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Religion and Spirituality

Sacred Spaces

The Chaplaincy Department has a number of spaces on campus for worship, meditation and reflection.

The full name for the main church building on campus is the Chapel of St John the Evangelist. It is open from 8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday. To either side of the main chapel are St Margaret’s Chapel and the Water of Life Chapel. The Chapel space is used for worship and prayer as well as teaching, exhibitions and performance. At weekends it is used by various Christian denominations for Sunday worship and celebrations such as weddings and baptisms.

Booking information:

  • May be booked for use by any member of the university staff or student body for events and performances, through the university’s Conference and Events team.
  • Bookings by external groups or individuals must follow the university’s guidelines on Freedom of Speech and Diversity and Equality.
  • Any organised events, either external or internal, that are of a religious, spiritual, or similar nature, are subject to approval by the Chaplain.
  • Regular bookings of the space by local churches or other religious groups must be made through the Chaplaincy office ( and discussed in advance with the Chaplain.


Located in the Quad, this is a neutral space that is available to all members of the University, irrespective of their faith or background. The prayer space is ideal for small group studies or personal prayers and reflection. 

Booking information:

  • Is for the free use of individuals or faith groups for prayers, celebrations, or religious /spiritual events, during the week and at weekends.
  • Any group (student-led or otherwise) wishing to book a regular time slot for worship or other activity, must do so by arrangement with the Chaplain.
  • Notice of regular events will be posted on to the door of the Contemplation Room. At all other times the room may be used freely.
  • In the event of the Contemplation Room being unavailable due to prior booking, individuals may use the Quiet Space or the Chapel prayer room




The Quiet Space is room CP006 located at the back of the Peace Garden. This is specifically designed to be a place to rest and reflect in tranquil surroundings. It is open to anybody who wants some ‘time out’ from university life, for whatever reason, between the hours of 9.00. am – 4.30 pm. If there is a need to talk to somebody, the Chaplain is always on hand.  

Booking information:

  • Is for the use of any student or staff member between 9.00am and 4.30pm, Monday – Friday when the University is open.
  • Booking is not required at these times but those who use the room are asked to be sensitive to others’ needs and to share time accordingly.
  • The purpose of the room is for individuals to have ‘time-out’ from university life, for whatever reason, and it may be used for 1-1 conversations, rest, respite, prayer, or temporary withdrawal from university life.
  • After 4.30pm and at weekends the room may be booked for individual or small group use, by arrangement with the Chaplaincy department. The room may occasionally need to be used for external meetings with the chaplain. A notice will be placed on the door to the Quiet room if this is the case.




This room is dedicated for the use of Muslim prayer. There are prayer books as well as mats for use and washing facilities are located nearby. If you wish to enter, please remove your shoes and be mindful of others using the space.

On May 4, 2005 the University welcomed a gift from the city of Hiroshima, Japan. So significant was this gift that Rob Scott, head gardener re-designed and created a secluded garden adjacent to the Chapel. The sapling (known on campus as the Peace Tree and the Hiroshima Tree) was grown from seeds from a tree (Firmiana Platanifolia) which miraculously survived the Hiroshima holocaust at a point 1.3km north-east of the epicentre at 8:15am on 6 August 1945. The tree was planted in a sheltered location within the Peace Garden outside the Chapel. The tree from the people of Japan was given "in order to pass a love of peace and respect for living things to future generations and share with British people a vision of a world free from nuclear weapons." Sadly the Tree died in 2017 following declining health. It had done remarkably well for a species not well suited to our climate.

In fact Rob Scott quotes the Royal Horticultural Society in their reply to his solicitation for advice in 2005: "The Chinese Parasol Tree [its common name] can only be grown in tropical, frost-free climates..." The RHS advocated a moist, well-drained location in full sun and sheltered. All of those conditions were met but despite the expert care from the gardeners, the tree started failing during the summer of 2016. In the autumn of 2017 the tree was replaced by a cloud pruned Lonicera nitida, keeping the theme of the garden.

Since ancient times, stones symbolise mountains and hills, set decorative accents. In Japanese rock garden symbolism, the water is represented by gravel or sand, raked in various patterns, creating a design that tends toward perfection: simple parallel lines or concentric circles symbolising a calm sea, deep ditches symbolising stormy waters and even more complex designs, like water drop waves or perfect geometric shapes.

Trees such as the Maple and Magnolia, are often chosen for their seasonal appeal and are placed to emphasise these characteristics. Conversely, bamboos are held in particular esteem for their beauty during the winter months when other plants are dormant. Plants are carefully arranged around the gardens to imitate, and great efforts are taken to maintain their beauty.

Many gardens contain stone water basins (tsukubai), which are used for ritual cleansing, usually placed on entry to the garden. The basins vary from simple depressions in uncut stone creations (ours is a bird bath), and are usually provided with a bamboo dipper for scooping up water. These days they often appear as a decorative addition more than for a practical purpose.

Paths became an integral part of Japanese gardens with the introduction of strolling. Strolling gardens feature circular paths constructed of stepping stones and crushed gravel, which are carefully prescribed to lead visitors to the best – albeit controlled – views of the garden. Winding paths also serve to segregate different areas, such as an isolated grove or hidden pond, from each other so that they may be contemplated individually.

Restrictions of use for all chaplaincy areas:

  • Regular organised student groups wishing to use the chaplaincy spaces must be registered with the Students Union as a society and conform to the Students' Union code of practice.
  • Only material (books, pamphlets and notices) authorised by the Chaplain may be displayed.
  • External speakers leading prayers or discussions, or giving sermons or talks, must obtain written permission from the Chaplain, who will liaise with the Conference and Events Team to ensure procedural compliance.
  • All spaces associated with Chaplaincy may only be used in ways which are consistent with the university’s Equality, Diversity, and Human Rights Policy
  • Gender-segregated worship spaces are only allowed by full consent of all parties involved, and only on the basis of religious sensibilities.
  • All those who use Chaplaincy spaces must leave them tidy and in such a way that they can be used immediately afterwards by others.
  • Where concerns arise over the accessibility of space the Chaplain should be contacted in the first instance on 01904 876 606 or by emailing

All activities must conform to the Chaplaincy’s approach to proselytising, which is as follows:

The principle of moral and emotional freedom of the person shall be adopted in the advertising, invitation and conduct of all faith–based events at York St John University. Information may be freely given about events, but there should be no unreasonable pressure applied to people to attend the event. Acceptance or otherwise of the invitation should be free from judgement. The same principle of autonomy should also apply at the event itself, with no unreasonable pressure being exerted.

Those not abiding by this notice, or the other stated restrictions of use for Chaplaincy activities shall be referred to the Head of Student Services, who may withdraw the privilege of the use of the various facilities.

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