Religion & Spiritual Life

Millfield Choir performing in  Wells cathedral
Service by the Millfield Reverend
Millfield service at Wells Cathedral

“Through year assemblies, midweek clubs and Soul Café (a lunchtime slot with visiting speakers), theological reflection is shared with a much wider constituency than those who simply ‘come to Chapel’. The aim is to sow the seeds of tolerance, patience and generosity and for these and other key virtues to be carried to the four corners of the campus.”  Reverend Philip Harbridge, School Chaplain

Spiritual and Moral Development in the Millfield Community
Millfield believes that true education must be concerned with spiritual and moral development. All pupils of the school, irrespective of their religion, are encouraged to explore and develop their own faith, and learn from that of others, in an atmosphere of generosity and tolerance. This finds its fullest expression in our delightful Start of Year Service, an energetic and playful act of worship in the magnificent setting of Wells Cathedral.

Worship – provision for Christians and those of other faiths
The chaplain is responsible for the ongoing liturgical and spiritual life of the community. Although this doesn’t simply mean running services, the rhythm of regular worship is tremendously important to those who are committed. (There are three services each week in the chapel and a Choral Eucharist each term in Wells Cathedral).  What really counts are efforts at nurturing these services as a space for spiritual, social and moral development. Short addresses have a key role in this respect – the issues tackled are almost always aimed at a broad audience and have general appeal, so that those of any religion or those of none are equally at home.

The school chapel is dedicated for use as a place of worship for all faiths. So, in addition to Christian services, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists have the opportunity to meet and contacts with local leaders of these other faiths are nurtured with a view to mutual visits. Roman Catholic pupils attend Mass in Glastonbury and can be confirmed every other year. An Anglican Confirmation course runs every twelve months.

Reflecting the open ethos of the school chapel, the chaplain is available for all members of the school, irrespective of faith. At various points in the day, pupils and staff may drop into the office under the chapel or into the chaplaincy house across from the school gates. Some come by arrangement, others on the off-chance, most because they need someone to listen to them and advise. Whilst the conversation might focus on faith and spirituality, more often than not it will feature characteristic Millfield angst about love, life and feelings of inadequacy in the midst of so much excellence.

Chapel – a brief history
The chapel chalet is, in fact, the oldest building on the Millfield site. It was built in 1882, a couple of years before Millfield House. The Clark family, of Clarks’ Shoes’ fame, owned the land. This plot was the highest point on the family estate, and had apparently been the site of a windmill in former years - hence the name ‘Millfield’. In the latter years of the 19th Century, a daughter (Alice) of the Clark family seems to have contracted tuberculosis. A common practice at the time for wealthy people was to send family members infected to Switzerland to live in a mountain chalet, where the robust winds were reputed to have healing properties. It seems that the family decided to build a Swiss-style chalet on the highest point on their own land where their daughter could be cared for, lying on the open air upstairs balcony area facing the prevailing westerly winds. The indoor area downstairs and above was allotted to those caring for her, where they could live and cook her meals. The treatment appears to have been effective and the girl recovered. The chalet was a place of care and cure — a marvellous precursor of its later life as a chaplaincy centre!