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Chaplains to offer comfort in Newbury

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Religious workers will complement Street Pastors to bring a holistic shopping experience to Newbury

ONLY last week the Newbury Weekly News revealed that Street Pastors are planning to hit the streets of Newbury, and as of today (Thursday) the town centre will also have its own chaplains.

Both projects derive from inter-church groups who will focus their efforts on those who may need emotional or physical support, with Street Pastors targeting late night revellers leaving pubs and clubs and the town centre chaplains offering daytime support, similar to the work of Samaritans.

The Methodist minister driving the town centre chaplains project has said the two schemes will complement each other.

Starting in the Kennet Shopping centre today, the chaplains will provide pastoral services for town centre workers and shoppers.

The group of six volunteers are being led by Newbury Methodist Church and aim to build relationships with people they see in town regularly, to give them someone to talk to, similar to schemes which currently operate in Basingstoke, Winchester and elsewhere.

Mrs Farrimond said: “We want to make Newbury a happy place, a place where you can have an holistic shopping experience. The project will mainly be focussed on people working in the retail sector, but if anyone else wanted to speak to the chaplains, they are welcome to.

“We don't want to get in people's faces, but we want to be there to greet them and to be there for them to talk to if they need it.”

She said that she realised that shoppers were already overcome with people holding clipboards - some working for charities dubbed chuggers have caused particular problems in Newbury - but anticipated that the chaplains would receive a much more positive reaction, because they will not approach people unless approached first.

The team will wear blue ‘Chaplain' gilets to make themselves easily identifiable, and will initially be town for one day a week.

This could expand if more volunteers sign up.

Mrs Farrimond said she hoped to eventually have chaplains visible all over town every day of the week.

Kennet centre manager, Mag Williams, welcomed the initiative.

“I think it is a good community project. I think it will bring the caring aspect back into the community,” she said.

“Once the chaplains get to know people in town, then those people may perhaps get the confidence to confide in them, which can only be a good thing for the social well-being of the town.

“I think it is easy to think that they could be a nuisance to some people and bother those who want to go about their business, but I think they fully understand the pressures people are under and that they know how to approach people in an acceptable way.”

Mrs Farrimond said their initiative ties in very well with the Street Pastors scheme.

“In a sense, we are two sides of the same coin and will complement each other,” she added.

The Street Pastors will offer people a prayer and someone to talk to, or hand out flip-flops to women in high heels, and occasionally tackle anti-social behaviour – all part of an effort to make the church more relevant in society - and they are set to launch their project early next year.

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