Special Bedfordshire service of thanksgiving had extra poignancy this year

Recognising those who went the extra mile during lockdown and remembering those we lost

By Bev Creagh
Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 3:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 3:40 pm

An extra special service of thanksgiving – attended by numerous Bedfordshire dignitaries and VIPs, as well as members of the community who had contributed so much during the pandemic – was held on Sunday (October 10).

The Lord Lieutenant’s annual service of thanksgiving had to be postponed last year because of Covid so this year’s event was both a celebration and a commemoration of those we lost.

Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis was accompanied by her husband Professor Joe Nellis and supported by Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Chris Sharwood-Smith MBE, together with three of her Lord Lieutenant cadets.

Representatives of the community share their Covid stories, including (third from left) Luton Dr Baz Barhey of Woodlands Avenue Surgery

They were joined by Bedfordshire High Sheriff Eric Masih, the Mayor of Luton, Cllr Mahmood Hussain, Chief Constable Garry Forsyth and Police & Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye as well as representatives from many other organisations.

The service at Bedford's St Paul’s Church – held in line with current guidelines, led by the Rev Canon Kevin Goss and addressed by the Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Rev Richard Atkinson OBE – was divided into three parts.

The first was particularly poignant, when members of the community affected by Covid-19 shared not only their experiences but also their contributions.

Among them was Woodlands Avenue Surgery Dr Baz Barhey who was instrumental in setting up a Vaisakhi pop-up clinic at Luton’s Guru Nanak Gurdwara. Vaisakhi commemorates the principles of Sikhism – equality, justice and selfless service.

Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis and her husband Professor Joe Nellis with members of the clergy after the thanksgiving service at St Paul's Church, Bedford on Sunday (October 10)

Other speakers included a volunteer who provided meals for key workers, a care home manager, military personnel and a Covid survivor.

Representatives of different faith communities then lit candles as the choir sang a selection of uplifting hymns.

During the final part of the service, the Bishop blessed locally grown saplings which will be planted at three schools in Bedfordshire to celebrate the Queen’s Green Canopy scheme.

One of these is Chantry Primary School in Luton where the tree-planting ceremony will take place on November 15.

The Lord Lieutenant described the service as ‘very emotional’ and said: “I was really inspired and greatly moved by the stories of how so many went the extra mile to help during the pandemic.

“I was delighted to give thanks to them while also remembering those sadly lost.”

She added: “I’m looking forward to planting those saplings and the thought of children playing under them in years to come.”