At Waterways Chaplaincy we have a number of vicars or retired clergy who help us minister to, and support those on the canals. In this article we hear from Mike Saunders who volunteers on the canals around Hungerford. The picture was taken when Mike and his wife helped out on a canal work party.
I am Mike Saunders I am the vicar of Hungerford and my wife, Alison, and I are Waterways Chaplains.
Each week we walk the canal. We walk either 2 locks one way or 2 locks the other way + we talk to everyone so this evening we walked to Cobblers Lock + opened a lock for a hire boat and talked to two fishermen. We also deliver food parcels for the food bank to addresses they don’t understand like the boat “just below Marsh lock”.
At church we have services at 8, 10 and 6 each week and last Sunday a couple from a boat joined us in worship at 10.00 + after the service they chatted for ages and during lockdown we did a funeral for a boater who passed away.
We also organise canal work parties with CRT – which paint 4 locks and two bridges each year about half of the people who volunteer come from Church and about half come from the town and so we know all of the CRT staff + we even did a wedding for one of them.
Walking the canal is great for our health and wellbeing. I am not sure we have added anyone to the Church as a result of being a Waterways Chaplain but for sure the Church is seen by both the town and the boaters as being for them and I hope we are sowing some seeds – especially among the boaters whose names we know.
My favourite story – was the boater who called to us in Thatcham “What are you doing here you are supposed to be in Hungerford”
I would encourage you to join us – It’s not massively time consuming and I meet a lot of interesting people.