By Owen Towndrow of Hereford Cathedral

Many of our cathedrals across the UK owe a great deal to volunteers. Without them, many cathedrals would not be able to open their doors. At Hereford Cathedral, we see our volunteers as our keystone; without them, our Cathedral could not fulfil its key functions.

The Cathedral has 315 volunteers who take on a variety of roles. These include working in our Mappa Mundi & Chained Library Exhibition, serving during Sunday services, welcoming visitors, guiding visitors throughout our gardens, and arranging flowers. Unlike some cathedrals, we rely more on volunteers than staff to operate our visitor activities. We are very proud of our ‘warm welcome,’ frequently praised by visitors, and we owe much of this to our team of Welcomers who ensure visitors feel at ease regardless of their motivations for visiting.

As Visitor Engagement Officer at the Cathedral, I coordinate the volunteers who work in public-facing roles, such as Cathedral Guides. I work closely with our Volunteer Liaison Officer, David, who oversees all volunteers from induction to retirement. David works tirelessly to ensure all volunteers abide by Church of England guidelines.

Working with David, we have reinstated opportunities to give back to our volunteers, which were postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. In June 2023, we brought back our Volunteers Tea Party, tying it into Volunteers Week. Managed by The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Volunteers Week is the perfect opportunity to say ‘thank you’ for the thousands of hours of work and support our volunteers provide.

This June this year, we celebrated Volunteers Week again with a Tea Party. We also highlighted the contributions of volunteers who joined in recent years. One such volunteer is Peter O’Neill, who, in addition to his work in our Mappa Mundi & Chained Library Exhibition, developed and runs a Stained Glass Tour—the first of its kind at the Cathedral.

Peter’s work as a volunteer at Hereford Cathedral is inspiring. When asked what advice he would give to prospective volunteers, Peter described volunteering at the Cathedral as “an excellent opportunity—many volunteers become good friends… I can’t imagine a better place to volunteer, surrounded by such historical beauty.” Peter’s sentiments reflect the broader experience of many of our volunteers who find not only a sense of purpose but also a sense of community amongst fellow volunteers. Each volunteer brings unique skills and perspectives, enriching our community and helping us maintain the Cathedral as a vibrant, welcoming place for all.

To support and nurture our volunteers, we offer training for many roles. For example, we have recently introduced volunteer-led ‘refresher sessions’ for all of our guides. We believe that investing in our volunteers’ growth not only enhances their experience but also benefits the Cathedral as a whole.

The sense of community among our volunteers is strong. Social events, such as the Volunteers Tea Party and our Volunteer Evensong, maintains good relationships among volunteers. These events provide an opportunity for volunteers to share their experiences, celebrate their achievements, and simply enjoy each other’s company.

The importance of volunteers to Hereford Cathedral cannot be overstated. They are the keystone of our community, bringing energy, enthusiasm, and a deep sense of commitment to everything they do. As we look to the future, we are committed to continuing to support and celebrate our volunteers, recognising that their contributions are vital to our ongoing success. Their passion and dedication ensure that Hereford Cathedral remains a place of historical significance, spiritual enrichment, and warm hospitality for all who visit.

Owen Towndrow
Visitor Engagement Officer, Hereford Cathedral

Additional Links:
NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations)
Visit Hereford Cathedral:

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