Everything we do at St Peter’s House is because of who we are and what we believe.
Informed by our Christian faith, we believe that ‘Everything is Connected’ – people,
community, health, spirituality, well-being, the search for understanding…. It all
Everything flourishes when one thing leads to another.
For us, ‘doing’ chaplaincy has meant different things over the past few years. Our activities have been diverse and ever-evolving… In ‘normal’ times, we run Milk & Honey café, have a broad and exciting volunteer programme, and our Wholeness Project offers a spectrum of ways for being and living well. We coordinate the Universities’ Multi-faith work across the campuses, as well as running ‘One Love’ – our own multi-faith programme of activities. We put our energies where we see good things happening, and it has been exciting to explore chaplaincy in our dynamic context.
And then, covid made us even more creative! Since the pandemic took hold we have
pivoted our operations into an emergency covid-response project, meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community through The Well. We are loving our neighbours in the most practical and hands-on ways that we can.
Underlying our work this year has been reflection on the words of the medieval mystic known as Julian of Norwich. Like us, she lived through a time of plague, death and fear – and also experienced a long period of self-isolation, although hers was self-chosen as she withdrew to her Anchorage for a life of reflection on the visions she received near death.
The words, ‘All Will Be Well’ lead us on with hope, but also present challenge and questions.
“We worked with Manchester-based graphic artist Micah Purnell to create this visual message, and reflected on the story and themes of Julian of Norwich’s writings to create a new piece of spoken word poetry for our own plague times.
We did things we never thought we’d do. Surreal became normal. Everything stopped.
We thought, “it’s not so bad!” We nosedived. We raged against our losses, and grieved those lost forever. We baked sourdough bread and discovered our green spaces. We learned the value of connection …and felt the weight of arms that cannot hug.
There’s no message of certainty, and no words that can bridge our way back home.
And so we offer this; All Will Be Well….
Breathe deep, and hear these words of hope. Deep hope, and – yes – questions. Questions that may shape everything this year. When and how will things be ‘well’, and what will ‘well’ even look like?
All Will Be Well… a mantra, perhaps. Words to carry into uncertainty. Words to walk with into the unknown.
Meet the team behind ‘The Well’ at St Peter’s House, chaplaincy to Manchester’s universities.
“Not all of the right decisions are easy decisions…” This has been Hannah’s mantra since deciding not to re-open Milk & Honey, and instead to re-direct the creativity and resources of the team to serving the community in a new way amidst the covid-challenges. Director of development and engagement, Hannah created and is overseeing The Well project – and to earn her keep you’ll also find her popping up throughout our online programme, or working on day-to-day delivery of The Well with the team.
Working at St Peter’s House we never get to do one role for long…. Ben, who is Director of the organisation, is currently involved in all aspects of The Well. From building the new home of the Milk & Honeypot, to recording bodyscan meditations for our online programme, Ben’s skills have taken him in all directions. Alongside this he’s been ensuring that the building is covid-secure for the team, volunteers and visitors, and re-awakening the building from it’s long lock-down period.
Ben has been busy un-learning all his Head Chef ways for The Well – dropping his usual kitchen wizardry in favour of learning to ’Think Like A Home Cook’. Collecting food from around Manchester donated by partner charities and organisations (read more [here]), he comes up with simple recipes that anyone could prepare from scratch at home. The magic remains in his ability to make half a tin of chickpeas, a few spices and a couple of humble veg into a delicious and nutritious meal every time.
Usually behind the counter at Milk & Honey café, Café Manager Chris is currently working side-by-side (at a metre distance) with the rest of the team to help prepare, pack and distribute our Well Packs. You’ll also see him cooking in some of our online classes. Chris also is a crucial part of our volunteer programme, helping to think through our induction and training plans and then working alongside volunteers day-by-day as our community grows.
Team PA Tracey holds things together in our office, and indeed in our little corner of the world. Whether food needs collecting, databases need compiling, recipe cards need printing or deliveries need chasing… Tracey’s on it. The Well is a complex web at times, and Tracey is the Mama Spider criss-crossing all over it and making sure all the ends are tied up nicely.
Brave James began the epic job in September of dragging St Peter’s House digital life into the twenty-first century. Grasping the vision of The Well, pushing this down a million technical tubes and squeezing something shiny and bright out the other end, Digital Comms Officer James is bringing our online world to life. Whether filming in our Wholeness studio, editing videos, website work or social media management – James is always busy connecting and communicating our stories and message.
As Chaplaincy Assistant to the Mandarin Community, planning events and drawing international students into the wider work of St Peter’s House, Selena helps to make The Well a place of welcome for people from around the world. From working with volunteers to translate our Well Pack recipes for non-English speakers, to planning and welcoming people into our Mandarin Pilates sessions every fortnight, Selena brings a global flavour to the Well.
A Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga teacher, Amy weaves compassionate awareness of how bodies and minds are feeling into her teaching style. Whether at Live sessions or throughout the build-your-own programme, Amy’s style emphasises developing ease within your own being, gently accepting a deeper sense of embodiment. Her calm and gentle presence radiates from the screen as in reality – bringing a sense of peace to The Well much needed in these turbulent times.
“The awareness that yoga gives you is one of the best things you can do for yourself”, says Esmeralda, and we’re inclined to agree. It ain’t all bending and lotus positions… yoga has given us the ability during lock-down to ping our minds out of the present and get back into our bodies. Teaching hatha yoga – which means you’ll find a calm and gentle yoga flow style – Esmeralda brings a warm and approachable style to her sessions that is perfect for those just dipping a baby-yogic toe to the more experienced yogi.
Newly arrived in Manchester, Azariah is Priest at the Church of the Ascension in Hulme and – like many of us –is having to find his feet quickly amidst the challenges of covid-19.
He is a lover of storytelling, one day would love to develop a graphic novels range, and is always exploring ways to communicate about being human and God-stories within public spaces. He brings that exploration to The Well – and his reflections, stories and meditations are full of questions to leave us pondering.
Strength from within… that’s a central theme of Pilates – which focusses on those all-important core muscles that hold us both in and up – and that’s what radiates from Rachel in her on-screen sessions. Salford based, Rachel lives with her two little boys and will teach fitness to anyone who lets her. Inclusive and accessible, her relaxed style of teaching makes her sessions for The Well a great place to try out a new Pilates practice.
Fatimah contributes podcast reflections to The Well which are perfect for those times when you just need to sink into something deeper. Fatimah is a member of the Mevlevi Sufi Order, and also leads the work of Rumi’s Circle in South Manchester, an inter-spiritual space that shares the words and spiritual practices of the 13th Century Muslim mystic, Rumi. Seeking a spiritual and woman-led approach to faith matters, Fatimah brings fresh perspectives and wonderful words to The Well that will take you to new places.
You’ll hear Robyn’s voice on some of our short podcasts, sharing her perspectives and wisdom on the world as she sees it. Being the first female Rabbi in Manchester is definitely A Thing, and moreover her podcasts are worth a listen as Robyn is one of the warmest and wisest people with a lot to say about a lot of issues! Her top topics include community building and social justice, but feminism and talking-truth-to-power are also way up there –have a listen.