Finding community through volunteering at St Mary le Strand

King’s College London

Yihang Qin is a PhD candidate in the English department at King’s and volunteers at St Mary le Strand. In this article, he tells us more about his experience volunteering – and organising the first jazz night in the church’s history.

Yihang Qin and an older man stand in the church talking.

I became a volunteer at St Mary le Strand in September last year. I had just arrived in London at that time, feeling lonely and wanting to get involved with the local community.

There were three student volunteer panels: music, digital, and culture. I was the conductor of my University Student Symphony Orchestra in China and so I had some experience in music. I decided to join the music panel, and I came to the welcome meeting. Our first meeting was nice. There were around six students there, all from King’s. Canon Peter introduced the church and showed us the interior, the gallery, and the crypt. Then we were divided into the three panels, and each panel regularly met once a week.

Our music panel helped to organise music events, for example successfully organising three concerts at the church during the semester. The first concert was a jazz night. I liaised with King’s Jazz Society and invited them to perform in the church.

This was the first jazz night in this historic church which is going to be 300 years old in 2024!– Yihang Qin

1920x1080 Yihang Qin St Mary le Strand

The church was full that night, and everyone was thrilled by the passion of the musicians. The second one was a lunchtime concert. Ella, a student of King’s Music Department, invited her musician friends to perform a string quartet in the church. The last and most exciting concert was the Caroloke night: a Christmas carol karaoke singalong night. All three student panels were involved in it: the digital panel advertised it, the culture panel made a puzzle book which contained a lot of information about the church for the audience to solve. My panel, the music panel, chose the songs and were the stewards that night. King’s Food sold some mince pies and mulled wine after the performance, while King’s Brass Band performed as people were eating, drinking and laughing in the churchyard.

By the time the first semester had ended, the number of student volunteers increased and we had nearly fifteen students. Everyone was so happy and proud to see the success of the Caroloke night, and of our great teamwork.

780 x 440 Yihang Qin Paul St Mary le Strand

The second semester was a bit quieter. In June, I became the church steward after a talk and tour with Peter Maplestone, a historian. Because I’m a Mandarin speaker, I could give the visitors tour of the church both in English and Mandarin if there were any Chinese visitors. My first tour was for five Chinese students from King’s – two of them also became volunteers here.

I can also listen to the concerts while helping. There are a lot of wonderful concerts of different types now at the church, with playing or singing by professional musicians and singers. I also helped to research some of the interesting history of the church, which provided me with a lot of knowledge about the church and the history of London. The more I know about it, the more I love it!

I found volunteering in the church and meeting people so interesting. Visitors to the church are from all over the world. They always share their interesting stories and knowledge with me.– Yihang Qin

So, if you like meeting new people and talking to people from all parts of the world, come and join us. The volunteers here have different backgrounds and are from around the world – they are all nice and friendly, always giving me a lot of help. I’ve become good friends with some of the other volunteers.

There will be more interesting events that you can attend at St Mary le Strand. For example, a beautiful art installation is now being displayed.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer at the church yourself, apply through the King’s Volunteering platform.

If you want to find out more about St Mary le Strand, visit the church’s website: https://stmarylestrand.com/

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