For Volunteers’ Week we are celebrating the amazing people who give their time to Exeter Cathedral. People we could never manage without. Below are just a few of the many who lend their skills to provide essential support on a regular basis.
Sylvia: Chair of Flower Arrangers, Exeter Cathedral
I’m often left speechless by what the team has achieved.
Sylvia: Chair of Flower Arrangers
A few years ago, while volunteering as a steward on Friday mornings, I was tentatively asked if I would like to join the flower arrangers, a group I’d seen and heard much of in my time at the Cathedral.
Despite some initial nerves, I took the plunge and it is fair to say, I’ve never looked back! To walk around our charming building at the end of each morning session, I’m often left speechless by what the team has achieved.
Never actually knowing what flowers will be delivered on the day, only the colour; presents an exciting and exhilarating challenge for us as we all arrive with bags of foliage under our arms, ready for another week. Completing a total of nine large arrangements every fortnight, we are never left short of work to do.
Arranging to a high standard has enabled us to branch out and accept private bookings and requests. From weddings to funerals, no matter the occasion, we are always happy to hear from people. A personal highlight for me was eight years ago, when we held a Flower Festival to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It was not only a really rewarding experience but also a tremendous honour.
As a means of raising money, each year, we hold a plethora of workshops and stalls, always striving to deliver the highest quality arrangements.
If you’re interested in getting involved with flower arranging at Devon’s largest church, please do get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!
Elizabeth: Singer, Virger, Eucharistic Assistant and Altar Server, Exeter Cathedral
I love being an active part of the worshipping community at the Cathedral.”
Elizabeth: Singer, Virger, Eucharistic Assistant and Altar Server
Elizabeth has been volunteering at Exeter Cathedral since moving to the city from New Zealand in 2016. “I love singing, especially in choirs, and enjoy being a member of St Peter’s Singers. The choir sings at many special services each year and performs a broad and challenging repertoire under its director, Timothy Parsons. When not singing, I also enjoy assisting at services in the Cathedral, as a volunteer virger, Eucharistic assistant, or as part of the Cathedral’s team of altar servers. Having a ceremonial role in the worship focuses my faith and brings me closer to God. Additionally, I have made a great many friends across the different volunteer groups, and I love being an active part of the worshipping community at the Cathedral.”
Graham: Guide and Steward, Exeter Cathedral
I volunteer because I really enjoy meeting people!
Graham: Guide and Steward
My name is Graham, and I am a volunteer guide here at the Cathedral, taking visitors on both ground floor and roof tours. I am also involved in training new guides. When I’m not actually guiding, I undertake a stewarding role which involves welcoming visitors, helping them to understand the building, answering general questions and hopefully being a welcoming face! I volunteer because I really enjoy meeting people! Coming from a background in public service, that interaction with people from all over the UK and indeed the world is my main reason for doing this. I love history and architecture – especially churches and cathedrals – so I couldn’t be better placed for indulging my interests! Bringing this wonderful building to life for our visitors is definitely a pleasure, not a chore! I particularly enjoy seeing the look on visitors’ faces when they first step inside the magnificent roof space, to then be followed by the amazing views from the top of the north tower. I want people to come from one of my tours feeling they have learnt something new, had an enjoyable and fun time, and hopefully feel they have had value for money – then I’ve done my job!
Children join the choir often too shy to utter a sound on their own and six months later are singing complicated music in foreign languages. Watching their progress is a real joy!
Sheila: Library and Archives Assistant and Chorister Chaperone
I have been a volunteer at the Cathedral for over 30 years in a variety of roles but it is since I retired in 2006 that a big part of my life has been devoted to spending many hours each week doing what I can to help maintain the life and work of Devon’s mother church. Currently, my two favourite activities are a) working in the Library and Archives each Tuesday morning and b) acting as one of several chaperones for the choristers when they are singing Evensong in the Quire during the week and at week-ends for the big Choral services particularly on a Sunday. Hopefully, I am of some use in both roles but there is no doubt whatsoever that I gain FAR more than I contribute. In the Library, the opportunity to work with all sorts of historic documents is a real privilege and to do so in the company of all sorts of scholarly individuals is humbling but highly entertaining. The work with the choir is equally so and to be exposed at each practice and service to music of such a high standard is pure unadulterated pleasure. Children join the choir often too shy to utter a sound on their own and six months later are singing complicated music in foreign languages. Watching their progress is a real joy! I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have been given the opportunity to be a small part of these two aspects of Cathedral life.
I volunteer because I really enjoy meeting people!
Volunteering at the Cathedral is balm for the soul.
Other volunteers generously shared snippets of their stories:
A new career
Following 35 years of policing in Devon and Cornwall I knew that I needed to challenge myself in my retirement in order that I could stay physically and mentally active. I have always loved Exeter Cathedral and I applied for training as a guide and was accepted. The wonderful Malcolm Walker (RIP) was my lead trainer and I have never looked back. I love being in the building, ‘showing it off’ to our visitors and being a member of the family. It’s my place of solace and my sanctuary in a turbulent and disjointed world. I have also made some new friends in the Cathedral community, both professional and voluntary.
There is so much ‘hope’ in the building and quite a lot of humour if you know where to look for it. I love it when my tour guests are smiling and occasionally laughing as they experience what it has to offer. I learn something about the building on every tour. I now help train aspiring new Cathedral guides and I hope that some of my enthusiasm rubs off on them. I’m still optimistic.
Volunteering at the Cathedral is balm for the soul. Several days per week I strive to set Exeter Cathedral apart from all of the other 42 diocesan cathedrals of England. This engrossing job aids my concentration, boosts confidence, and piques my curiosity. There is non-stop learning of even things that I ought to have known. The interaction with fellow stewards and guides opens doors to hidden away treasures of lustre, and mystery. Visitors’ remarks and questions add to my repertoire from the downright quirky to the true pathos behind a Latin inscription. This volunteer is indebted to the Cathedral of Exeter for having “hired” her. Over the years she has flourished.
Prayers for Healing
The reason I volunteer with Prayers for Healing is that when I had a very bad accident eighteen months ago, the Group prayed for my recovery. Additionally two members of the team visited me in hospital and when I was confined to my home and gave me support. It was such a help to me that I felt I wanted to do the same for others.
I am very interested in the history and architecture of Exeter Cathedral and volunteering gives me a great opportunity to learn more at first hand. I enjoy being part of a team of volunteers who have a similar interest and desire to contribute to the smooth running of the Cathedral. It’s very rewarding to welcome visitors and share my enthusiasm and appreciation of our Cathedral which plays such an important role in the City of Exeter and its surrounding communities.
Meeting People and Enjoying History
I started to volunteer many years ago. I had increasing spare time and wanted to volunteer for an important organisation, meeting the public and working in an historic building. The Cathedral was an obvious choice as I had a background in teaching religion and had held various volunteer positions in churches in Kent and subsequently in Devon. I had also recently been involved with writing a history of a large church in Kent which had caused me to become interested to some degree in church architecture and Victorian restoration projects.
Walking and Talking
For those who know me it’s simple, I‘m nosey! I like to talk to people. What better thing than to guide strangers around the building, this most beautiful building, that I have the privilege of working in?