St Paul’s Cathedral has been here for over 1,400 years. It has been built and rebuilt five times, and always its main purpose has been as a
place of worship and prayer.
St Paul's, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Step inside and you can enjoy the Cathedral's awe-inspiring
interior, and uncover fascinating stories about its history.
Learning & Faith
Lifelong learning is a core part of the our work, delivered through a variety of events by St Paul's Institute, and the
Cathedral's Adult Learning and Schools & Family Learning departments.
History & Collections
For more than 1,400 years, a Cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood at the highest point in the City. The present Cathedral is the
masterpiece of Britain's most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren.
Behind the scenes, the cost of caring for St Paul's and continuing to deliver our central ministry and work is enormous and the generosity of
our supporters is critical.
Widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and a powerful symbol of the splendour of London, St Paul’s Cathedral is a
breathtaking events venue.
Sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Advent (13 December 2015) by Revd Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor
So many stewards, roles old and new - but we can't do everything, says Rev Canon Michael Hampel
The world abounds with stewards. When you arrived here today, you passed one of our stewards on duty at the west end of the Cathedral before being
greeted by a wandsman and shown to your seat.
There is a High Steward of England although the post has been vacant since 1421. There is a Great Steward of Scotland (which always has to go one
better!) and that post is currently filled by the Prince of Wales.
And there was a High Steward of Sutton Coldfield but that post became extinct under local government reorganisation in 1974 – at which point the
last vestige of glamour which Sutton Coldfield possessed must have disappeared for ever ...
And, officiating in various capacities in this service are members of the clergy and lay people who are stewards – stewards of God’s mysteries.
What in our second reading this morning from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians relates to the pastors of the early Church?
It’s a fascinating word – ‘steward’
It starts life as a high-ranking official in a royal household; it’s linked to the word which means to heat a room or boil meat and gives us
‘stew’; it had a passing association with the keeper of a brothel.
And it may have been at that colourful juncture in its etymology that it took on a more servile connotation as a housekeeper and, in our Bibles
now, translates the Greek word ‘economos’ which also of course gives us the word economy.
The housekeeper manages the household budget and George Osborne, in managing the nation’s economy, is doing just that but on a bigger scale.
Economus is also an official in the Roman Catholic Church. Each Roman Catholic diocese has an economus who is the diocesan finance officer.
Stewards, the clergy and housekeepers
In this season of Advent when we take time to step back from things and take a look at ourselves, it’s a useful moment for the clergy and lay
officials of the Church to hear that we are stewards of God’s mysteries and indeed to find out a little bit about the background of that word
‘steward’ and note that it is not as glamorous as it sounds – despite the glamorous vestiges of the word still retained in those ancient high
offices of state in Scotland and Westminster Abbey.
To be a member of the clergy, in Pauline terms, it seems is to be a housekeeper.
Housekeepers and budgets
Those of who help to run St Paul’s Cathedral sometimes complain after five hour long meetings
about the annual budget and the maintenance of this place that we were trained to be priests not business managers but we clearly need to think
again as we read St Paul to the Corinthians where he tells us quite clearly that we are housekeepers of the mysteries of God – and I can
assure you there is nothing more mysterious than the densely packed tiny print of the budget sheets of St Paul’s Cathedral.
And the word appears also in St Luke’s Gospel – but translated slightly differently – where Jesus asks, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent
manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?’ And, lo, this from a
parable which is a good tried and trusted Advent reading from scripture about being alert and prepared for the coming of Christ.
So this use by Paul of the word ‘steward’ takes the clergy down a peg or two or at least reassures them that where they are is where they ought to
be. But, inasmuch as we are all members of the priesthood of all believers, we might all thereby share the designation of stewards of God’s
mysteries and, in considering the meaning of the word, we should not only observe the Advent humility which it imposes on us but also note its
And what I mean by that is this: we are entrusted with our roles and responsibilities in this life only temporarily. In Advent, we await the first
coming of Christ at Christmas through the birth of a child in a stable in Bethlehem at a particular moment in history. But we also await the second
coming of Christ which will happen at our death at some point in history which will be different for all of us – but at a point at which our role
as the housekeeper will end after what in the great scheme of things will have been a very short tenure and the mantle of office will be passed to
others who come after us.
We can't do everything
So, when we suffer from the stresses and strains of modern living, we should remind ourselves of one important truth: we can’t do everything. And
that must come as a relief to us all.
So that, alongside the Advent humility, we get a sense too of the Advent hope.
Let us pray
O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst humble thyself to become one with us, and to be born into the world for our salvation: teach us the grace of
humility, root out of our hearts all pride and haughtiness, and so fashion us after thy holy likeness in this world, that in the world to come we
may be made like unto thee in thy eternal kingdom.
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.