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Te Ramaroa (Light Nelson) at Nelson Cathedral

Thousands of visitors experienced the Cathedral in a whole new light during the Te Ramaroa Festival with the interior entirely lit with candles. Our People's Warden, Jocelyn Smith talks about the experience.

Let there be light. And there was.

I estimate that we lit up Nelson Cathedral with over 200 candles, not even counting the votive candles being lit by visitors in the candle corner. Te Ramaroa festivities lit up the outside of the cathedral in an ever-changing display.

The event ran for five nights in a row for four hours each night, with two to three thousand people per night coming into the cathedral. But the real highlight was the open Evensong. We always have Evensong on Sunday evening and decided to just go ahead and let the public choose to sit and join in or just wander around the edge of the service. Our Evensong was a little different, with more music than usual and hymns that were very well-known and mainstream.

I was on the door, encouraging people, “Go up the side, across behind the choir and back. Yes, don’t worry – they’re expecting you to do that. Hurry – it’s ending soon!”

People couldn’t quite believe this was allowed. As one parent emailed us during the week:

My sons and I visited as part of the light show and were spellbound by the choir. It was just beautiful. You know it's special when your eight-year-old sits still, and your teenager wants to stay.

I was simply bursting with pride at the sound coming from the choir and organ and wanted the whole of Nelson to come in and let us show off to them. Slowly, they got the idea. You can still see the service on YouTube. You’ll see a stream of people crossing in front of the altar: young people, seniors, wide-eyed children, even dogs.

Some people told me as they came out that it had moved them to tears. I didn’t spot anyone who was unimpressed.

It was an utterly unique opportunity for people from all walks of life to see, hear and experience something really special. By the time our organist Paul had finished his voluntary, when the floor was fair vibrating with the final chords, an instant cheer and applause rang out from the sea of people gathered near the organ loft. Paul said he’d been totally focused on playing the organ and wasn’t aware until then just how many people there were. It was such a buzz for the choir and for the team of helpers directing Te Ramaroa.

It’s something I will never forget and I am already hoping we can repeat it next time.


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