The team of eleven volunteers is available to the staff and management of the city’s large central stores and small shops, and is drawn from a wide range of church backgrounds.
They are mostly lay people, and the team is headed by two Lead Chaplains, retired Anglican priest Revd Tony Raven and retired Methodist minister Revd Norman Wallwork.
The declared aim of the chaplaincy is to serve the people of Exeter City Centre as a practical Christian presence, expressing the loving care of God. The administrator for the chaplaincy is a member of South Street Baptist Church Exeter, as is one of the Chaplains, and their minister the Revd Simon Taylor is chairman of the steering group. He said, ‘We recognise increasingly the need to share God’s love beyond our walls in the city centre.
‘Sectors in the city such as health, the university, the prison & police have chaplaincy support – but here in Exeter city centre we also have many thousands of people employed in the retail sector, and through this chaplaincy we want to serve them.
‘We recognise the diverse pressures on those who work here; we know that times are not easy for them and we want to offer what support we can.’
Encouragement has been given by the managers of the shopping precincts and by the City Centre Manager John Harvey, who said, ‘I’m absolutely delighted to see the launch of Exeter City Centre Chaplaincy.
‘In what remain challenging times for many, the City Centre Chaplaincy will play a vital part in building understanding, trust and co-operation between workplaces, businesses, agencies and faith communities.
‘We all face challenges in our lives and I know that the Chaplains will offer a fantastic listening ear for those working in the City Centre. I wish the City Centre Chaplaincy team good luck at the start of what will be an interesting journey. The City Centre Chaplaincy has my absolute support.’
The Bishop of Crediton the Revd Nick McKinnel blessed the new project and commissioned the chaplains before a full congregation at St Stephen’s parish church. He said, ‘The City Centre Chaplaincy is a great opportunity for the churches to engage with and serve the thousands of people who work in our city, in the name of Christ.’