Absolutely Hertfordshire meets the Very Reverend Jo Kelly-Moore to discuss a career in the Church, being Dean of St Albans and the Cathedral’s Coronation celebrations
You originally trained as a lawyer – so how did you end up in the Church?
Since childhood Christian faith has been part of my life’s journey. When I did my Law and Arts degrees I thought one day I would like to study theology. After six years in commercial litigation I had the chance to go back to University to do just that. When I was studying a lecturer asked me if I had ever considered ordination. The rest as they say is history!
How do you look back on your time at St Aidan Remuera?
The decade we spent as a family at St Aidan’s was a very, very special time. We went from two to four in our house! As an urban parish near central Auckland it is a busy multi-generational community and we had the blessing of being with them for the Church’s centennial. It was great fun.
How big a role was being Dean of Auckland?
As Dean of Auckland I led an £8 million capital campaign to complete the construction of the Cathedral, which included the building of a new chapel at the east end of the Cathedral and the installation of a new Cathedral Organ. Auckland is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world and it was a joy as Dean to celebrate that in what we did.
Were you always planning on coming to the UK to carry on your work?
No! I had worked in London as a lawyer in the 1990s, but never thought we would come here again. When the project at Auckland Cathedral was finished, a friend in the Church of England contacted me to say ‘I think I have found your next job’. Once again, as they say, the rest is history and before too long I was Archdeacon of Canterbury and we were living in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral.
How did it feel when you became the Dean of St Albans in 2021?
I felt very privileged and excited. Being a Dean is the best job in the Church and what better place to be Dean than St Albans! This Cathedral and Abbey Church is a thriving, lively community place built on the story of inclusive welcome for all. That is what we are about every day.
What makes St Albans Cathedral such a special place?
At the heart of St Albans Cathedral is the story of a Roman citizen, Alban, who gave safe refuge to an asylum seeker, the priest we now call Amphibalus. The gift Alban received was his faith. Both men died as a result of this encounter. Our two shrines, and the Roman bricks in this ancient holy place, continue to tell the story of that welcome and that care, by Britain’s first saint and martyr. It is a message still so relevant today. That is what makes this place so very special.
How do you see its role in the community?
Cathedrals are, by definition, places to serve the community and diocese they are part of. Every day there are community activities happening here, whether it is school or other groups gathering to learn here, pilgrims passing through, children’s and youth groups of all kinds and much more. At the same time staff and congregation members are engaged in a wide array of community service and activities.
This interview will be in our May issue, which coincides with King Charles III’s Coronation. What do you have planned at the Cathedral?
We are looking forward very much to the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and the Queen Consort. We are live streaming the Coronation in the Nave and inviting everyone to bring their picnic lunch to share. We have the Lord Lieutenant’s Service for the Coronation at 4pm on Sunday 7 May and on Monday 8 May we are inviting people to come and volunteer their time to help clean, tidy, garden and generally spruce up the Cathedral. Everyone is welcome to all these services and activities.
The Cathedral aside, what else do you love about St Albans?
St Albans is a great place to live. It is a lively, friendly community where there is always something great happening.
And if we were to ask you to pick your 3 favourite places in St Albans or further afield in Hertfordshire, where would you choose? These can be landmarks, restaurants, outdoor spots, shops etc etc…
It is hard to choose just three things! Verulamium Park is an amazing gift to our city and county and there are so many great places to get out into nature across Hertfordshire. There are great options for eating out in the city of St Albans and villages surrounding it. And – I would have to say our Cathedral and our Churches! You are welcome in all of them. If you haven’t visited lately, do come and see us.
What are your hopes for the rest of 2023?
These are challenging times in so many ways. While none of us has the ability on our own to change global issues, what we each can do, and do together, is to care well in our communities and to be good neighbours reaching out in friendship and care to those around us. As in the Coronation we celebrate volunteering, may we each also keep an eye out for opportunities where we can serve. In all this, we each make the world a better place.