Waterways Chaplains: ‘on the towpaths because Christ walked the earth’
This large group, drawn from the 70 – strong network of Waterways Chaplains, was recently welcomed to a special service at the Chapel Royal, Tower of London, focusing on this growing national movement which started here.
Pam Rhodes, of Songs of Praise fame, gave an engaging address highlighting how ‘Waterways Chaplains walk the towpaths because Christ walked the Earth.’ Her awareness of ministry to the waterways is informed by her experience of close family members being liveaboard boaters and she noted the necessity of practical neighbourliness and how assumptions can never be made about people’s personal circumstances.
Pam stressed how some people gladly ‘run to the waterways’ because of the attractive life they appear to offer, while others may be running to them because of what they need to leave behind. She commented on the high numbers of single older men living aboard boats, many of whom risk isolation as health breaks down and age encroaches.
A notable celebrity narrowboat owner who just happened to be sharing in worship agreed to join the Chaplains’ photograph afterwards. Actor David Suchet has owned four narrowboats and is about to embark on a search for number five.
Among those in the photograph are local chaplains, some with spouses, in alphabetical order, Amanda Alchorn, Anthea Cannell, Mark Chester, Mike Newman, Lorraine Newman, Deborah Nouwen, Delbert Sandiford (Chair of Trustees), Des Scott, Suzie Taylor and Richard Stroud. Two million or so people who live and work on and around our rivers and canals.’
Waterways Experiences recognised with Queen’s Award
Waterways Experiences of Hemel Hempstead, (WExp), successsor to the dissolved Reach Out Trust’s canal boat project has been granted The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its work introducing the disadvantaged to the joys of boating on the Grand Union Canal.
Cllr Bob Mclean, former Mayor of Dacorum, who nominated the charity, said: “We were stunned, by the enthusiasm of the volunteer base and impressed by the focus upon making available a unique experience for disabled and disadvantaged groups across the Borough and beyond. It was that focus which so impressed us both. The entire team should be congratulated on this fantastic achievement.”
Paul Bennett, Chair of Trustees said: “We are very proud to have been granted this prestigious award, the highest one given to UK volunteer groups. It recognises the outstanding work done by our volunteers over more than three years. Waterways Experiences was formed and is run by volunteers with no paid employees. More than 170 volunteers come from all walks of life and together rise to a huge range of different challenges associated with operating three large boats, two of which are quite elderly. Together they ensure that the boats are properly maintained with sufficient crew to deliver the hugely popular trips and that the essential training, finance, admin and communications functions run effectively.”
Volunteers are rewarded by wonderful feedback from clients. One grateful parent wrote after her son’s experience aboard a Waterways Experiences residential trip: “I cannot speak highly enough of all the volunteers that help on the trips (and with all the administration that is involved). To give up this amount of time to help individuals and their families is unbelievable. To give children / young adults with additional needs such rich experiences and friendship is fantastic. I feel so lucky that we have become part of this wonderful group and I cannot thank them enough for what they have given Joe and my family.”