A day in the life: Dana English
A day in the life
Revd Dana English, Duty Chaplain
As a duty chaplain, Revd Dana volunteers twice a month to provide spiritual care and support to our visitors and worshippers. Originally from Texas, she spent a stint as a chaplain at Trinity College Chapel in Cambridge before joining the team, and has a particular love of the artists memorialised in our crypt.
Where did you learn the skills that allow you to volunteer in your role?
After my four years of undergraduate study at a small liberal arts college in North Carolina, Davidson College, I completed a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School in 1981 and was ordained as a Presbyterian in 1984 (I have a second M. A. from Trinity College, Cambridge in English literature).
While living in Rome for 8.5 years, I decided to change denominations to become an Anglican priest, through the Diocese in Europe. I was a chaplain at Trinity College Chapel in 2018 before deciding that I wanted to move to London and engage in parish ministry!
What is your favourite part of volunteering at St Paul’s?
I am honoured to be able to celebrate the Eucharist 'under the Dome' of St. Paul’s – a place of so many centuries of history; a place where so many have gathered, day after day, year after year, to pray and worship.
I also love to be open to the questions people ask as I walk around during the day: there are many unexpected ones!
Are there any aspects of your work as a volunteer that people might not realise you do?
I am conscious that there are still not many ordained women who are regularly visible in the life of the larger church around the world. With so many international visitors coming to St. Paul’s, I feel strongly that I need to be ready to answer any questions by those surprised by or uncomfortable seeing a woman with a clerical collar. I try to engage in conversations about this honestly, in a relaxed and personal way.
What is your favourite place in the Cathedral itself?
I had loved the side chapel for hearing confession, watched over by the painting of William Holman Hunt 'The Light of the World'. That chapel has been closed for some time now, to allow the construction of the memorial to those who have died of the coronavirus, but Hunt’s painting speaks to me.
I also love the painters’ corner in the crypt. Writers and musicians may mostly belong to Westminster Abbey, but this group of memorials to artists is wonderful in its evocation of their gifts to the life of London and to the world. I have always been drawn to the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, some of whose tombs and memorials are there. I am also drawn to the few memorials to women in St. Paul’s. Some of the education volunteers discussed this with me: there are only about four, and only one – Florence Nightingale's – is prominent.
Have you made any friends whilst in your role?
Yes - I am very fond of all the Virgers, who have spent a lot of time orienting me to the routine of a duty chaplain at St. Paul’s. I am highly appreciative of their faithful work! And Paula Hollingsworth, our main Chaplain, has been a great resource and source of support.
How do you fit volunteering around your other commitments?
I decided that about twice a month would be about right for me as a volunteer duty chaplain. I am an SSM in the United Benefice of Holland Park, so I contribute mostly in ministry as one of a team of four clergy there, but I am delighted to have the time to add this meaningful commitment to St. Paul’s to whatever else I do in my parishes!
What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in volunteering in your area of the Cathedral?
Come often enough in the beginning to get the hang of things; follow the Virgers’ advice in every detail; be open to the questions of whomever you meet in this beautiful holy space.
Interested in joining Dana?
Whether you want to support our worship or help welcome sightseers, explore the many volunteering positions we have at the Cathedral. We have roles for every skill set and availability, and provide training and support for all our new team members.