When attending Services or special events in the Cathedral you will be met with a warm welcome and a smile by volunteers who are wearing a blue badge in the shape of a shield. These volunteers are our Stewards and apart from the width of their smile are responsible for making sure you get to where you need to go.
Stewards are identifiable by the blue badge they wear in the shape of a shield which bears the Greek letters ’IX’ representing the initials of Jesus Christ. The badge conveys the sign of the ministry and community of Canterbury. This role dates back to St Augustine in 597.
At the forefront of the Cathedral’s ministry of hospitality and welcome, Stewards are in close contact with those who have come to worship or to attend a concert or formal ceremony in the Cathedral. They are at the same time, responsible for the welfare and sensitive ordering of those who come, sometimes in large numbers, to this holy place. Stewards are all regular members of the Cathedral congregation and there are currently sixty-one volunteers giving their time to undertake this work. Andrew Roberts and Jane Maple are the joint ‘Head Stewards’ who are assisted by three deputies, and are jointly responsible for ensuring that the Services and special events needing to be stewarded have sufficient volunteers provided.
During 2011, Cathedral Stewards looked after some 86,000 people. This was split with 72,000 attending services whilst 14,000 people attended concerts and talks. During the year, Stewards undertook approximately 4,350 hours of duty.
Stewards encourage people attending Services and special event to be seated appropriately. At large Services where the Cathedral is full to capacity, they ensure that every available seat is filled. This involves considerable tact and a great deal of diplomacy. A favourite question often asked of Stewards is “Have you seen my wife/husband?” In a congregation of 2,000 people, that can sometime be a little difficult to achieve but the end result is that normally all are united! Stewards try to ensure that groups and families are seated together. Budget airlines would be proud of the way in which Stewards manage to use every available seat!
One of the most challenging aspects of being a Steward is the collection of the offertory during Services. When Stewards distribute collection bags amongst the congregation, these collection bags seem to develop a life of their own, promptly travelling in all sorts of directions. Fortunately, they all turn up in the end albeit in the hands of a different Steward…
Time and time again, Stewards are thanked and told how wonderful it is to worship in the Cathedral. Visitors from other parishes are in wonder at how large congregations act in unison and participate in Services and are marshalled. Above all the comment so often expressed by visitors is
what a wonderful welcome we have had and one that we will remember for ever