- Jo Siedlecka
- Sep 18th, 2022 (Updated Sep 19th, 2022)
Chaplains from different faiths and denominations have been walking alongside the many thousands of people queueing to attend the Queen’s Lying-in-State at Westminster Hall over the last five days. Recognisable in their their Hi-Vis Faith Team vests, the chaplain service began at 9am on Wednesday morning and continued until Sunday evening.
The volunteer chaplains were recruited and commissioned by Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Dioceses of London and Southwark. They received an induction led by the Spiritual Care Team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.
A spokesman from Lambeth Palace said that chaplains would offer pastoral support, introducing themselves, having conversations, and, “only if requested, pray with people.”
One of the Catholic chaplains told ICN: “There were six in my team – one Muslim chaplain, one Jewish one, I was Catholic and the other two were Anglican.”
He said: “It really felt like I was talking with people in the midst of a pilgrimage, with a very finite goal. They wanted to pay their respects to the Queen and were prepared to walk and to suffer and be tired. The sacrifice they were making was worth it because they saw it as part of the greater good.
“A lot of people told me that they started talking to the people in front of them in the queue and behind them – complete strangers – that’s very much what happens on a pilgrimage. There is that sense of togetherness.
“I also spoke with a lot of the police and security guards standing all along the queue. I could feel how tired they were. A lot of the policemen I spoke to were on a 14 hour shift. I remember particularly two police officers who worked in Cumbria. They had been bussed down to London, and were staying in Heathrow in a hotel. They were rather tired but they said they felt the experience was absolutely worth it. They said it was one of the best things that they’ve done in their lives, in terms of policing, which I thought was very beautiful. The security people were working on 12 hour shifts. There was a sense of tiredness as well there.
“I was standing mainly between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge. I think people at that stage were very tired. They had been queuing for over eight hours and by then they could see the Houses of Parliament, yet they were told the queue at that point was another four hours to go – meandering in the park in front of Parliament and then going through security.
“There was a sense of ‘we’re there but we’re not quite there.’ It was actually a good point to be with them on their journey because they were probably slightly disappointed that they still had such a long time to go still. It led to some good and warm conversations. A lot of people were just saying how much they loved the Queen. Many said they felt it was the very least that they could for her. They saw it as their duty to come and pay their respects, to say thank you to the Queen who had given all her years of devoted duty to them. It was a wonderful experience to be there with them.”
Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined the Faith Teams when the queue first opened.
The Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted afterwards: “Volunteers from many faiths are offering comfort, support and a listening ear to people queuing to see Her Majesty. It was a privilege to be out with the Faith Team today, speaking to people and hearing stories of deep loss but also great hope, faith and love.”
Cardinal Vincent tweeted: “Privileged to join the Faith Team yesterday to speak with mourners in the queue to pay their respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, and to listen as they shared memories and what Her Majesty meant to them. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. May she rest in peace.”
Watch a Channel Four interview with them here: www.channel4.com/news/faith-leaders-join-mourners-queuing-to-see-queen-lying-in-state-2