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Here at the Cathedral we are fortunate to have an amazing army of volunteers who give up some of their spare time and contribute their skills for the benefit of the Cathedral building and its visitors.
The Cathedral Flower Guild has 53 volunteers and their work is evident for all to admire. The history of this particular band of volunteers stretches back nearly a century and featured in an article in the last e-bulletin. In this October edition, Head of the Flower Guild, Ann Meardon, gives us a flavour of how things are done today.
‘The use of fresh flowers that need to be watered, maintained and replenished conveys to people that the Cathedral is a living place which is well cared for and loved.
It is not known exactly when fresh flowers were first used in the Cathedral. Since the earliest times, images of flowers have featured in stained glass windows, on stonework, in embroidery on copes and vestments, and in wall paintings.
Flowers have traditionally been used to express the beauty of creation and to reflect the different seasons of the Church’s year, such as Christmas and Easter. They are used at times of great celebration such as weddings and baptisms and to bring comfort at times of sadness.
Carefully arranged flowers should fit appropriately into a sacred setting, and flowers are positioned in the Cathedral to enhance rather than dominate the space. They are placed securely so as not to create an obstruction or a danger to visitors. Arrangements can be found regularly in the Martyrdom niche, under the Books of Remembrance, to the left of the High Altar, in the Corona, and at the back of the Nave. Currently the Flower Guild provides five floral displays every fortnight throughout the year, except during Lent and Advent when there are no flowers at all.
Today, the Flower Guild has 53 members, all of whom are volunteers. It consists of men and women from all walks of life within the Diocese of Canterbury. They have in common a love of flowers and a talent for flower arranging. Some members have exhibited with great success at the Chelsea Flower Show; some are members of National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies.
Others trained at the Constance Spry School of Flower Arranging and many have learnt their craft through flower clubs, colleges and further education.
Each member is placed on a rota two or three times per year and is responsible for the arrangement lasting two weeks. The flowers are chosen and ordered by me in advance taking into account the seasons, the Church calendar, and any special requests from the Dean and Chapter. They are delivered by Ushers the Florist and placed in buckets by each arrangement spot.
The arranger then creates a design using a bowl filled with oasis, and includes foliage brought from home to give the arrangement shape and form. In the past, when arrangements were much taller, it was often necessary for an arranger to stand on the top rung of a ladder to get the topmost flowers in place. Nowadays, thankfully, this practice has been abandoned, and the arrangements have been reduced to a more practical height.
There are many ways in which flower arrangers can be involved in interpreting the Christian story though flowers. Some arrangers enjoy producing contemporary and interpretive designs, such as the Easter display in the Corona which suggests the path to the cross, and with the use of red flowers in the Martyrdom symbolising Becket’s blood.
It was a great privilege for the Guild to be asked to arrange flowers for the Royal Maundy service, the Archbishop’s Enthronement in 2003, and the fundraising Nave Dinner when flowers were arranged on sixty candelabra to decorate the tables. Less elaborate but equally lovely are the 350 Mothering Sunday posies made each year by the Flower Guild for the Sunday Club to distribute.
The popular Easter Garden which is the responsibility of Edward Asquith, a member of the Flower Guild, tells the Easter story and is constructed each year outside the South West door of the Cathedral and kept in place throughout Eastertide.
Throughout the seasons, flowers bring great joy and solace to the many visitors and those who work and worship in the Cathedral’.
If you would like more information about becoming a volunteer here at the Cathedral then please click here for more details.