Back in 2001 Dennis Cavaghan (St Mary Magdalene) met with the Archdeacon of Taunton and others to consider the work of the church in the town centre and it was decided to run a research project to look into the topic. The resultant report provided guidance which has shaped the subsequent design of the Chaplaincy.
Initially considered too big for one church to handle, a Chaplaincy came a step closer in 2006 with the formation Taunton Christians Together, an inter-denominational group of some 30 churches. A steering group spent two years working out the operational basis and went on to form the Taunton Team Chaplaincy Trust.
The six members of the Trust were drawn from a cross-section of churches with a brief to develop the concept, establish the legal basis for employing staff, raise funds and oversee the project. Formed in 2009 the Trust was granted charitable status in 2010 and employed a lead chaplain with the task of setting up a team of volunteer chaplains. The vision of the Trust is “serving people and sharing Jesus in the heart of our town.”
Prior to the Chaplaincy coming into being there were 3 people providing chaplaincy services who were happy to become part of the team. Including them, by the end of 2010 a total of 14 chaplains were trained for placement of which 6 had been placed. A number of employers were considering our service and if all of them requested a chaplain the entire team would be placed.
The United Kingdom for centuries was a predominantly Christian country and the varied network of churches provided a place of worship, Christian teaching and friendship for many people. For those who could not make it to their local church e.g. army units, other arrangements had to be made so that the spiritual needs of the people were met where they were.
From before 1066 armies have taken clergy with them to war. The roles of chaplains within the military have changed significantly but their presence has remained as important as ever.
Chaplains have been placed with groups of workers in different professions as this news item shows:
A Chaplain at a salary of £150 is about to be appointed to labour and devote his whole time to the navvies employed on the Cheddar Valley Railway, now in construction from Yatton to Wells.
Taunton Courier 3rd April 1867 p3
In the November 1877 the Navvy Mission Society was formed because of concerns about workers employed to build the flourishing railway network. In 1919 the Navvy Mission Society became the Industrial Mission Society with the emphasis of its work shifting to factories during the First World War.
Starting at the end of the Second World War industrial chaplains visited factories and offices including some of the best known manufacturing companies in the UK, especially among the large number of employees in the heavy industries in the Sheffield area, a number of which no longer exist. Large sprawling sites with many employees meant long walks amongst machinery, noise and dirt to spend a few minutes with workers employed on a wide range of tasks.
Chaplaincy has always been a people-centred work and today’s chaplains are no different. Most of us will need support and care at one time or another, younger and older alike and where there is a high concentration of people, for example hospitals or universities, whole teams may serve one organisation.
In Taunton the members of the Chaplaincy Team are involved with employers across the commercial sector as well as public organisations. Beyond those, public areas covered include the town centre where a chaplain may chat to passers-by or street traders.
We are continuing to broaden the scope and coverage of this work and look forward to developing more areas where the supportive care of a chaplain can be enjoyed by all.