Cathedral Chaplaincy

It’s been a while since I did my Chaplaincy placement at Birmingham Airport.  I really enjoyed it – licence to wander about and smile at people, and get chatting randomly.  It really is my kind of daily ministry – albeit I usually do it in the villages these days.

So it was lovely to go to Winchester Cathedral today to meet the head of volunteer chaplains and be trained so that I can join their rota.  The Cathedral is a wonderful building.  I could look at its bare bones for hours – and by the time you think about the memorials and monuments and windows and statues and chapels and altars and…. you get the gist.  I love it.  Today it was filled with the sound of around a hundred primary school children who were busily working on projects about codes (translating Greek if you please!).  It was good to see the building working as well as being admired.  It also has such a peaceful, prayerful quality even though it was noisy today.

Link to Winchester Cathedral website

One of the things the duty chaplain does is say prayers over the sound system on the hour.  The requirements are very specific – welcome people, invite them to be quiet for a few moments, one short prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer.  The acoustics in the Cathedral are, to say the least, interesting – anyone who came to my ordination will remember that there is an echo of around half a second on everything broadcast over the system.  When my tutor said 12 noon prayers, I joined in with the Lord’s prayer out loud, and found that the rhythm and speed required is even slower than that required for a reflective, congregational pace.  Apparently the Cathedral Guides are quick to give feedback about prayers – on topic, audibility and length.  More than 90 seconds is too long.  

And yet, I think these prayers are important, regardless perhaps of the topic being prayed about.  They remind those who want to see the cathedral as a collection of monuments and artworks in a fine building that there is a purpose to the whole, far beyond the sum of its glorious parts.  The purpose is to glorify God and provide a space for liturgical worship.  And for 90 seconds every hour, visitors become part of that service.  The visitor isn’t just looking at the Cathedral, the Cathedral consciously speaks to the visitor.  Any visit to a place of interest consists of a dialogue between the visitor and the place – but here the dialogue is enriched – and not by some reenactment, but as part of a continuing conversation between people and God.

So when I next go to the Cathedral, yes, there will be smiles, greetings, random chats, and yes, the Refectory is part of the “patch” so there will be coffee too.  But more than that, there will be prayer – please pray for me that the prayers I pray will touch visitors as well as being heard by God.    


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