A new service taking care of the emotional and spiritual welfare of those who work or shop in Bedford is being launched on Saturday.
Bedford Town Centre Chaplaincy (BTCC) is organising a march followed by Christmas carols to mark the official arrival of its chaplains, who are trained in how to offer the appropriate care for each pastoral situation.
BTCC is managed by Bedford businessman Doug McWilliam who has spent four years working on the project.
He says it will work alongside existing organisations such as Bedford BID and Street Angels to be a ‘listening ear’ to the extended community of Bedford town centre, notably those working in the local government and retail sectors, including market traders.
He said: “The chaplains will be in the town on market days and make pre-arranged visits to offices and retailers. They will be easily recognisable, wearing a fleece or shirt with the BTCC logo and chaplain printed on them. They will also carry ID.”
The initiative is supported by Christians in Bedford, principally through the town’s churches and has drawn on the experiences of town chaplaincies in Luton and Watford.
Mr McWilliam said: “People can talk to them about anything - ranging from stress at work, family worries, or even that the hamster has escaped! It is an entirely confidential service, and people don’t have to be Christians to approach the chaplains.”
The launch event starts at 11am with the march from St Peter’s Church to Church Square where there will be the carol service and speeches until 1pm.
Mayor David Hodgson will join the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson, to officially welcome the initiative.
Mr McWilliam added: “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.”