Who We Are

The Deanery of Bedford is a group of 23 neighbouring parishes. Together these 23 parishes form an administrative area.

The Deanery of Bedford is overseen by an Area Dean, The Revd Dr Sam Cappleman, and a Lay Chair, Mrs Pauline Kendall.

The Bedford Deanery lies ecclesiastically within the Archdeaconry of Bedford.  Administratively it lies within Bedford Borough (which also includes the adjacent Sharnbrook Deanery) which covers an area of nearly 200 square miles.  It’s home to an estimated 175,000 people (2020) of a diverse socio economic, faith and ethnic mix, with almost two-thirds of the diverse population living in the urban area of Bedford and Kempston.  

The last few years have seen significant growth in new housing around Bedford, with people moving to the area from local, national, and international geographies.  With the growth in housing developments, it’s estimated that the population could potentially reach 200,000 in the next 10 years so it’s an area of real growth and potential. The Bedford Deanery comprises a wide mix of urban, suburban and rural parishes, with a rich and diverse range of church sizes, ages and traditions across the 23 churches of the Deanery.  

Who's Who?

The Revd Dr Sam Cappleman

Area Dean


Sam is associate priest at Bedford St Mark’s and Area Dean of Bedford. He is currently the Executive Chair of the Lee Abbey Movement and involved in a number of other Christian Charities.

His biblical and theological interests include the Jewish origins of the Christian faith and liturgy and how the church today relates to the society in which we live. 

Sheila Bissell

Lay Vice Chair

Sheila has been a member of Bedford St. Andrew’s  for many years and held a number of roles including chair of the Outreach and Music Committees as well as treasurer of the very successful Fairtrade Shop. She has been Safeguarding Officer since 2010 and is also Equality and Diversity Officer. She has been a member of Deanery since 2013 with an interest in the role churches have within society to promote social justice and inclusion.


Sheila is a retired advisory teacher with many interests including singing, church music, gardening, walking, dancing and bowls.  

Mrs Pauline Kendall

Lay Chair

Pauline has always enjoyed opportunities to meet with other Christians – regardless of tradition- who have the gospel at the heart of all that they do .


Pauline worships and lives in Wootton and

is the Deputy Head at The Bedford Sixth Form on Bromham Road.

Richard Kirby

Deanery Treasurer

Richard is a retired chartered accountant, in his 20th year as Treasurer at St. Mary the Virgin, Goldington. He is married to Dorothy, a retired civil servant, and they have two children and one grandchild.   Dorothy is a keen bell ringer and helps lead the church catering team at St. Mary's and Richard sings in the choir.


Richard enjoys playing bowls, gardening and listening to music but his main passion is walking, especially long ones.

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The Revd Paul Messam

Assistant Area Dean

Paul is Priest-in-charge of the Elstow Abbey Team and Assistant Area Dean of Bedford. Paul has been at Elstow Abbey since November 2016 having previously held Church and Chaplaincy posts in Coventry Diocese and Leicester Diocese.


With a background in Design and Advertising Paul continues to have a keen interest in Apologetics and the Mass Media. He is also an active member in the Society of Catholic Priests.


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Mrs Kathryn Hughes

Deanery Synod Secretary

Kathryn has been providing administrative support to the Deanery of Bedford since June 2016 and took on the role of Deanery Synod Secretary in December 2020.


In addition to these roles, Kathryn works as a fundraiser for local charity Friends for Life Bedfordshire. Although now a registered charity, Friends for Life Bedfordshire started life as a ecumenical project launched by the Deanery of Bedford and the North Bedfordshire Methodist Circuit. 

Licensed Extra Parochial Chaplaincies

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Mr Neil McCleery
Chaplain to Bedford School


Neil joined Bedford School in 2018, having previously served as a chaplain in prep and senior schools, two Oxford colleges, and latterly a cathedral.


He bears responsibility for the life of the School Chapel, as well as teaching Theology, Philosophy, and Religion, providing pastoral support to pupils, parents, and staff, and taking an active part in wider School life. Find out more here


Formerly a professional musician, he is keen on aviation and the outdoors, coaches target shooting, and takes an interest in all things French.