In this week's #BlessedIsShe, we meet Louisa Pittman, a former Verger at the Cathedral.
This morning, in Norwich Cathedral, Louisa will be ordained as a deacon by the Rt Revd Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich.
In this centenary year of women's suffrage, we are celebrating the women who play important roles in the daily life of the Cathedral community.
Each Saturday of the year, we will be sharing a different story here and across our social media.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and search for the #BlessedIsShe hashtag.
What’s your connection with Bristol Cathedral?
I first joined the Cathedral as a member of the congregation when I moved to Bristol to start postgraduate studies in archaeology at the University of Bristol. I soon started volunteering as a member of the serving team and as a determined brass polisher. These volunteer jobs gave me the opportunity to get to know the Verger team, and eventually I was able to take up the opportunity to join them as a part-time Assistant Verger. I moved up to full-time work when the position of Verger opened up, and I worked with the team for another four and a half years. During this time I was finishing my doctorate and then going through the selection process to train for ordination. I left the cathedral two years ago to train at Westcott House in Cambridge, and I am now taking up my title post as Assistant Curate of Wymondham Abbey in the Diocese of Norwich.
How long have you been associated with the Cathedral?
I first started attending the Cathedral in 2008, less than a week after moving from South Carolina in the United States. I started working with the Vergers in 2011, and I left the Cathedral when I moved to Cambridge in 2016.
What first drew you to Bristol Cathedral?
When I moved to Bristol, I hadn't been a member of a parish church for a long time, because my previous work in the Merchant Marine and contract archaeology had meant frequent moves and little time off. I saw returning to academic studies as a welcome opportunity for some stability, and I missed being part of a church community. I initially went to the Cathedral partly because I lived very close by in the city centre, and partly because I remembered attending Peterborough Cathedral as a child and loving the beauty of both building and liturgy. I expected to be just one in a crowd on my first Sunday, so I was surprised by the immediate welcome I received and the interest shown by both congregation and clergy, who made me feel very much at home.
What have been some of your personal highlights?
As a server and Verger, I especially enjoyed participating in the kind of large-scale liturgy that the Cathedral does so well. I particularly remember the Dean's installation in 2010, the first big service in which I participated. I came to love the drama and intensity of the Triduum, and the Vigil on Holy Saturday has become my favourite service of the church's year. There were also some things about day-to-day work that have become fond memories - the silence and peacefulness of the building in the half hour before opening the main doors in the morning, the simplicity and stability of the daily Eucharist, the sometimes surprising ways in which the building and liturgy inspired and moved visitors. Mostly, though, it's the people that have been the highlight for me. My colleagues were both my friends and my family during my time in Bristol, and it was only with their support and encouragement that I was able to respond to the call to ordination. It will be the mundane and sometimes silly moments in the midst of very tough work when we laughed and bantered that I will remember for years to come.
What would you like to see the Cathedral doing over the next few years?
It was wonderful to see the Cathedral congregation growing and flourishing during the time I was there, and I would love to see that continue. I have also followed with the interest the continued efforts to strengthen existing ties with the city and to make new connections with parts of the community which historically have had little to do with the Cathedral. I have been encouraged by the emphasis on involvement with matters of social justice and living out the Gospel message of caring for those who are most vulnerable and in need, and I hope this will continue to be a key part of the Cathedral's mission.
What does the Cathedral mean for you?
Bristol Cathedral was the first community that welcomed me when I arrived as a stranger to this country, not knowing where I would find friendship and support. The Cathedral gave me a place to call "home" and the encouragement I needed to grow into my vocation. As a Verger, the familiarity with the building meant that I sometimes forgot what a unique and special place it is, but, since moving away, I really have missed the beauty of both building and worship and the warmth of the welcome I received there. Though I have moved on to another Diocese and will be ordained at Norwich Cathedral, I will always think of Bristol as my home cathedral.