We asked, ‘Why are you a street pastor?’
It’s a great way to show God’s love in an unexpected, practical and gentle way.
I want to give something back to Belfast.
In the past I’d have been out late and vulnerable and can understand when people take a night out too far. I’d have loved somebody to sit with me for five minutes. ‘Do to others as you’d have them do to you.’
It is what Jesus would do.
Because I care, and 99.9% of people appreciate that.
To show God’s love by being His eyes, ears and hands.
God loves people outside the Church and it’s a privilege to go out and care.
I have kids and would like there to be people like street pastors around if they needed help.
We are supposed to help our neighbours – we are all made in the image of God.
I enjoy being part of a team, meeting new people and helping those in need.
We are helping Belfast’s reputation as a safe city at night – good for local people and great for tourists.
I became a street pastor by invitation, to see if I could relate to others in a practical Christian way. From the first night I knew it was something that was needed badly in our cities because the world is looking on. As Christians it’s vital that we SHOW our faith and not just ‘talk the talk’.
People ‘see’ more than what we say, and they see it week after week, rain, hail or snow.
I enjoy the camaraderie and being of some help to those we meet on the street. Knowing that we help the other services is important to me and life in Belfast late at night has become safer.
Ram Gidoomal CBE has been patron of the Street Pastors initiative since 2004
As an entrepreneur Ram uses his business acumen to support the work of numerous global missions and public organisations. He is currently chairman of Allia, a charity that supports social ventures and organisations that are dedicated to making a positive social impact.
Ram came to public attention most notably in 2000 when he was a candidate in the London mayoral elections. He ran again in 2004. Campaigning for the job, Ram stated his passion for the city and his hopes of building on the bedrock of “shared values” that put neighbourliness and community above personal acquisition.
We caught up with him at the Street Pastors graduation ceremony that took place at the end of 2015, where, as guest speaker, he recounted how he first came into contact with embryonic ideas for the Street Pastors initiative.
How did you first come into contact with Street Pastors?
I was making my way to the studios of Premier Radio to take part in an interview, and so, it turned out, was the man standing beside me in the lift. This was Les Isaac, who I quickly discovered was the founder of Street Pastors, and along with a handful of volunteers, he was pioneering ‘pastoring’ on the streets of Brixton and Hackney on Saturday nights. Les’s elevator pitch for Street Pastors was short, sharp and set against a lot of public and political discussion at that time of crime and its causes. Les did such a great job of pitching the idea to me that even though I was supposed to be talking about current affairs for the Premier Newstalk show, I was irresistibly drawn to talk about my new friend Les and his simple but innovative idea.
As an East African Asian with a Hindu and Sikh family background, you have a perspective on ecumenism that was shaped by your early years as a Christian and by your commitment to sharing the love of Christ across cultures. Is this why you talk about the ‘humanity’ of street pastors?
I always pay tribute to street pastors and everyone in this movement because they have a fine ethos. They are building a legacy of excellence for the generations that come after them. In this sense I recognise that street pastors are holding true to their humanity. I also believe that street pastors are examples to us all of the importance of putting Christ before Christianity. Their faith crosses all cultures, ages and lifestyles because they care for the person in need in front of them, without placing any conditions on that care.
My own background has enabled me to experience at first hand a clash of cultures. As a new Christian I approached the idea of going to church with uncertainty and naivety. I spent a long time making a list of all the churches in South Kensington where I lived and then spent an even longer period of time searching the Bible to see whether it recommended any of them! When I didn’t find any mention of St Stephen’s or Christchurch, I decided I’d better not go to any church! Consequently, the first three months of my Christian life was spent alone with God and the Bible.
You say you have watched with pride as the Street Pastors initiative has grown into the national and international movement that it is now. Why do you think this has happened?
Street Pastors is an amazingly practical, hands-on response to the problems that our communities face and it is one of the best ideas that I have seen emerge in recent years. That day I met Les in the elevator I called it a “God idea” and a “no brainer”. Making our communities safer is not a quick fix, though. The safety partnerships that have developed between local agencies are vital and the Church – through Street Pastors and other church-led social action initiatives – is playing its part in them.
