Cleric ac­cused of sab­o­tag­ing cathe­dral’s war com­mem­o­ra­tion

Trustee claims act­ing dean ne­glected to pro­mote event be­cause he did not like its mil­i­tary flavour

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Olivia Rudgard RE­LI­GIOUS AF­FAIRS CORRESPONDENT

A ROW has bro­ken out over an armistice ser­vice at a cathe­dral, af­ter a se­nior cleric was ac­cused of sab­o­tag­ing a First World War Com­mon­wealth cer­e­mony.

Trus­tees at the Peter­bor­ough Cathe­dral Trust have claimed that Dean Tim Al­ban Jones, the for­mer act­ing dean of the cathe­dral, de­lib­er­ately failed to pro­mote the Oct 6 event, which has now been can­celled, be­cause he did not ap­prove of its mil­i­tary flavour.

Jimmy James, the sec­re­tary of the trust, said that Mr Al­ban Jones had put pres­sure on the or­gan­is­ers to change the em­pha­sis from cel­e­brat­ing the Com­mon­wealth’s con­tri­bu­tion to vic­tory in the First World War to com­mem­o­rat­ing the armistice.

The cathe­dral said the event had been can­celled be­cause of “dis­ap­point­ing” ticket sales, which meant run­ning costs would not have been cov­ered.

Mr James said that as of yes­ter­day, fewer than 100 tick­ets had been sold of the 750 that would be needed to fill the cathe­dral.

He blamed Mr Al­ban Jones, now vice-dean of the cathe­dral, for fail­ing to pro­mote the event prop­erly.

Mr James said ad­ver­tis­ing for the event had been de­layed by two months at Mr Al­ban Jones’s be­hest, and that events had de­lib­er­ately been sched­uled for shortly be­fore and af­ter the evening, and pro­moted be­fore the trust’s event, to dam­age ticket sales.

“He was the one who man­aged to per­suade the rest of the clergy to put pres­sure on our chair­man and say we shouldn’t be cel­e­brat­ing the vic­tory, we should just be com­mem­o­rat­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion in the war, so the whole thing makes him feel un­com­fort­able,” he told The Daily Tele­graph. “He’s got a prob­lem with all of that, I think, in com­mon with a lot of Church of Eng­land clergy.”

Asked if he be­lieved the event was de­lib­er­ately sab­o­taged, Mr James said: “I’d get pretty close to that, yes, very close in­deed.”

Prom­i­nent fig­ures such as the High Com­mis­sion­ers of Aus­tralia and Canada were due to ap­pear at the event, which was to fea­ture “mil­i­tary mu­sic from around the Com­mon­wealth” and First World War songs.

Trus­tees said it would have raised £15,000 for the cathe­dral, which has been be­set by fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

A cash flow cri­sis in 2016 meant that the cathe­dral had to be bailed out by a loan from the Church Com­mis­sion­ers, af­ter it was re­vealed that staff were in dan­ger of not be­ing paid.

Mr Al­ban Jones, who is also chap­lain to the Bishop of Peter­bor­ough, was act­ing dean be­tween Oc­to­ber last year and Jan­uary this year, when the cur­rent dean Chris Dal­lis­ton took over.

John Higgs, trea­surer of the trust, was “fu­ri­ous” at the can­cel­la­tion.

“It’s an ab­so­lutely non­sen­si­cal de­ci­sion,” he said, adding that the com­mit­tee had been plan­ning the event for more than a year and he had been forced to tell al­most 100 choir mem­bers that it would no longer be go­ing ahead with less than a month’s no­tice.

A spokesman for the cathe­dral said: “The Cathe­dral re­grets that sales of tick­ets for the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Com­mon­wealth con­tri­bu­tion to World War I, For­ward To­gether, have been dis­ap­point­ing.

“Be­cause of this, and de­spite gen­er­ous spon­sor­ship, the costs of run­ning the event would not have been cov­ered. With great re­luc­tance the deci- sion was there­fore taken to can­cel what would have been a mem­o­rable event.

“We hope that the many other com­mem­o­ra­tive events be­ing held at the Cathe­dral, within Peter­bor­ough, and around the dio­cese will of­fer the op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one prop­erly to recog­nise the sac­ri­fices of all who fought in this tragic war.”

The cathe­dral’s web­site prom­ises re­funds for ticket hold­ers and spon­sors.

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