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Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 13:40 UK
Chapel provides calm for shoppers
Lakeside Shopping Centre
A shopping centre is not an obvious place to find a spiritual experience

The Chapel at Lakeside Shopping Centre provides a small 'oasis of prayer' amongst the many bargain hunters.

Since 1999, a team of chaplains led by Jill Edwards have provided counselling and spiritual guidance for shoppers and shop-workers as and when they need it.

"I believe this is the only chapel in a shopping centre, although there are places of quiet," explained one of the chaplains, Colin Phillips.

"It's a place that we call an oasis, an oasis of prayer."

Tough times

Situated on the third floor, just off of the food court, the Lakeside Chapel is one of the few places in the complex where there is peace and quiet.

"It's mainly to support the staff because we visit every shop and each chaplain is allocated to a different store. But the shoppers also come to the chapel because they can find a real peace and a quiet place," added Colin.

"All Christian faiths or denominations use the chapel, but also people of other faiths and we particularly have Muslims that come and pray every day."

Colin Phillips
We have offered our services to the people in some of the shops that have made folk redundant
Chaplain Colin Phillips

With retail going through a rough time at the moment, it would be natural to assume the chapel would be receiving a few more visits than normal.

However, Colin said this has not been the case so far.

"We've offered our services to the people in some of the shops that have made folk redundant, particularly at Woolworths" he explained.

"Obviously we can't contact every member of staff, but we do try to make ourselves available.

"But a lot of shops are doing very well, so it's not all doom and gloom."

Unlike most other places of worship, the Lakeside chapel doesn't hold regular services, but they do hold occasional ceremonies.

Interior of Lakeside Chapel
The chapel holds occasional services throughout the year

"We have services on special occasions," Colin explained. "We have carol services, we have harvest services and also we have memorial services.

"But in the main we don't have regular Sunday services, but we do have regular mother's prayers and the ladies meet for prayer every month here in the Chapel."

So amongst the theatre of consumerism, does Colin see his small haven of calm as a sacred space?

"It is a sacred space and a very special place," he replied. "It's where we find God and certainly many people have found Jesus Christ here in this chapel."

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