This post publishes at the beginning of the long school holidays, although you may notice I’ve omitted the word ‘summer’! It actually feels rather autumnal as I write this at the end of July with the wind whipping through the trees and the ground wet underfoot from a recent shower. I do hope, however, that whatever the summer months bring to you, and wherever you may go on holidays or days out visiting, you might take a look at our members’ page, and plan to visit one or more of our sacred places.
Having re-read Laura’s fascinating blog-post from last month, I wonder how many of you have you visited Westminster Abbey and seen the Coronation Chair or studied the Cosmati Pavement in person. Have you experienced the peace of Buckfast Abbey or learned about reconciliation at Coventry? Ever marvelled at the 800-metre-long nave in Liverpool Cathedral?
I wonder how many of our amazing spaces you have visited, stood and looked around in awe, experienced the chill and the thrill of our ancient buildings or immersed yourselves in their history and heritage stories. We have so much to explore and marvel at: stairs, steeples, towers and domes, windows, arches, ceilings, floors, embroidery, sculptures, artwork, mapwork, altars, icons, bricks, stone, simple and ornate.
Our Visitor Engagement Managers and Family Learning teams are busy organising events and activities for all ages this summer, both inside and outside cloistered walls, and we look forward to welcoming you and sharing all sorts of encounters. There are so many experiences on offer: from open air theatres, organ recitals, creative workshops and craft, trails and tours. I’m quite sure there’s an exhibition or entertainment programme hosted by our members that will appeal to every taste! You can even see the whole world at Southall Minster!
Most of our membership are centrally located in our cities and are accessible by public transport, whilst other minsters and abbeys in more rural areas have parking available if you need to drive. There’s even a network of cycle routes – Here’s the link to Cycling UK’s website with further details of turning your bike ride into a pilgrimage!
On that thought, why not buy a Pilgrim Passport as a souvenir of your visit? I designed these booklets to include space for you to record your own thoughts and memories of your experiences in our sacred places, and if you ask at the welcome desk or shop at most of our member sites, they will gladly stamp your passport! The books are on sale in cathedral/abbey shops for just £4.99, and some organisations have an online shop where you can buy before your visit and use the check list inside to plan ahead for your trip.
Plus, of course it would be remiss of me not to mention our raison d’être – significant Christian places of worship where the daily life of prayer and praise has been lived for centuries. Our daily worship and Evensongs are open to anyone to join, to experience the music, ritual and prayerful life of these sacred buildings. The links on our members page will take you to each website where you can look up their service times, and events programme for the coming months.
So, whatever the weather and wherever you go this summer, do take the opportunity to visit us. Grab your passport and post a comment below to let us know where you went and what you enjoyed the most!
Sarah Page, Co-Secretary Cathedrals Plus