I recently had a minor car accident and had to visit a garage in Croydon. Without transport, I was driven back to the station by one of the garage’s employees and we had the usual polite conversation en route. He asked what I had got planned for the weekend and I told him that I would be coming to the Street Pastors graduation ceremony. “Street pastors!” he exclaimed. “I know them! I used to work on the door of a club in Sutton!”
He went on to praise the caring and compassionate job done by the street pastors he had observed. “I’ve watched those guys,” he said, “they listen, they are patient, they don’t judge.” He gave me a rundown of the some of the ugly things he had seen on the streets outside his club, but ended, “The street pastors don’t walk by.”
So my first answer to your question – why has the Street Pastors movement grown – is that many, many people recognise and celebrate the ethos of the Good Samaritan, whether they have a faith or not. My second answer would be that as a businessman I know that a key measure of the success of any good idea is reproducibility across different contexts. Street Pastors delivers this by offering a local solution to problems that at a national level seem insurmountable. Lastly, it has grown because – as we see at events like graduation or the commissioning services that take place – ordinary Christians have given their time and resources to serve as street, prayer, school or response pastors. They have been willing to get a little shaken and stirred! I encourage all of you who volunteer to continue to rise to the challenges that lie ahead of you and continue to hold true to yourselves, your work ethic, your faith and your humanity.
Thank you, Ram Gidoomal, patron of the Street Pastors initiative.
We think this fresh and insightful view of Street Pastors in The Spectator is worth sharing. The feature is a response to the announcement by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gloucester of a £40,000 grant to cover training and resources for local Street Pastors teams.
The reporter goes on to describe a fight calmed with a bag of chips by Stroud Street Pastors.
“The logic of it — overcoming street violence with chips — is typical of street pastors’ weirdly effective unworldliness. They start the evening with a Bible reading and prayer, and claim their work is only possible because others are praying for them. This spirituality makes itself felt not through any ostentatious zeal but rather, I sense, through a feeling that it is entirely natural to be out at 2 a.m. helping people get home.”
The magazine also captures street pastors in a satirical cartoon.
Best Bar None is a national scheme that is raising standards in licensed venues and making a difference to public safety in the night-time economy
What is Best Bar None?
It’s an award scheme supported by the Home Office and aimed at promoting responsible management and operation of alcohol licensed premises.
You became Best Bar None’s national director in February 2015 after working in pubs and clubs for a long time. What was your first job?
My first job was in the retail trade and I was in that line for 10 years, and got started on the management ladder. This was in Kent. In my early 20s I transferred to the westcountry and bought a house. In order to pay the mortgage I took a job as doorman. While I was doing that (alongside my day job), a vacancy came up for nightclub manager. I thought that the product was different but the management was the same, so I went for it.
Since then you have run pubs and clubs up and down the country, from Plymouth to Morecombe to Essex. How did you get involved with BBN?
After a while I got the opportunity to take on my own clubs, working for myself. I was running a venue in Plymouth when I heard about the Best Bar None award scheme. At that point BBN was run by the police and they said that they had taken it as far as it could go. I put myself forward to chair the scheme in the city because I understood the principles of a well-managed venue. My years in pub and club management mean that when I go out I like to have quality, standards and good service. BBN ticks all those boxes.
So can you give us a potted history of BBN?
The Best Bar None award was started in 2003 by Greater Manchester Police. It was found to have a positive effect on the night-time economy so GM Police decided to roll it out nationally. I won the first Best Bar None award in Plymouth in 2009. Today schemes are operating in 70 towns or cities in the UK, with another 17 in development.
With thanks to Mick McDonnell. For more on the scheme and how it is raising standards in pubs and clubs see part 1 of this interview.
Listen to Les Isaac, co-founder of the Street Pastors initiative, talking to BBC Radio Essex.
“Surely God hasn’t called me to gather woodworm in my posterior while I sit in church? Surely he has called me to be practical and relevant? … I pray, I go to church, but I can’t just wait for God to come and do something because God’s got me here, and others, and he says ‘Go and do something’!”