A small but committed group of six have committed themselves to ensure that formal chaplaincy on the Wey & Godalming Navigation and the Basingstoke Canal will be established in 2017.
At a meeting at the Basingstoke Canal headquarters in February, Elizabeth and Richard Martin and LLM Tina Osborne, who own narrowboats themselves, committed to join with Cathedral-based ordinand Tim Clifford-Hill, Zillah Chester and the Revd Mark Rudall to make regular walks along certain sections of both waterways. All are Probationary Chaplains at the moment but Zillah, who is married to national Senior Waterways Chaplain, the Revd Mark Chester, has for some time been walking the Basingstoke Canal near their home. The Martins will also ‘rove’ in their boat Dutch Courage while Tina will do the same in Tristan III.
Mark Chester said: “It’s not yet possible to cover all of both waterways, but this meeting marked the start and the commitment of these six together with the prayer support of others, some of whom may decide to became chaplains at some later point, is a real encouragement. Other parts of the country are also seeing this kind of commitment and, in addition, we have a number of ‘roving’ chaplains, who are permanently living aboard their boats. They can turn up anywhere on the waterways system, walk a section of towpath and be an unexpected presence there for the Kingdom.
“As chaplains walk, they encounter all kinds of people, some of whom very much want to talk and maybe share some concern or ask for prayer. Others they meet may not have a particular need for a chaplain’s services but a supportive, friendly and regular presence is something they appreciate very much.”
Both these historic waterways starting at Weybridge bisect our diocese and are important leisure resources for walkers, dog owners, boaters, fishermen, canoeists and those who live aboard narrowboats. It was no accident that Bishop Christopher Hill chose to use these waterways as the basis of his route for a final ‘pilgrimage’ around the diocese before retirement.
The recently established Waterways Chaplaincy ministry is interdenominational and sprang from St Albans-based ‘Workplace Matters’, which supports town centre and airport chaplaincies. Mark Chester’s work takes him around the country and while he is now seeing the growth of chaplains walking towpaths all over England and engaging people they meet, he needs more!
He said: “They provide pastoral support for people often deprived of normal health and other support services – and what we are doing is being noticed. There is an open invitation for people to come alongside and be part of it.”
If you would like to know more about waterways chaplaincy, or are interested in volunteering, contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org