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The Very Reverend Andrew Nunn

People of the Thames

Serving a community still scarred by the The Marchioness disaster over 30 years ago, the Thames is a constant thread through the life of the Dean of Southwark and his cathedral's diverse congregation – not least over Christmas and New Year.

Midlands born and bred

“Leicester is my home city. I studied for my first degree there too.

“I first came to London on a school trip – to The Science Museum, or something like that, but we must have gone to the river as well. I remember being so impressed by its size.

“It was so different from the rivers back home.”

Priestly origins

“My mum was a church goer, my dad not so much.

“After the initial surprise, when I eventually told them that I wanted to be a priest, they were both very supportive.

“The realisation that God wanted me to work in the church came to me as a 14-year old choirboy, when I was on my way to evensong.  

“I had three wonderful years training for the priesthood at a monastery in Mirfield, Yorkshire. It’s where the Community of the Resurrection is based.

“Whilst I was there, I also read theology at Leeds University.”

Career path

“My first paid job was actually folding shirts in a factory in Leicester for Marks & Spencer. 

“Before I went off to train to be a priest, I also worked as a door-to-door rent collector in Wellingborough.

“My religious career started as a priest near Leeds.

“I have been at Southwark Cathedral for over two decades now, joining the Diocese of Southwark in 1995, as Chaplain to the Bishop.  

“That is a very long time, but it still feels exciting.”

Day to day

“Genuinely, no two days are ever same.

“I love the fact that every day is different.

“I get to meet such a wide variety of people and do some really interesting things – such as answering questions for the Port of London Authority!

 “My first degree was in public administration, so the more mundane aspects of my job don’t particularly bother me.  

“I suppose what I don’t like so much is conflict. 

“For the most part, we all get on very well, but as in any community or organisation, there are always challenges.

“Over the years, I have acquired many other charitable responsibilities.

“I am also a member of the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, for example.”

Christmas peak

“In the heart of London, we are a very busy cathedral, with at least five services a day,

“In many ways, Christmas is the busiest time.  No surprise there.

“We have so many carol services and concerts. 

“Normally we all have a one day off a week.

It’s usually just after Christmas and Easter, that we get to have a longer break.

New year traditions

“Most years, I enjoy New Year’s Eve in the Deanery, looking out across the river with friends over dinner, watching the crowds going backwards and forwards. 

“It’s been different during the pandemic, for obvious reasons.

“I do hope that the fireworks come back soon. 

“I always think it’s a shame that they don’t utilize the whole river more for the New Year celebrations, as happened at the Millennium.  

“From where I am, it’s hard to see round the bend of the river to Westminster. 

Serving a diverse community

“Our congregation very reflects much the population of London. 

“We pride ourselves on being inclusive, welcoming people from all backgrounds.

“Especially those who traditionally may not feel accepted by the Church. 

“One of only two cathedrals in the world that has a chapel to those living with HIV/AIDS, we have a long history of welcoming the LGBT+ community. 

“Essentially, we are a parish church, responsible for the pastoral wellbeing of all who live in on Bankside. 

“We are not just involved in the religious aspects of people’s lives.

“We also seek to play our part in supporting the wider community, of which we are part”.  

“For example, we work very closely with the ROBES Winter Night Shelter, which looks after the needs of local homeless people.”

Good over evil

“The terrorist attacks of recent years have had a profound effect on the local community; not all of it negative. 

“It is incredible how such events can bring people together.

“The wounds of the terror attack on London Bridge in June 2017 and the atrocity at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019 are still open.

An employment hub

“We have around 30 staff on our payroll, with a wide variety of skills, including musicians, accountants and educationalists. 

“As with most organisations, the pandemic has had a huge effect on our operations. 

“As soon as the first lockdown was introduced, we took our services online.

“That has continued, even though we were able to welcome worshippers back to church in the summer of 2020 and then again in time for Christmas last year. 

A living heritage

“The cathedral was founded as Priory of St Mary Overie. following the great Fire of Southwark.

“The nave was rebuilt end of the 19th Century. 

“For many years, the tower of what is now the Cathedral, was the highest structure on the south bank.

“It is a complex building, which takes a lot of maintaining. 

“Nowadays, we are dwarfed by The Shard.

“It sometimes feels like we in danger of being swamped by new developments all around us.” 

Future funding

“Receiving no money from the state, we are reliant on our own fund-raising initiatives.

 “We have a very generous congregation, have developed our own strong trading function, and also benefit from numerous grants and donations.”

A place of sanctuary

“My favourite part of the cathedral is the Retro Choir.

“It was the first part of the building to be re-built following the Fire in 1212. 

“It is very Early Gothic and has a very special feel to it. 

“Sadly, I suspect that many Londoners are completely unaware of it.” 

The river

“Since the founding of the first convent on the site in c. 606, the church has had a close relationship with both the river and London Bridge.

 “The Thames is a reassuring and constant presence for the whole cathedral community.  

“For the past few years, on the second Sunday of January, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ, we have joined with St Magnus the Martyr from the north shore, for a river blessing ceremony.

“It’s an annual highlight for me; an important opportunity for all those who use the river, whether for work or for leisure, to pray for its wellbeing.

Indelible scars

“The Marchioness memorial is sited at the west end of the cathedral.

“It’s a special place, where the family and friends of those who died in the disaster can come and remember their loved ones. 

“Each year on the anniversary of the tragedy, the names of those who perished are read out in the cathedral.

“For all those who survived, the memory of what happened that fateful night is an ever-present reality.”
 

A changing environment

“There is a lot more traffic on the Thames, compared to when I first arrived. 

“It is good to see a lot of people using the river as a means of getting around London.

“Obviously, there are an increasing number of party boats. 

“They can cause huge disturbance to the lives of those who live alongside the river.

“I know that this is an issue that the PLA and others have to deal with on a regular basis.  

“We look forward to working with the PLA and other partners on the river to make our operations carbon neutral by 2030.

“That will involve making sure that boats on the Thames also use cleaner forms of energy

“It’s very clear to me, river transportation has an important role to play in moving goods and people around the city more sustainably.” 

Quick fire 

Three words that encapsulate the river for you?

Ever-changing. Dynamic. Beautiful.

Favourite Thames view?

“I love crossing Waterloo Bridge in the evening, when the buildings on either side are illuminated, and the river is looking at its very best.  

“I particularly looking across to our cathedral neighbours on the northern foreshore at St Paul’s.

“Thanks to the Illuminated River project, the Thames is now be-jeweled from dusk, in both directions. Quite simply, it’s spectacular.”

Best Thames-side restaurant or pub? 

“It’s hard to choose.

“I can thoroughly recommend The Swan at The Globe.

"Pizza Express on Bankside is also a fun destination.  

"The Founder’s Arms, close to Blackfriars’ Bridge, is a favourite too.”

Other interests?

“I adore walking around London, all year round.” 

 


The 2022 Thames Blessing ceremony will take place on London Bridge on Sunday 9 January at 12.30pm. Find out more.

@deansouthwark

People of the Thames
Telling the stories of the river.