NHS vaccine team moves out as preparations to welcome back visitors get underway, and the Salisbury Cathedral Choir resume singing with a congregation present.
The early May bank holiday weekend has been a big weekend for Salisbury Cathedral, full of joy but tinged with some regret.
On Saturday 1 May, we said goodbye to the Sarum South Primary Care Network vaccination team, who have played a big part in Cathedral life over the past few months, and on Sunday 2 May we resumed ‘in person’ choral worship.
Plans to re-open to visitors later in the month are also well under way.
The NHS team aren’t going far. The vaccination operation is moving across the Close to another Cathedral building, Leaden Hall. The building is currently being used by the education team for schools workshops and by staff for large meetings but will now be transformed into a vaccine hub in the next phase of the roll-out.
Since January the Sarum South Primary Care Network team and their volunteers (around 90 people in all) have vaccinated over 35,000 people in the Cathedral - around 1600 people were vaccinated on Saturday alone. The final jab was given to 58-year-old Gerard Henderson, administered by Dr Rob Hewetson. (Pictures supplied)
The departure of our NHS colleagues did not go unmarked. A special farewell ceremony was held at the end of Saturday’s session in the Cathedral, at which the Very Revd Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury thanked the team for all they had done for the community and the Cathedral, and The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury added his thanks and delivered a blessing.
Dr Michele Giorgi Joint Clinical Director Sarum South PCN also paid tribute to not only his staff and volunteers, but the Cathedral organists who have played for every vaccination session since they began, and Cathedral staff and volunteers who have worked alongside the NHS team throughout.
Gifts were exchanged to mark the occasion. The Sarum South Primary Care Network presented the Cathedral with a frame collage created using consumables from the vaccination sessions, and the Cathedral gave each participating practice a print of the Patrick Blower cartoon featuring the Cathedral as a vaccine centre, which was published in the Telegraph on 18 January 2021.
The Very Revd Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury said:
“We will be sad to see the NHS team go. Their distinctive blue cubicles, vaccinators and volunteers have become a familiar sight in and around the Cathedral, along with the thousands of patients turning up for their jabs. Their story is and will remain part of our story forever.”
Dr Michele Giorgi Joint Clinical Director Sarum South PCN said
"We would like to thank the Cathedral for being amazing hosts for this exceptional programme, the staff and volunteers could not have done more to help the vaccination teams protect our population from COVID-19. It has been a truly memorable experience for all involved."
The Right Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury said:
“It has been a privilege to witness the vaccination rollout not just here in the Cathedral, but across the diocese, and to observe the ways in which the community and medical professions have worked selflessly towards a common goal. It is equally joyous to be returning to choral worship ‘in person’. Music is a precious expression of God’s love and to be able to gather and hear it once again is wonderful.”
The return to ‘in person’ choral worship was welcomed by the Cathedral’s Director of Music, David Halls and his Assistant Director, John Challenger. The pair have forged a special bond with the NHS team, spending hundreds of hours at the organ console providing a soothing musical backdrop to the vaccination sessions.
David Halls, Salisbury Cathedral’s Director of Music said:
“Being near the frontline during this extraordinary health campaign has been an honour and having the opportunity to contribute in some small way to defeating this pandemic has been both moving and humbling. However, we are first and foremost cathedral musicians and choral music is at the heart of our daily worship. To be able to return to some semblance of normality in that respect is wonderful. We have missed it.”
A well as being the first service sung by the choir with a congregation present since Christmas, Sunday's Evensong was a special occasion for three probationers or trainee choristers, who admitted as full choristers – a personal achievement for all three and a historic day for the Cathedral.
Despite the easing of lockdown however, social distancing regulations remains in place and numbers able to worship together in the Cathedral are still limited.
Booking for services remains essential and face masks must still be worn inside the Cathedral. Congregational singing is not yet allowed.