25 Years of Welcomers

On Tuesday the 13th of May, we will hold our annual Welcomers day. This is always a memorable occasion, but this year is particularly special because it marks the 25th year of their service. This will be marked by the presentation of certificates to long-serving Welcomers, alongside the usual schedule of events including a Eucharist, a recital and a special tour.

Bristol Diocese Mothers' Union have been a welcoming presence at our Cathedral ever since 1989, when then-Dean Wesley Carr sought to improve the reception our visitors are given. The Mothers' Union immediately volunteered their services, and the response was so great that two full days of training had to be organised to prepare the new volunteers for the task.

Our Welcomers hail from all over the Diocese, with each Deanery organised locally. Individual parishes furnish welcomers, and where a parish has multiple volunteers they share the load. They are present every weekday at our busiest visiting times of 10 to 3. Where possible our 80-strong cadre of Welcomers work in pairs, providing visitors with leaflets in their own language, offering guidance, and counting the numbers coming through our doors. A normal day usually means a little more than 200 adult visitors between those times, but when Joanna Lumley's Gromit was stationed at the Cathedral last year that number was often upwards of 700!

"The Cathedral has done a lot for me, so it's good to give something back"

To get a better idea of what it means to be a Welcomer, we spoke to their co-ordinator, Barbara Edwards. She has been a Welcomer for fifteen years, and took up the reins seven years ago. She was more than happy to tell us about her experience:

"It's more than just enjoyable being a welcomer. Even if there's only one person you can help, it's worth doing. Having a chat to them, finding out where they come from, making them feel welcome... They really appreciate someone taking an interest in them, you know? They particularly appreciate how many different languages we have for our leaflets. "One for us!", they say. Their faces light up!"

Barbara is proud of the work she and the Welcomers do, but also says how much she enjoys volunteering with us. The social aspect of being a Welcomer is a large part of the appeal:

"The Cathedral is such a lovely place. the people are nice, and it's a great atmosphere. It's an interest, and I love coming down. Really, the Cathedral has done a lot for me, so it's good to give something back. It's a really rewarding thing to do."

All of us at Bristol Cathedral wish to extend our thanks to our fantastic Welcomers. Having a friendly, personal welcome to our church is so valuable to tourists and regular visitors alike. We look back fondly on their dedicated service since 1989, and here's to another 25 years.

Posted on 12th May 2014