Christ Church Cathedral

Apr 13th, 2018 | By | Category: This Is Your Church

By Garth Hampson

In the year 2018, Christ Church Cathedral celebrated 185 years of a continuing journey, building a diverse and vibrant parish that glorifies God and welcomes all people. Its history goes back to the time of Col. John By and the building of the Rideau Canal. The first service was held on July 21, 1833, and in 1896, the parish church became the Cathedral of the newly-formed Diocese of Ottawa.

In those intervening years, the Cathedral has hosted many of Canada’s State and Ceremonial occasions, including visits from members of the Royal Family. On July 1, 1967, as Canada celebrated its 100th birthday, Queen Elizabeth was in attendance in the Cathedral for a Service of Thanksgiving.

In 1979, Christ Church Cathedral Ottawa was formally designated the Cathedral of the Anglican Military Ordinariate of the Canadian Forces.

In 1891, as a focus on the importance of music in parish life, the men and boys choir was formed. Today, it is the only such resident choir in any Canadian Anglican Cathedral. When the chancel was enlarged to its present state in 1932, a young organist from Lambeth Palace in London was hired to bring the “English Sound” to Cathedral life. Godfrey Hewitt, a name familiar to Ottawans, spent the next 50 years in the position of Organist and Choirmaster and was honoured with a Doctorate from the Archbishop of Canterbury in addition to becoming a member of the Order of Canada.

The excellence in music continued and the choir grew under the direction of Frances Macdonnell and with her guidance, major tours of Canada and the United States were undertaken. The Cathedral choir became the first ever to tour the Arctic regions of Canada singing in both official languages and various native dialects. In 2001, the first ever all girls Cathedral choir was formed under the superb direction of Tim Piper, a graduate from the men and boys choir.

In 2003, the young versatile Matthew Larkin took over the reigns of Organist and Choir Master. During his 14-year tenure the music program was taken to other parts of the world, particularly England, France and the United States. Music of the Master composers together with compositions of Canadians, were taken to the great Cathedrals of the world – Westminster Abbey, Durham, Wells, Winchester and Chartres among others. A thrill for the girls choir was to sing weekly services at Canterbury Cathedral and at the Vimy Memorial in France. For the boys and men, the open invitation to sing at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is very special.

Graduates from the music program at the Cathedral have gone on to careers in composition, opera, and a multitude of other music endeavours. One such person is Angela Hewitt, daughter of Godrey and Marion Hewitt, who has gone on to much fame as a leading pianist in the world, especially of the music of Bach, her father’s favourite composer.  Her many honours include the Order of the British Empire from the Queen, the Companion of the Order of Canada and a multitude of Doctorates from various Universities. Angela will receive the prestigious Performing Arts award at a ceremony in June at the National Arts Centre.

Worshipping God is the heart of our vocation as a cathedral church, and services are held at least six days a week throughout the year, ranging from quiet weekday liturgies to colourful and music-filled Festal Eucharists. Each year there are a number of interfaith services related to events of local, national or international significance. As the Cathedral of the Diocese, we are also the site for ordinations, synod services and other diocesan liturgies.

We take our mission statement seriously, including the ministry of hospitality and “welcoming all people,” which we do with joyful opportunities for fellowship in our accessible facilities. Each Sunday’s coffee hour is a chance for newcomers, visitors and long-time members of the Cathedral to mingle. Day to day, all of the Cathedral’s many groups help build friendly, meaningful relationships.

The Cathedral reaches out beyond our walls, and even well beyond our city, through mission partnerships which are local, national and international. To name a few: Centre 454, Cornerstone, St Luke’s Table, Dalhousie Food Cupboard, Refugee Sponsorship, Affordable Housing, Council of the North, Anglican Council of Indigenous People, Primate’s World relief and Development Fund, Anglican Foundation of Canada, Compass Rose Society, Cross of Nails.

Clergy includes The Very Reverend Shane Parker, Rector and Dean of Ottawa, The Reverend Canon Hilary Murray, Pastoral Vicar and The Venerable Pat Johnston, Pastoral Associate.

For information on services and important events visit the website at www.ottawa.anglican.ca/cathedral. Regular updates are also available on Facebook www.facebook.com/christchurchcathedralottawa

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