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Hundreds of chaplains deployed to minister to the lying-in-state queue

13 September 2022


Lambeth Bridge and the Palace of Westminster

Lambeth Bridge and the Palace of Westminster

A TEAM of multifaith chaplains will be on hand to offer pastoral support to the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to line up to pay their respects to the late Queen as she lies in state in Westminster Hall from Wednesday night.

In 2002, an estimated 200,000 people filed past the late Queen Mother as she lay in state for three days before her funeral in Westminster Abbey. Far greater numbers — as many as one million people — are believed to want to attend the lying-in-state this week, which will last until a few hours before the state funeral at 11 a.m. on Monday.

The queue, which had already begun to form on Tuesday afternoon, is expected to snake for up to five miles from the Palace of Westminster, across Lambeth Bridge, and along the Thames embankment, ending in Southwark Park. The line is to be divided into sections, which are to close periodically to allow people to find refreshments and sit down before rejoining using designated wristbands. A “special access” queue for people with disabilities will run from Tate Britain to the Houses of Parliament.

In a last-minute rush to minister to the expected crowd, clergy in the dioceses of London and Southwark were invited by their archdeacons to volunteer to support mourners along the route in two- to three-hour slots over the five days. About 300 clergy listened in to an online planning meeting on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, Lambeth Palace confirmed that volunteer chaplains across the denominations and faiths would be making themselves known to people queueing. Chaplains, identifiable by Hi-Vis vests printed with “Faith Team”, will “move along with the crowd and will introduce themselves, have conversations, and, only if requested, pray with people”, a spokesman for Lambeth Palace said.

All volunteer chaplains have received an induction led by the Spiritual Care Team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

The Church Times understands that the chaplains are being assigned to one of three zones: the start of the queue in the Westminster area, in Lambeth, and in Southwark. Each of these areas has been allocated a “hub” from which chaplains can seek refreshment: St Matthew’s, Westminster, Lambeth Palace Library, and Southwark Cathedral.

The Vicar of St Matthew’s, the Revd Philip Chester, said on Tuesday that his hub would serve chaplains to the people exiting Westminster Hall into Parliament Square, having attended the lying-in-state.

“The church itself is almost hidden in a back street by the Home Office,” he said, “but the parish has a wide ministry in the local community and beyond. Part of our mission is to offer hospitality in the heart of the city, and this we will do during the lying-in-state by welcoming anyone who wants to pray, light a candle, or simply rest. Refreshments will be available through the day and early evening.”

The Vicar of St Stephen with St John, Westminster, the Revd Graham M. Buckle, was keen to sign up. He said on Tuesday: “People will have been queueing for hours; they may be vulnerable. Something momentous like this brings up all sorts of emotional responses from people.

“It is important that we are on hand to give the spiritual support that someone may need — to be available — but also to do so in an official capacity, rather than us rushing in trying to save souls. We are there to listen, to pray if necessary, and to offer support.”

The chaplaincy team, all of whom must be DBS checked, is being organised centrally by Lambeth Palace in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and continue during daylight hours until Sunday.

In guidance released by the Government earlier this week, the public were told to be prepared to queue for several hours and possibly overnight before going through airport-style security before entering Westminster Hall. Only small, single-zip bags are permitted, and any food and drink must be consumed before reaching the Hall. Firearms officers will be positioned en route.

The late Queen, who died in Balmoral last Thursday, lay under vigil in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh before she was flown to London from Edinburgh Airport on Tuesday night. Her four children, including King Charles, were the first to hold vigil in the cathedral on Monday evening, as thousands of mourners filed by.

On Wednesday, a royal hearse will lead a ceremonial procession via Queen’s Gardens, the Mall, Horse Guards and Horse Guards Arch, Whitehall, Parliament Street, Parliament Square, and New Palace Yard. Large crowds are expected along the route.

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who was appointed Clerk of the Closet to the Royal Household in 2014, will be among the delegation receiving the late Queen’s coffin at Westminster Hall. He said on Tuesday that it was an honour to support the Royal Family. “The national, and indeed global, outpouring of love and grief following Her Majesty’s death has been striking to witness. It speaks so much of the high regard in which the late Queen was held for a life of dedicated and faithful service.”

The closed coffin, which will rest on a catafalque, will be draped in the Royal Standard with the orb and sceptre placed on top. Stationed at each corner of the platform will be members of the Sovereign’s Bodyguard, the Household Division, or Yeoman Warders of the Tower of London.

Westminster Hall will be open to the public without ceasing until it closes at 6.30 a.m. on Monday. The night before the funeral, at 8 p.m. on Sunday, a one-minute silence will be held across the nation to remember the service of the late Queen and mourn her death, Downing Street has announced. Community vigils are encouraged.

The bereavement charity At a Loss is asking churches to signpost their resources to support people during a period of national grief — much of which it suggests would be “suppressed and complicated in light of the pandemic and the change and uncertainty of recent months”.

Its chief executive, Canon Yvonne Richmond Tulloch, who is also the officer for clergy bereavement for the Bishop of Southwark, said on Tuesday: “The timing of the sudden death of the Queen is both a concern and an opportunity. Coming as it has done following Brexit and the pandemic, with the change of Prime Minister and war in Ukraine, and when we are facing a winter of ‘discontent’ and cost of living crisis, [it] should raise concern for our country’s sense of stability and long-term mental health.”

Before the death of the late Queen, “there was much unprocessed grief and loss, combined with fear and uncertainty,” she suggests. “We have a mental-health crisis in the UK and behind many of our society’s problems is unresolved loss.”

The ten days of mourning was an opportunity to recognise and deal with this crisis, she said, “and to find — to use the terminology of grief — ‘new normals’ - for a more secure and healthy future.”

Responding to the call from the charity, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “As the nation continues to mourn Her Majesty the Queen, we remember also those who are struggling with personal loss and grieving loved ones at this time. May God hold them and comfort them.”

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