Wakefield Cathedral: making lasting connections

CHURCHES

A Community Outreach Programme at Wakefield Cathedral which got off the ground thanks to a £45,000 Allchurches Trust grant is set to continue after proving a resounding success.

Wakefield Cathedral’s Community Outreach Programme emerged after a major refurbishment to the cathedral. Coordinated by the Community Outreach Officer, Gillian Bunn, the programme aims to teach people about the history and significance of the cathedral, as well as uniting the local community. It is split across five key areas including; pre-school children, school age children, Christian nurture for young people, adult education and volunteer outreach.
 
Pre-Covid, activities included Cathedral Crafts for adults, which enables older people to reconnect with the community through creative activities; Film Food Friends Fun group aimed at 12 to 16-year-olds; summer holiday drop-in days and arts and crafts for school age children; and heritage open days packed full of tours, historic titbits and teaching.
Children learning in the Cathedral
Making crafts in the Cathedral

“I love my job, I think my favourite part is being able to share such a wonderful place with everyone who comes into the cathedral – regardless of their faith, age, background or culture. 

“I never cease to be surprised by the things that some of the children notice in the cathedral with fresh eyes every time.” Gillian Bunn, Community Outreach Officer

Allchurches funded Gillian’s role from 2018 to 2020 and supported her in the cathedral’s mission to better engage with the community at large, but especially with younger families. 

One year into her post, visitor numbers to cathedral activities rose significantly, as hundreds of people attended the Music Makers workshop and Rhubarb Rhubarb, which complemented the city’s Rhubarb Festival. Many of the participants had never visited the cathedral before. 

Following this success, in 2018, Wakefield Cathedral was named in the top 10 of inspirational places to visit during Heritage Open Days for its family friendly event themed around Extraordinary Women.

It’s not always been sunshine and roses, and like many other cathedrals and churches, the COVID-19 pandemic had a massive effect on Wakefield’s physical community outreach. However, not to be deterred, community outreach activities moved online and they have been hosting online events including Heritage Open Days, Messy Cathedral and online school visits, ever since.

A mother and daughter make crafts in the Cathedral
Online learning

“Over the past three years the grant from Allchurches Trust has enabled us to develop and adapt our outreach programme to give thousands of people across the generations the opportunity to engage with Wakefield Cathedral. This has been especially important during 2020 when we have been able to move our work online to continue to support the public locally and beyond.” Gillian Bunn

In December 2020, virtual activities spread Christmas cheer over the festive period. Wakefield hosted online cathedral visits for local primary school and secondary school children and the cathedral held its second online Messy Cathedral for local families.

The cathedral’s determination to continue reaching out to its communities online is testament to the strength of its outreach programme. 

Over the three years of the project, there have been 350 events, workshops and online activities - eight for pre-school children, 105 for schoolchildren, 103 Christian nurture events for young people and 134 focused on adult education. There have been an incredible 16,641 participants/interactions with the outreach programme during that time.

The Community Outreach Programme has gone from strength to strength over its three years of Allchurches funding, and Gillian has an excellent foundation in which to continue her post and connect with the community for the foreseeable future.