When I survey the scaffold cross

I wrote this for Great St Mary’s, the University Church, Cambridge’s Newsletter, having been recently appointed by Great St Mary’s as Marketplace Chaplain.

I wonder how many people have noticed that there is a humble, even industrial looking cross presiding high above the marketplace.  Perhaps it’s my artist’s eye, but I find myself looking at the world with a different perspective and noticing the unusual. The cross in question, is constructed from scaffolding poles and presumably, at one point housed electric lighting or cables.  But it seems now to stand empty and yet as a silent presence.

A couple of years ago on coming away from breakfast at Michaelhouse after the Easter dawn service at Great St Mary’s, it was gloriously lit by the early morning sun and was transfigured.  Which is particularly poignant because of its very location. This cross is at the back end of the market; next to the rubbish compactor, the stall holders’ underground toilet and general detritus of a busy seven day market, a modern Golgotha of the messiness of life.  

I am delighted to have been commissioned as Chaplain to the marketplace and join the ministry team in seeking to support Great St Mary’s to answer the questions ‘what are we being called to be and what must we do to be a community in pursuit of the Truth.  

As some will know, I was previously a Councillor for Market Ward and as a long standing Cambridge resident, an artist and as a member of Great St Mary’s I have engaged with the market and stall holders. Over the last few weeks, I have been out and about talking and listening with many of the stall holders.  Over Holy Week, I gave out nearly 100 hot cross buns to stall holders and others in the market.

I have been encouraged by the response I have received so far and hope to act as a bridge between the activities within our church and the people of our wider parish.

As a Chaplain, I will be seeking to be alongside the community as a disciple of Jesus, in our city centre parish, in particular, but not exclusive to, the people of the physical Market Square space of all faiths and none. To chat with, to listen to, to pray with and for and by doing so demonstrating the Gospel of love and acceptance.

I have been surprised by the number of people who don’t know what a Chaplain is or even have understood the word.  At its core, chaplaincy is about context and serving all those within that community. I sought to do this in the act of giving out hot cross buns, where I deliberately offered the trays to the stall holders rather than just members of the public.  As an act of serving the server.

My hope and prayer over the coming weeks and months , supported by other members of the ministry team and your prayers, is to be like that rudimentary cross, a simple witness. To walk alongside others, in good times and in times of challenge and change, amongst the vibrancy, colour and complexity of our Market Square.   

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