Reverend Canon James Tabor
From Reverend Canon James Tabor
When people find out that I have been made a Canon, they usually ask if that means I’m a big shot in the Church now.
The answer is in fact that little has changed, but I have a few more responsibilities now. Canons formed the clergy staff of a Cathedral since the 8th century. Since the Reformation, Cathedrals have maintained a staff of four Canons, and a Dean (the senior priest). This group manages the Cathedral and runs Services there.
Our own Cathedral is in Bunbury, and is the Cathedral Church of St Boniface. It is the principal Church of the Diocese, and also contains the Cathedra, which is the Bishop of Bunbury’s special chair. This gives the name to the building.
As a Canon, I also have a special chair in the Cathedral, and so I have been 'ïnstalled' into my chair. I also now wear a special cloak, called a cope. This rather voluminous cloak is another form of medieval dress, and these are often very ornate.
Like most things in the Church, the ornamentation is very symbolic. My own cope is particular to me, and reflects my own Christian journey. From the front, the most striking feature is the band of blue; so called “Marian Blue”. I chose this colour because the dedication of my first Church as priest was the Church of St Mary, in the UK. The fleur de lys are also a symbol of Mary, and of purity. The other flowers are roses, the symbol of Hampshire, and the Diocese of Portsmouth in which I was ordained, and vine leaves, symbolizing Jesus as the true vine.
On the back, the largest symbol is the scallop shell. This is the traditional sign of pilgrimage, and medieval pilgrims carried a shell on a string around their neck to enable them to drink from rivers, and as a sign of their identity. The large red cross is the sign of St James the Great, brother of Jesus and the first apostle to be martyred. His bones traditionally lie in the great cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. This became a place of pilgrimage, and I undertook my own pilgrimage to Santiago in 2017, on the ancient paths.
The final symbol are the crossed swords; this is both a symbol for St James, who legend has it fought with the Christian knights of that Order, but also St Paul, whose work of evangelization, and literary exposition I admire.