IT WAS too hot for a clerical collar, the senior waterways
chaplain, the Revd Mike Shaw, says, when he and the Revd John Scott
commissioned Barbara Davis as a new lay chaplain. She will join the
other chaplains working among the boating community who use the
25-mile stretch of the River Stort, a tributary of the River Lea,
in St Albans diocese.
The ceremony took place on the last day of the three-day Ware
Boat Festival, which dates back to Henry III, and now has a wide
range of events around the River Lea, funded by the Ware Town
Dr Scott is chief executive of Workplace Matters, a Christian
charity that supplies workplace chaplains, including a growing
number to boat people on rivers in England. They provide pastoral
and spiritual care regardless of faith or creed, but, above all,
supply a "listening ear", Mr Shaw, who is a former diocesan youth
officer in St Albans, says.
There are many people living in boats on the river - some
because they have chosen it as a lifestyle, others because a boat
has been the only dwelling they can afford. "During the summer, it
can seem idyllic; but, in the depths of winter, life can be very
isolated and lonely."
Those who have a permanent mooring pay substantial rent and
council tax, and can draw on local services, but most people on the
waterways have a cheaper continuous cruising licence, which means
that they must keep on the move, have no post code, and cannot
register with a GP. If they have children, schools are a problem.
They often have needs that the chaplains can help with.