The Luton Town Centre Chaplaincy (LTCC) is a Christian organisation established in the town in 2010 with the endorsement and support of civic, business, faith and community leaders. It seeks to provide pastoral, emotional and spiritual support to those who work in or visit Luton Town Centre through their volunteer Chaplains who can provide help either ‘on the streets’, in the shopping centre or in places of work.
Unemployment is a major factor in the problems the town is facing – family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, crime and homelessness – and Chaplains regularly spend time with individuals affected by these issues.
LTCC currently has a team of Chaplains working with the staff of Luton Borough Council and members of the public who visit the Town Hall, and two further teams working in the Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court and Luton Crown Court who can provide support to staff, victims, defendants, witnesses and other visitors – those of any faith or no faith. In addition, there is a team of Youth Chaplains working with the young people ‘frequenting’ The Mall Shopping Centre, and three teams of street chaplains building relationships with the smaller retail outlets and members of the public. Chaplains often deal with those experiencing stress or distress and can help by providing a listening ear, signposting to other agencies, and supporting staff as they deal with such individuals. They are also being called upon to mediate between staff and managers and by giving staff the opportunity to talk to someone ‘outside’ their workplace, the aim is to reduce stress and improve both productivity and the working environment.
In the two years of operation, the reputation of the Chaplaincy has grown and magistrates, judges, and managers often refer staff and members of the public to Chaplains.
Chaplains are drawn from a variety of local churches/traditions/denominations and undergo a Core Training Programme (which includes sessions on ‘Roles and Responsibilities’, Listening to others, Listening to God, Understanding Muslims, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Bereavement and Dealing with Stress) as well as training appropriate to their placement.
A more recent development has been the invitation by the local Council and Police to be involved in community mediation during periods of tension (EDL marches, protests, community unrest, etc). The Chaplaincy also seeks to build bridges of understanding between industry, faiths, commerce and society, and the Senior Chaplain is regularly invited to contribute to civic and community meetings and has an excellent relationship with the management of The Mall shopping centre.
Chaplains are regularly asked to pray with or for ‘clients’, and often have the opportunity to share the Gospel with those they meet.