Arms of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George Anglican Compass Rose

Cathedral of St Michael and St George

The Cathedral and the Parish

Unlike an "ordinary" church and parish, the Cathedral and its custodians play several roles in the life of the Diocese.

For the Diocese

The Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Grahamstown and as such seeks be a place where, as far as possible, all Anglicans within the diocese, regardless of language and style of worship, should feel at home. The Dean, together with the churchwardens of the Cathedral parish, are the custodians of the Cathedral, on behalf of the Bishop, and must be sensitive to the responsibilities involved. The Cathedral plays host to several major diocesan services and other events - including ordinations, consecrations, synods, electoral assemblies, as well as to smaller gatherings such a Chapter and Diocesan Council meetings which may utilise other Cathedral parish buildings. These require substantial planning both for the events themselves and for peripheral matters such as hospitality and parking, with financial and other support implications for the Cathedral parish. The Dean is ex officio, the senior priest of the diocese and as such a member of a wide range of diocesan and provincial committees. He is usually chosen for the office of Vicar General during interregna and in the absence of the Bishop.

For the Municipality

As is immediately apparent to the most casual visitor, the Cathedral is the dominant building in the centre of Grahamstown. It is hence the obvious venue for civic functions involving worship, and for gatherings of a largely secular nature which involve important communal and moral issues. Thanksgiving for the safe return of soldiers engaged in peacekeeping missions beyond our borders; services seeking God's blessing and His will for Makana Municipal Council; prayers for the victims of sexual violence, people with HIV/AIDS and for those who minister to them, are some recent examples. Services with a more personal focus, such as weddings and funerals of prominent people from all sections of the community are also held in what is the largest place of worship in the municipality. The Dean and the Parish Council are pro-active as well as reactive in responding to civic needs.

For the Archdeaconry

The Cathedral parish, as the dominant, if not the most numerous parish in the Albany Archdeaconry, is expected to provide leadership and to be a role model for the other parishes. Traditionally, the Cathedral parish was deemed to be an archdeaconry in its own right, with the Dean as Archdeacon, ex officio,.

The Cathedral Parish

The Cathedral parish is made up of the Cathedral itself, together with outstations at Sidbury, Alicedale and Highlands (up to 50 km from the Cathedral itself), where services are held regularly. While the outstations are essentially self-supporting and managed by their own councils, they have often depended on the Cathedral parish for priestly and sacramental services.

Also, within the parish there are the Anglican chapels at

Regular services are also held at

The Cathedral parish is largely or wholly responsible for the Anglican students at Rhodes, and for the pastoral care of those in the hospitals and old age institutions.The other schools which accommodate boarders make their own arrangements for the pastoral care of their pupils which tend to vary according to the initiatives taken by the diverse clergy of several denominations, including the Cathedral staff and the staff of the schools.

Within the broader urban catchment area of the Cathedral are the Anglican churches of Christchurch (established from a bequest, and traditionally a strict adherent to the 1662 prayer book); St Bartholemew's (at one time seen as the church for the white working class as against the Cathedral with its military officers, professionals and gentry); St Clement's (originally a "Coloured" chapelry); St Philip's - the Xhosa medium church in Fingo Village, the earliest black settlement in Grahamstown; and St Augustine's - built to accommodate the expanding black settlement to the East of Grahamstown. While these churches were, at their foundation, regrettable physical manifestations of the diversity of churchmanship, social class and racist attitudes, each has now its own identity and makes its own distinctive contributions to the Diocese. With all these congregations, the Cathedral is in a relationship of dynamic tension. As the mother church for the City and the Diocese, the Cathedral welcomes worshippers from all parts and communities, and through its liturgies and music seeks to accommodate the wide range of languages and Anglican cultural traditions. The largest Sunday service, at 9.30 am, is supported by a truly "rainbow" congregation, with much liturgical, linguistic and musical diversity. On the other hand, each of the congregations seeks the wholehearted support of Anglicans within its own "traditional" linguistic and ethnic catchment areas.

Staff and Structures


The clergy holding office and serving the Cathedral are as follows:

Lay Staff

Lay ministers

There are currently sixteen lay ministers. Most assist at the Sunday eucharists, a few lead the Sunday evensong, a few preach, some have additional ministries in the institutions indicated above and in visiting those unable to get to the Cathedral for worship, including sick communions. They have quarterly meetings to discuss their work.

The Cathedral Executive

Dean and the two churchwardens and the alternate churchwarden (should one be elected) form the Cathedral executive.

