On 14th December, from 12.15pm in Church Square (also known as Pigeon Square) in the centre of Bedford, David Hodgson, the Mayor of Bedford, will join the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, and a number of other dignitaries to officially launch Bedford’s Town Centre Chaplaincy service.
Masterminded and managed by local businessman, Doug McWilliam, Bedford Town Centre Chaplaincy (BTCC) has taken some four years to become reality. It’s an initiative of the town’s Christian churches and has drawn its inspiration from similar chaplaincies already running in Watford and Luton.
According to Doug McWilliam: “The Christians in Bedford, working together with others, intend this chaplaincy service to provide a regular, visible and caring presence in the town. It aims to show God’s love for all the community and to enable Bedford to be a happy, caring and welcoming town.”
The BTCC, which seeks to complement other related organisations, including Bedford BID and Street Angels, will provide pastoral and spiritual support for anyone who is part of the extended community of Bedford town centre – notably those working in the local government and retail sectors, including market traders. Its chaplains, who are drawn from a number of local churches spanning a number of denominations, receive training in how to offer the appropriate care, comfort and listening ear for each pastoral situation.
Among those attending the BTCC launch will be Jenny Dibsdall (Senior Chaplain to Britain’s Waterways), the Venerable Paul Hughes (the Archdeacon of Bedford), the Rev Dr John Scott (the CEO of Workplace Matters (WM), an ecumenical charity which takes Christian values into the workplace and is providing help to get the BTCC off the ground) and Alan Harpham (the Chairman of WM and also Chaplain to Kempston Station of the East of England Ambulance Station).
BTCC’s Doug McWilliam commented: “We’re grateful to Bedford’s churches for their encouragement and continuing support for this exciting venture. We’re also grateful for the on-going help we’re receiving from WM, which provides over 60 chaplains to a variety of workplaces – within the police, fire and ambulance emergency services; in manufacturing industry; especially at Vauxhall Motors in Luton; in the ‘town centre retail’ environment; with those living and working along the Grand Union Canal, and also at London Luton Airport.”
Alan Harpham, WM’s Chairman, said: “Having seen – and supported – the valuable work which town centre chaplains do in Watford and Luton over several years, I’m sure that all those who live, work and shop in Bedford will experience a spiritual benefit from the work of the BTCC. On behalf of WM, I wish it much success as it serves the Bedford community.”