our waterways chaplain
beautiful - but what lies behind?
Britain’s Waterways Chaplains, about 70 of them now, find that winter can be a time when they are really needed by some continuous cruisers.
Rather like this bridge on my patch of the River Wey Navigation, it can all look very picturesque but what’s going on inside cosy looking narrow boats with wood smoke curling from their chimneys might be a bit like what is or could be going on inside the minds of the graffiti artists who deface every concrete surface they find - although in this case they gave my photographer friend Daan Olivier his picture…
Winter throws up its own challenges, and a liveaboard feeling isolation from family or friends with, maybe, a health issue thrown in for good measure, might well find the occasional presence of a chaplain very encouraging.
In the course of the year, chaplains speak to thousands of people on the towpaths or on boats. Quite a few are boat owners themselves so they know the ropes and they also know the resources available in the areas where you find them.
They also can be very useful when hardship strikes boaters and they need a food bank, a local benefits office, NHS help or a bit of support in their dealings with CRT or EA. All in all they’re pretty useful people to encounter on the towpath.
Waterways Chaplains are all volunteers: they are all linked to churches but their hearts are also with the waterways and waterways people for whom they agree, as chaplains, to be ‘practically proactive and spiritually reactive’.
So they’re there to help, but if anyone wants them to they’re also happy to delve deep in conversation on all kinds of subjects.
Watch out for the black gilets: we’re easy to spot!