Wall of HOPE: ‘a catalyst for conversation’ in Worcester Cathedral
‘They’re a key, that really open the door of prayer,’ said Stephen Edwards, Residentiary Canon at Worcester Cathedral, talking about the 6 foot, purple backlit ‘HOPE’ letters that recently spent time at the cathedral. These letters, known as the HOPE Wall, were originally designed as a visually-striking place for people to stick post-it note prayers, though COVID-19 restrictions have meant written prayers now need to be recorded virtually on the wall using a QR code instead. However, it seems that this hasn’t limited the wall’s effectiveness in inviting people to pray.
‘One person said she’d come back [to the cathedral] deliberately just to seek out these letters, because she felt that she was able to pray in front of them in a way that she wouldn’t normally pray,’ said Stephen. ‘She wasn’t a regular churchgoer, she was just someone who tried to pray but found it hard, and these letters were like the key for her…so she came back, sought out the letters and just spent time praying with them.’
Worcester Cathedral initially placed the letters right in the middle of their space as part of their ‘Cathedral at Night’ event in mid-September. ‘As soon as people turned the corner from the entrance they saw, in a candlelit…very dark cathedral, these letters…People just went ‘Wow!’ and [their] faces lit up,’ said Stephen. He described how those faces ‘were a joy’ to see as they paused in front of the giant letters. ‘For some that will have been just purely because it was “Wow, different”. But others, I think it spoke to them at some level…many people were visibly praying, closing their eyes and speaking words…many used the QR code…for some there was just a sense of their soul being lifted because of what it looked like - and who knows what God does in that moment.’
Particularly exciting was the fact that the Cathedral at Night event drew a ‘different type of visitor’ to those who might traditionally have frequented the building. Stephen described families coming to join in with the ‘torch trail’ they had organized around the space, as well as people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. It seemed a perfect time to hold such an event, because ‘people were ready to come back… [it was a] real opportunity for people to feel hopeful again, that they could venture into a sacred place, a public space, and feel that it was all safely managed.’ He believes it was the ‘right moment to capture that sense of change.’
Visitors to the cathedral spoke to welcomers and stewards who listened and guided people to other resources where appropriate. People spoke openly about the difficulties they were facing at this time, and Stephen described the HOPE Wall as being ‘a catalyst for conversation’. They hope to continue the theme of ‘hope’ in future events – to share the message that ‘hope is a key part of faith that isn’t just a simplistic dream, but actually hope is something that we have because of the promise of love through Jesus Christ.’
After the Cathedral at Night event, the letters spent some time in a side chapel, where they still led people to pause, reflect and pray, working in a slightly different way. Stephen told us that he would love to do a similar event using them again next year if restrictions have lifted, so that they could create ‘some kind of physical memory of the wall’ and the prayers that were prayed there.
If you’d like to use the HOPE Wall at an event, email Sue Jennens