelin rather than London! But on an emotional level we all missed having a little cat about the place. But where would we get a cat from? Doorkins had just arrived and that was part of her charm and part of the power of her story that worked on so many levels for so many people.

One of the things that Doorkins had managed to do whilst she was with us was support Catcuddles Sanctuary. They are a local charity who say of themselves

Catcuddles is a registered charity that is all about promoting and strengthening the feline-human bond and helping pair up unwanted cats with loving forever homes and humans.

Lots of people very generously brought loads of food and treats in for Doorkins, more than she could reasonably eat. So she shared the surplus with Catcuddles. It was to them that we therefore turned to help us find a rescue cat that was looking for a ‘loving forever home’.

They came back to us eventually with a suggestion, a little boy cat, aged we believe between 5-8 years old and looking for love and a place of safety. It was agreed that he should see if he liked us and we should see if we liked him. So the arrangement was made and the trial date set. It turned out to be the very day that Doorkins died that Hodge arrived into our lives – and we love him and he loves us.

For the past couple of months Hodge has been getting acquainted with us and his new home.  He has a voracious appetite both for food and love.  He is either waiting for more food or rolling on his back inviting tickles on his tummy.  Leave the brocade vestments uncovered and his is immediately onto them enjoying the feel of expensive fabric!  Everyone who comes in is immediarely smitten; he is adorable.

Sunday 6 December marks the Feast of St Nicholas, the giver of good gifts, Hodge made his debut and was introduced to the congregation. Let’s hope he likes them as much as likes the vergers.

One of the features of this pandemic is the increasing number of people who have had to escape abusive, destructive, damaging relationships and situations. Places of refuge, sanctuaries are vital as are those forever homes where you know you can be loved and where you can be safe. The church prides itself on being a sanctuary but too often we have not been a safe place. Whether in terms of safeguarding, whether as places where homophobic attitudes, where sexism and elitism are allowed to flourish, where abuse can sometimes go unrecognised, challenged or unchecked, I hope that Hodge will help us to tell a better story.

The text I return to so often are those verses from St Matthew’s Gospel, so familiar and so powerful.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11.28-30)

We open our hearts, we open our homes, we create places of love and safety for cats and humans! God has opened the divine, gentle, humble heart of love to us.

Loving God, embrace us, hold us, in your place of safety, in your love, that your house may be our forever home. Amen.