All-change at business chaplaincy

AN ex-BT manager is hoping to set up lines of communication with postal workers and market traders as he takes on a new role as Stowmarket workplace chaplain.

AN ex-BT manager is hoping to set up lines of communication with postal workers and market traders as he takes on a new role as Stowmarket workplace chaplain.

Richard Stretch takes over from the town's first workplace chaplain Peter Taylor, who is moving to south Cumbria for family reasons, in December.

Mr Stretch, 54, heads a team of five workplace chaplains whose aim is to befriend and offer a listening ear to employees and managers in a range of town workplaces which have agreed to participate in the scheme.

“It's a complete change, but something I always wanted to do,” he said. “It's more like being a friend.”

Mr Stretch, who was based at Martlesham and Ipswich working for the research laboratories, spent 37 years with BT and travelled the world in his role as standards manager. His job took him away from home for one or sometimes two weeks a month.

He is an ordained non-stipendiary Anglican minister with the parish church of St Peter's and St Mary's in Ipswich, and has also been a police chaplain for the town's station for the past three years.

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The staff he has already met have been “lovely” and “very welcoming”, he said of his new role.

“The purpose of the chaplain is to be there,” he said. “I'm a committed Christian so I have always had this drive, this calling.”

However, their role was not to convert but to support, he said.

Mr Taylor held the role for more than two years, and prior to that was instrumental in setting up the post.

“There's a real sadness because it's built up so well over the last few years,” he said.

In that time, he has presided over funerals and a wedding through his chaplaincy and frequently visited staff in hospital.

“It's like leaving a friend behind, but knowing it's the right time. I think that's the key, and I'm very, very encouraged with the new team that are taking over.”

David Littlehales will be assistant chaplain and will focus on high street shop employees.

www.stowchaplaincy.org.uk.