Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is the greatest privilege to be present with you in this sacred place as you celebrate your 800th anniversary.
As we gather here, we are profoundly aware of all those who have gone before us, who have bequeathed us the magnificent legacy of this glorious building, and who have maintained the spiritual community which has kept the flame of faith alive here for so many centuries.
Over the years, that faith has sustained this city and this land through many trials, and has done so through the many months of the pandemic we are currently experiencing. Over the years, each challenge in turn has been overcome, and that is the case today when, thanks to the inspiring work of all those who have been involved in providing vaccines, we can now look forward with renewed hope.
When my wife and I visited Salisbury in 2018, we saw your community spirit very much in evidence, as people met challenges they had never thought they would encounter with resources they never knew they had.
In your response to the pandemic too, it is clear from all I have seen and heard that you have met every hardship with an even greater resolve. No-one who contemplates this almost impossibly beautiful building can be in any doubt that those who raised it, in the face of every difficulty, have found successors who are their equal in determination.
That continuity, it seems to me, is crucial. There is a sense in which this cathedral was not completed in 1258 - and has never been completed. Work on it has continued ever since. A campaign, of which I was immensely proud to be the Patron, was launched in the late 1980s to save the spire – clearly successfully!
That campaign developed into the Major Repair Programme, which itself is now nearing its end. Work to restore and refurbish every external elevation of the Cathedral will conclude by 2022, by which time the fabric of the building will be in better condition than it has been since the thirteenth century. Visitors who believe their view is marred by scaffolding are experiencing what every age has experienced. The work of building, of maintaining and of protecting for the future is for us all to take forward, in each generation - as you have done so splendidly here. This is a living building; these are living stones, just as the Church of Christ, whose coming we remember at this Advent time, is always meant to be.