Salisbury Cathedral bids farewell to NHS team and prepares for reopening

Salisbury reopen in May

Salisbury Cathedral announced that the Sarum South Primary Care Network vaccination team, who have played a big part in Cathedral life over the past few months will be 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 total) 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 Gerald Henderson, administered by Rob Hewetson.

The departure of the NHS colleagues did not go unmarked. A special farewell ceremony was held at the last session in the Cathedral, at which the Very Revd Nicolas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury thanked the team for all they had done for the community and the Cathedral, and The Right Revd Nicolas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury added his thanks and delivered a blessing.

Dr Michele Girogi, Joint Clinical Director of Saum South PCN, has also paid tribute to his staff and volunteers who have worked alongside the NHS team throughout and to the Cathedral organists who have played for every vaccination session since they began.

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 Nicolas 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 of 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 today 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.”

The last service was sung by the choir with a congregation present for last year’s Christmas. On 2 May, there was an evening service (Evensong) for 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, social distancing regulations still remain in place and numbers able to worship together in the Cathedral are still limited. Booking for services remains essential, face masks must be worn inside the building and congregational singing is not yet allowed.

For any information, please visit Salisbury Cathedral’s website.