HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire Helen Nellis, Professor Joe Nellis, Dame Helen Atkinson DBE with members of the Clergy Credit June Essex Photography

The Lord-Lieutenant’s Service of Thanksgiving was held at St Paul’s Church, Bedford on Sunday 10 October 2021 to give thanks, remember and look forward in hope as the nation emerges from the challenges of the pandemic.

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis was accompanied by her husband Professor Joe Nellis, and supported by the Vice Lord-Lieutenant, Colonel Chris Sharwood-Smith MBE and three of her Lord-Lieutenant Cadets.

The high sheriff of Bedfordshire Eric Masih, the speaker of Bedford Borough Council, the mayor of Luton, the chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council, the chief fire officer, the chief constable, the police & crime commissioner, town mayors from across Bedfordshire, and many other representatives of countywide organisations joined the congregation.

The service, which was held in line with current COVID-19 guidelines, was led by the Revd Canon Kevin Goss and the address and blessing was given by the Bishop of Bedford The Rt Rev Richard Atkinson OBE.

The Royal British Legion County Standard was presented during the first hymn and two of the Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadets presented the Lieutenancy Flag and the Bedfordshire Flag.

The service was in three parts. People from all sections of the community who were involved in the pandemic were invited to share their experiences and this was an opportunity to give thanks for their contribution.

This included local GPs involved in setting up vaccination centres, a volunteer who provided meals for key workers and people in need, a Care Home Manager, military personnel, a vaccination centre volunteer and a COVID survivor. Each of them had a different story to tell, all of which were truly inspiring.

The service then had a period of remembrance when representatives of faith communities were invited to light candles whilst the choir sang, and the congregation was given time to reflect.

This led the service into the final part when the Bishop of Bedford blessed locally grown saplings representing the new hope of life.

The saplings were presented to the Bishop by Lord-Lieutenant Cadets and will be planted in three schools in Bedfordshire to celebrate HM The Queen’s Green Canopy.

Speaking after the service the Lord-Lieutenant said:

“It was a very emotional Bedfordshire Service of Thanksgiving, Remembrance and Hope at St Paul’s Church. 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 have the opportunity to collectively give thanks to these people, and hundreds more in Bedfordshire, whilst also remembering those sadly lost.

“I am looking forward to planting the saplings across Bedfordshire and delight in the thought of children playing under those trees in the years to come.”