London Borough Response Pastors were speedily deployed in Croydon near to the scene of the recent tragic tram crash in which seven people lost their lives and many more injured.
Several teams of Response Pastors deployed over a four day period. The initial main interaction was with the emergencies services, the British Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police and Rail Investigation Team. Response Pastors were requested to assist the Police by taking people to the main site to lay flowers into the cordoned off area.
The Response Pastors liaised closely with the British Transport Police and were able to share compassion and support with people close to the scene; they spoke with many family, and friends of the deceased who attended the scene.
Local Clergy have welcomed the deployment of Response Pastors, stating that they can provide a practical support to others, as they have the credibility and skills to share appropriately with those people.
At memorials outside the Houses of Parliament and in Birstall, the town where the MP was killed on Thursday, response pastors from London and Sheffield were on hand to offer support to those mourning Jo Cox.
Our prayers are with Jo’s family and friends and the community of Birstall.
In the words of response pastors who were in Westminster and Birstall:
I was proud to carry out God’s work and to be able to wear the response uniform to share compassion and listen and support that caring community.
It has been a day that I will not forget. Being able to serve God’s people today has been a very humbling experience.
Being on duty today in Westminster was a very moving experience.
Response pastors across the UK
Wales has recently gained its first two trained response pastors.
A response pastor is an experienced street pastor who undertakes additional training to be able to respond to major incidents in the UK with compassion and care for those who may have been affected by trauma or crisis.
It’s the last day of the disaster training exercise and a new scenario is presented to the emergency crews, civic agencies, humanitarian organisations and faith groups.
The Reception Centre received over 100 people in the wake of the staged incident, many seeking to contact friends and relatives.
This is how one response pastor described the day:
I talked to lots of evacuated residents. Some of them were worried about their pets they had at home, their mother who might have taken a train at Waterloo, etc., a girl who did not stop crying for half an hour, epileptics, and a member of the armed forces with severe post-traumatic syndrome. He lost his regiment in a war zone and had only been back in the UK for two days and had had no support. He said he was suicidal. We had to get him to A&E for a mental health assessment.
Response pastors worked closely with volunteers from the Salvation Army and the British Red Cross, as well as the centre manager and evaluators. There was strong teamwork on all sides and response pastors were affirmed and thanked by the centre staff.
More feedback was received from staff from Kingston Council who were also working in the Rest Centre today. They said, how helpful it was to be able to place individuals with difficult or complex needs in the hands of the response pastors.
Day 3 at Exercise Unified Response, where response pastors are one of 70 organisations taking part in a large disaster training exercise.
In the morning the ‘Faith team’ – which includes response pastors – supported the local borough response by staffing the reception centre.
The scenario was that all the residents of a nearby housing complex needed to be immediately evacuated to the reception centre for an indefinite amount of time. Response pastors dealt with just over 150 people, addressing issues such as not having access to medication, not being able to locate friends, and a partially sighted lady with a guide dog that needed feeding.
The teams had to interact with other organisations in order to resolve situations. They liaised with the British Red Cross on medical matters and the local authority with regard to temporary overnight accommodation. Response pastors took responsibility for faith matters and were even able to supply Jewish prayers to someone who was distressed to be without them.
At the start of the shift we had set out a prayer area and marked which way was east. This was very soon put to good use.