THEATRE CHAPLAINCY UK is live-streaming meditation and prayer services every Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30 p.m., when theatres would have been starting matinée performances. Those are the times, the Senior Chaplain, the Revd Lindsay Meader, said, “when we may find ourselves particularly mindful of the buildings and shows and people we love and miss”.
With no prospect of theatres’ reopening soon, and theatre staff widely scattered, there are few opportunities for face-to-face ministry at present. The chaplaincy has built on the success of Late Night Lent, a weekly late-night, post-show gathering that met, until lockdown, in the stone chapel at the House of St Barnabas, off Soho Square, in London.
It moved online, and was live-streamed. Matinee Meditation and Prayer (MMP) followed, and its posting on Facebook is reported to be particularly appreciated by those theatre workers who are now working shifts in supermarkets and are unable to watch it live. Ms Meader, who is the lead theatre chaplain for the diocese of London and chaplain to the Palace Theatre, said: “We plan to offer this until our theatre doors can open and our curtains rise once more.”
Actors were a resilient bunch, she said, used to knock-back and what could seem like ongoing rejection, but the fear and anxiety for the future was growing amid questions about when new productions could even be planned, or existing shows return. “Most worrying is the lack of response from the Government,” she said. “All we are getting is the odd tweet from Oliver Dowden [the Culture Secretary] to say they might be about to release something — and then, nothing.”
Prayer requests come in for MMP, and people are prayed for, by Christian name only, during the quiet and meditative service. A prayer diary identifies a particular group in the sector each day. The chaplaincy is to open up a gathering space on Zoom, “simply for people to come and encourage and comfort and console each other”, Ms Meader said. “As much as we miss visiting theatres, we are still here for people of all faiths and none.”
Inspired by the cartoonist Dave Walker’s “Beatitudes for a Global Pandemic” (Comment, 26 June), she has produced a set of beatitudes for the theatre industry. They cover everything from producers, playwrights, composers, and choreographers to box-office workers, stage-doorkeepers, and critics, and include: “Blessed are those who work in lighting and sound, for they give us fresh eyes to see and ears to hear. Blessed are the audiences, for they come with open hearts and minds and leave enriched. Blessed are those who work in wardrobe, wigs, hair, and make-up, for theirs is the craft that makes illusion real.”
And, with particular reference to the present situation, “Blessed are all those desperately missing live theatre and lamenting the lockdown, both theatre makers and partakers; for, when the doors can safely open and the curtains rise once more, we will know ourselves to be truly blessed.”