October - Frances Novillo, Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy
October’s CNI Network and Inspire Magazine community hero is Frances Novillo from Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy.
Frances has spent most of her career as a church musician and then went back to university to complete a Masters in the Psychology of Religion, during which Frances started to volunteer as a Chaplain with Hertfordshire Police.
“I started the course not expecting to change my career but it surprised me that I could hold my faith position with integrity in discussion with people of other and no faith backgrounds.
“Through my ministry with church music I was mostly working with Christians, whereas the course and volunteering made me realise that I was able to be a person of Christian faith in the wider sphere of society.
“Working in chaplaincy in Hertfordshire I met people from the Jewish, Muslim and Pagan communities and for me that helped me to become clearer expressing my faith as I didn’t have the safety blanket of only talking to people who were Christian, like me.
“I have become a more faith-filled Christian ministering outside of the church setting.”
After graduating, Frances saw an advert for a Lead Chaplain with Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy.
“I took on this role in 2018 which encompassed Street Angels and Town Centre Chaplaincy.
“Walking into the office and seeing stab vests made me wonder what on earth I had let myself in for!
“However speaking to the Police I was relieved to be advised we didn't need to wear stab vests and when out on patrol with the Street Angels I realised how much we were welcomed, accepted and loved by the people out and about in Watford on weekend evenings.”
A large part of the Lead Chaplain's role was to pull together policies and procedures to help safeguard the volunteers in the work they do. Frances has also become a key part of wider strategic planning for the smooth running of the town, taking part in PubWatch, Community Protection Group, Domestic Abuse Forum, Suicide Prevention Board and the Bereavement Forum.
“Having the Street Angels and church voice heard in these groups is good for the work across the country as others involved are often part of national networks.
“It is a massive responsibility to be a Christian invited to a place at the table of these mostly secular groups discussing dynamics that affect and bring change to our community and people.
“I really sense I am an ambassador for Christ and a link to the wider church community at these meetings.
“We do though need to change our language and attitudes away from Christianese to fit in with the language spoken by those we partner with seeking to bring and influence change.”
After two and a half years working with Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy Frances is about to move on to a new role of Multi Faith Chaplaincy Lead for Surrey and Sussex Police.
“Part of the appeal of this role was the criteria in the job description to liaise with the Street Angel and Street Pastor projects across the region, which shows the high esteem that our work is held in.
This year Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy has benefited from the Government’s encouragement for people to volunteer as well as a rising awareness of the pressures on people at work during an economic downturn.
“We have eleven volunteer chaplains visiting businesses such as Pret, Starbucks, Wetherspoons, gyms, gift shops, the Market and Town Hall.
“As a Chaplaincy we were really sorry to hear that John Lewis would not be reopening in Watford but we were available to support the staff who were facing redundancy.
“Our Chaplains are supporting other shop staff and business owners facing a worrying future, for example, the ripple effect of John Lewis closing has caused concern that customers who used to come to Watford for John Lewis but stay to visit other shops simply won't come back.”
“Our daytime Chaplains and night-time Street Angels continue to be a sign of hope and joy day and night across the town centre.
Frances has also started other initiatives such as Watford Wellness working with the Chamber of Commerce will continue thanks to the amazing dedicated volunteer team.
For more information visit watfordtcc.org, facebook.com/watfordtcc and twitter.com/watford_TCC