More than just a tea tent

10 March 2021

The chaplaincy team at the Royal Cornwall Show has earned its own plaudits over years of consistent service and support.

day_1_lo-4The challenge of how to ‘up their game’ has been constant for the chaplaincy team at one of the last truly agricultural shows.

For the 18-strong team, serving the 120,000 visitors at the Royal Cornwall Show, chaplaincy is more than “just [being] a tea tent with a few dog collars lurking around.”

The Revd Roger Greene, the Methodist presbyter who chairs the chaplaincy team, says the Churches Tent at the show has been an important part of the scene for as long as most can remember.

“Refreshments, displays and a welcoming bunch of helpers are hard to miss, especially when their marquee is always given pitch number one at the massive showground in Wadebridge, North Cornwall,” he said.

The big change came just over ten years ago when the team suggested that chaplaincy for the entire show would be a meaningful extension to the support farmers already got from agricultural chaplains.

The show organisers agreed, and the team was set up to cover the huge site. It was well received, and the show secretary agreed to supply free admission to the show chaplains in future years.

“Farmers, stallholders and the public soon accepted the chaplains. Some wanted to talk and share or renew past contacts, but it was plain that others were quite simply pleased to know that chaplains were around,” said Roger.

Last year the chaplaincy team included both ministers and lay people. Some chaplains cover all three days and some fewer, but all find it enjoyable and come back year after year.

Chaplains now work in shifts, one in the tent, two or three around the site and one at the Church’s stand in the wedding marquee. The Methodist involvement is significant, with chaplains coming from all over the district and serving alongside people from virtually every style of church in Cornwall.

After the last show the chaplains shared their stories about precious moments, prayers offered, questions answered and above all a very friendly reception by the punters.

One of the highlights now comes even before the show officially opens with the show service on the evening before the Thursday morning start.

rcs-t5c5323The congregation of 300 to 400 people assembles in the main ring with a welcome from the Show President and commissioning of the chaplains.

The service is always followed by a reception in the marquee itself for over 200. There are pastys, of course, free beer (donated by a Cornish brewery) and a warm welcome.

The tent’s team of volunteers “have long been very keen to raise our game,” said Roger. “In recent years this has included a better grade of tent, real coffee in place of instant and decent Cornish biscuits instead of the ‘it will do’ ones that some churches are famous for.”

The Royal Cornwall Show is the county’s shop window – for agriculture and business.

The excellent witness the churches show the gathered Cornish population is acknowledged by generous funding from Churches Together in Cornwall and from some additional budgets from the denominations.

The value of the hospitality is shown in the kind comments and generous donations received and the fact that people come back each year looking to pick up conversations from the year before.

The next challenge is where ‘upping the game’ will go next.

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.
Banner photo and article photos: © Marten Holmes & Royal Cornwall Show/Agripicture.com, TMCP