Parish Council

The executive, plus nine other elected members. Representation is allowed for by CotT, the Anglican Students (at Rhodes) and the Community of the Resurrection

Standing Committees of Council are for Worship, Mission, and Pastoral Care.

The Vestry

Additional to its canonical functions, the annual vestry receives reports from the standing committees listed above and from about twenty other bodies within the Parish e.g. sacristans; choir; steeple bells; handbells; AWF (including a school feeding scheme, hospital visits, catering for parochial, diocesan and fundraising functions; regular meetings for worship, fellowship and study); Rhini Garments (employment initiative); cathedral shop; lay ministers; servers; hospital visitors; National Arts Festival committee (Spiritfest); audio-sound unit; Sunday schools; youth group; book shop; the prayer chain etc.

The Congregation

The 200 or so people on the parish roll or, perhaps more reliably, the 130 on the pledging list, represent the core of the worshipping community in the parish. Attendance at services reflects their liturgical preferences.


The Cathedral

The oldest parts of the cathedral date from the 1820s and the building was finally completed in the 1950s to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott. It is Victorian neo-gothic in style, with a granite and sandstone exterior, plastered interior walls with marble pillars. It can accommodate about 500 people. It has not been formally valued, as a rough estimate of its replacement value for insurance purposes would probably be no less than R80m - for which the annual premium would amount to about a quarter of the gross income of the parish. Only the moveable contents are insured.

The Cathedral Hall and Offices

The Cathedral hall, with stage and kitchen, will seat about 200 people. There are offices for the Dean, the parish secretary and the the bookkeeper. In addition The Cory Room serves as a committee room which also accommodates the occasional bookshop and is used for the Sunday school. The hall is hired out for functions when not required by the Parish and contributes revenue to Parish funds.

The Deanery

The Deanery is a large Victorian house, set in its own grounds adjacent to the Cathedral Hall, with adequate reception rooms and a study for the Dean on the ground floor and completely private quarters above. There is an additional "bed-sit" attached, which is suitable for short term guests of the parish, or of the Dean. There is covered parking for three vehicles and secure space for more.

The Sub-Deanery

The sub-deanery is a modern four-bedroom house with adequate reception rooms, a very small study, a garage and its own entrance on Huntley Street, backing on to the Deanery. Each house has its own substantial garden.

St George's Chambers

Built as an investment, St George's Chambers accommodate the advocates of the Grahamstown Bar as well the Bishop of Grahamstown and his diocesan staff. Rent received from St George's Chambers forms a substantial part of the Cathedral's income.


Pew Bulletin

Attenders are provided with a service sheet and parish diary, including lists of those for whom prayers are asked at each of the Sunday services.

The Spire

The parish magazine, The Spire, is published monthly (with the exception of January) with the diary of services and other events for the month ahead, prayer lists, parish council notes, personalia, together with original contributions from clergy, historians, scholars and poets in the parish.

The Cathedral Website

The Cathedral initially hosted its website on the servers of Rhodes University This website was established and run by Professor Pat Terry. The Cathedral currently has its own domain

The Local Press

Good relations are maintained with the local newspapers (Grocott's Mail) which advertise services and carry "church" articles from time to time.


While the Cathedral is the mother church of the diocese, and the Dean its senior priest, it should be abundantly clear from the foregoing that the services which are provided to the diocese, the community and the archdeaconry are based squarely on what is, for the most part, an urban parish church. Whether one considers the personnel who fulfil the many roles essential to the smooth running of the cathedral (servers, lay ministers, musicians, sidesmen, caterers, cleaners, floral decorators etc) or the sources and management of the finances, it is the faithful parishioners who provide. While the calls upon the energy and gifts of the Dean are many, sustaining and drawing support from the parish, and leading the congregation in its life of worship, witness and service, is at the heart of the ministry.

Prepared by Michael G. Whisson. (for the Executive Committee)
on the Feast of the Finding of St Stephen, commemorating Lucian's discovery of the saint's relics in Palestine, AD 145. 3rd August 2006. (MGW)

  1. Updated on the Feast of St Philip & St James (recently usurped by St Joseph the Worker) 1st May 2008, (MGW)
  2. Updated on the Feast of Thomas the Apostle, 3 July 2012, by Wayne E.G. Jayes
  3. Updated on the Commemoration of the Martyrs of Uganda, 3 June 2014, by WEGJ
  4. Updated on the 87th day after Pentecost 2015, by WEGJ