SEE US IN A NEW LIGHT
Lucy Cooke, the Cathedral’s Volunteer Coordinator, writes…
One of the things that has always struck me in the 20 years or so I have been working in the field of volunteer coordination, is the passion, drive and enthusiasm that motivates those people who choose to give up their precious time to support a place or a cause. With so many organisations competing for people’s time, it’s important to recognise that there are many reasons why a volunteer chooses to support you and to make sure that you can fulfill their requirements as much as them fulfilling your organisation’s needs. Having now spent 6 months with the volunteers here at Newcastle Cathedral, I can attest to the fact that here is no different! Some of our volunteers have come from within the Cathedral’s worshipping congregation. Their motivation comes perhaps from within their personal faith and an attachment to the church to which they belong. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be true for most if not all of our regular volunteers, but that isn’t the case. Some of them are interested in history and are fascinated by the position and impact the Cathedral has had on the developing city of Newcastle over the centuries. Some are inspired by the Cathedral’s sense of radical welcome to devote time to supporting that particular function. Many are motivated by faith, but many are not – we are open to volunteers of all faiths and none. The only crucial requirement to being a Newcastle Cathedral Volunteer is a desire to be part of our continuing journey and to use your skills to support us along the way. In return the Cathedral offers opportunities to develop new skills, make new friends and meet a rich and varied range of people.
Over the next few months, I would like to share the stories of some of our volunteers with you, giving them the chance to tell you what it is about Newcastle Cathedral that is important to them, what attracts them to give up their time to support us and what they get up to when they are here! I thought to start with though, I should get the ball rolling by sharing a little bit about why working here is important to me.
I was born and brought up in Newcastle and have spent most of my life here in the North East apart from a 4 year stint at University. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve trips into the city centre when my parents would often offer me a choice of something to do aside from shopping! I would inevitably choose to visit either the Joicey Museum (sadly no longer there) or the Cathedral. We were not a religious or church-going family but there was something about the Cathedral that drew me in even at an early age. I was especially fond of the brasses, in particular the Thornton Brass and remember having hours of fun creating rubbings of brasses and stones around the building. As I grew up, although my visits became fewer in number and I moved further away from any interest in the church or faith, the Cathedral remained as a special place for me and somewhere I would be drawn to if I needed some space to think. I never imagined though that I could end up working in this wonderful place but almost 40 years after, as a little girl, I stood in awe in front of the large Thornton Brass, which is exactly what has happened!
Clearly, as a member of staff my route to get here has been slightly different from that of many of our volunteers but I imagine my desire to work here comes from a very similar place to their motivations to volunteer. Having developed a sense of faith fairly recently there is something in that that motivates me to be here too although I am delighted that faith isn’t seen as a prerequisite to being either a volunteer or member of paid staff. Not surprisingly perhaps, the Thornton Brass is no longer my favourite item in the Cathedral now that I have grown up (!) Aside from the crypt, which is my favourite place to go for peace and reflection, I am now drawn to the Stephen Cox Sculpture, a beautiful piece depicting the broken host of the Eucharist and the ellipse of a tilted chalice, proclaiming the love of God broken for the needs of the world. It articulates perfectly for me part of the draw the Cathedral has on me. There seems to be a certain serendipity in that it sits above the medieval brass that I remember so fondly from my childhood too. It’s as if 8 and 48 year old me come together standing in front of these very different works of art.
The Cathedral is currently embarking on the next stage of its journey, not just in terms of physical refurbishment of the building and its heritage but also in revitalising and expanding the community of people who share in its life. Our volunteers already play such an integral part in that life and their significance (and their numbers!) are destined to increase as we continue to move forward. It is an immense privilege to be playing my part in that process and I look forward to meeting and welcoming many new volunteers to our team, from as diverse a range of communities as possible, and to learning about what it is that draws them to this place and what keeps them here. Watch this space to share in their stories too!