What is a Diocese and a Cathedral?
Every square foot of land in England is part of a particular parish.
A ‘diocese’ is the area (or ‘see’) supervised by a bishop; the cathedral is the ‘mother church’ (the spiritual home and headquarters) of the diocese.
Our English word ‘bishop’ comes from the New Testament greek word ‘episcopos’ which means ‘to watch over’: the bishop is the ‘supervisor’ or ‘overseer’.
The word ‘diocese’ comes, like many church terms, from another New Testament greek word, ‘dioikesis’, meaning ‘administration’. So a diocese is the area administered by a bishop.
The word ‘cathedral’ comes from the greek word for ‘chair’ or ‘seat’: ‘kathedra’. So a ‘cathedral’ is the church where the bishop has his seat. The seat is the place from which the bishop traditionally teaches his flock and encourages his clergy. The seat actually exists: it is generally a wooden throne towards the eastern end of a cathedral.
A ‘diocese’ is divided into smaller units of area: ‘archdeaconaries’, ‘deaneries’ and ‘parishes’. The ‘parish’ is the area served by a local church, usually with a vicar, rector or parish priest located there, to develop the ministry of the whole congregation to the neighbourhood.
Every square foot of land in England is part of a particular parish, and therefore a particular deanery, archdeaconry and diocese. Wherever you live or work, you can know for certain which parish or diocese you belong to. It is this structure which enables the Church of England to offer ministry to the whole nation, not least through baptisms, weddings and funerals, proclaiming the good news of Jesus and promoting justice for all.