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Churches offer cool relief from heatwave

27 July 2018

Temperatures were expected to reach 37°C in parts of the UK this week 


Twenty fire engines and about 125 firefighters tackle a grass fire the size of four football pitches on Woolwich Common, London, on Tuesday

Twenty fire engines and about 125 firefighters tackle a grass fire the size of four football pitches on Woolwich Common, London, on Tuesday

AS BRITAIN swelters in record temperatures, the Church is offering its buildings as a great place to cool down.

Several cathedrals took to social media to encourage more visitors by advertising the relief that can be found within their stone walls. Canterbury posted a message on Twitter: “With temperatures set to reach 30°C in Canterbury this week come and escape the heat in the tranquil environment of the Crypt.” It later promoted a £2 “ice-cold brew” of chilled tea and spring water at its shop.

Durham and York also posted messages, saying that they were a sanctuary for those looking for respite from the heat. Durham, where entry is free, is staying open until 8 p.m., and York said: “The Met Office has issued an amber heatwave alert suggesting people ‘Stay indoors and out of the sun.’ Well, look no further. . . Doors open at 9am.” The £11 admission charge for adults still applies.

In south London, the Vicar of St Barnabas’s, Eltham, the Revd Stephen Cook, coined the slogan “Chill with God.” He warned his Twitter followers that temperatures in SE9 were due to reach 31°C, and invited them to come into the cool of his church.

He said: “The one advantage of a gothic building, which has nine-inch-thick walls, is that it maintains a steady temperature in hot weather, around 18 to 20°C. We offer a welcome afternoon every Wednesday, but, in the hot weather, we are extending it in terms of hours to the hottest hours, and offering cool drinks, too. We find people trickle in and some stay and pray or chat.”

He was also keeping an eye on two elderly and vulnerable parishioners, he said, to ensure that they did not suffer from the effects of too much heat.

All Saints’, Kettering, posted a message with the simple invite: “Beat the heatwave — drop into a church — churches are cool.”

A spokeswoman for the Church of England said: “As well as looking glorious, our historic church buildings tend to stay nicely cool, and are the perfect place of sanctuary in the heatwave. We have around 16,000 in total; so there’s probably one near by.

“Most are open all day; so why not pop in for a moment’s calm, take a break from the sun, and experience some of the country’s richest architectural treasures along the way.”

Some churches have turned to prayer for relief. Aldeburgh Parish Church, in Suffolk, used the Prayer for Rain in the Book of Common Prayer in a weekend matins earlier this month, and St Paul’s, Winchmore Hill, in north London, employs it daily in the evening service. The Rector of Nantwich, Cheshire, the Revd Dr Mark Hart, said: “I nearly used it at choral evensong last Sunday, but thought I should wait until after [Wednesday’s] Nantwich Show.”

One Daily Telegraph reader this week recalled reading the prayer as a boy to while away tedious sermons. Peter Shaw, from south London, wrote “I was amused by the enjoinder to ‘Send us such moderate rain and showers that we may receive the fruits of the earth’, and its contrast with the ‘Prayer for Fair Weather’ immediately after: ‘Although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved plague of rain and water . . . send us such weather that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season.”

The sunshine has brought a welcome bonus for churches that have solar panels. Gloucester Cathedral, which is believed to be the oldest building of its type in the world to have installed them — it installed 150 solar panels on the roof of the nave in November 2016 — reported a surge in power. A spokesman said that output had almost doubled, providing a carbon-dioxide emission-saving of 1728 kg: the equivalent of planting 5.7 trees.

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