The Dean’s Reflection column with The Very Rev John Dobson

Volunteers say they get great pleasure and friendship through supporting Ripon Cathedral.
Volunteers say they get great pleasure and friendship through supporting Ripon Cathedral.

At a recent Rotary Club dinner, my wife and I found ourselves sitting at a table where Yorkshire wisdom was being debated. It didn’t take long before someone recited what might be regarded as the epitome of Yorkshire advice.

Translated for the benefit of any visitors who may be reading these pages: “Hear all, see all and say nothing. Eat all, drink all and pay nothing. And if you ever do anything for nothing, do it for yourself.’’

Well, reflecting on many of my visits and engagements over the last few weeks, I can only say that there are a remarkable number of Yorkshire folk who are slow to take this advice.

The good news is that there is an encouragingly large number of people, of all ages, who are prepared to give of themselves in the service of others. Many seem to make a habit of going the extra mile.

One of the set morning prayers in the Book of Common Prayer (the Church of England’s centuries-old prayer book), begins, ‘’O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom…’’ I’ve often reflected on those words, ‘’whose service is perfect freedom…’’ They come from a tradition that seeks to follow Christ’s own example of selfless service, and a belief that it is in giving that we receive.

Often Ripon Cathedral volunteers tell me how they receive great pleasure and friendship through supporting the cathedral. Some of these people are practising Christians, others are not. For me, each one is an invaluable godsend!

We were celebrating volunteering in our district at a special cathedral service recently, marking the national volunteers’ week. We heard the stories of some. One is working with refugees, another with adults with learning difficulties. Anyone doubting how much goodness there in the world would have had their faith in human nature, possibly even in God, restored.

We are beginning to hear similar positive messages through the efforts of Ripon Together (the city’s new community interest company) as people get engaged with efforts to prepare for Yorkshire Day in August and to mark the centenary of the First World War in the autumn.

People want to see the community flourish and are prepared to get involved.

It’s not just volunteers in whom we see this trait. Many go the extra mile for family and friends – we heard accounts of that at the recent Golden Wedding Service; and others do so in their paid employment.

Last week, I preached at Leyburn for a celebration of 50 years of ministry of a good friend of mine – the parish priest who inspired me when I was a teenager.

Clergy who are prepared to serve their people, often through hard work and self- sacrifice, make a lasting difference and positive impression. Those being ordained as deacons and priests in the cathedral over the next two weeks will probably have been inspired similarly by the service of others.

Finally, another example of people showing great service in their professional life, very evident in this region.

With a large gathering, my wife and I were entertained well at RAF Leeming by Group Captain David Arthurton and his officers. This celebration of 100 years of the RAF reminded us how members of all our armed forces continue to risk much in serving the cause of our freedom and security. Like many whom I have met recently, they are an inspiration.