They might do it sitting down, but many older Christians are still committed to serving their communities and being people who stay in touch (S.I.T.)
News headlines tell us a variety of stories about older people. One day it will be a story about loneliness, or about vulnerability and abuse, or an older person who has been the victim of a financial scam. On another day we’ll hear that old age is the golden age or that the ‘baby boomers’ are accumulating property and pension wealth.
We can show you another picture of old age
We meet lots of older people who are keen to stay in touch with their community and be part of the Church’s response to the needs and problems of the locality.
The gentleman in the photo (left) has served as a street pastor in Kent until last weekend when, at the age of 94 he stepped down from monthly patrols to take up a role as a prayer pastor in his team.
In East Grinstead the founder of Street Pastors, Les Isaac, recently had the pleasure of meeting three older ladies who pray for their Street Pastors team.
As 92-year-old Jeannie says, age and disability are not a barrier to prayer!
Street Pastors also need prayer support while working with the community, you just need a telephone to receive the requests for prayer for the different problems people share with them.
Age and disability are not a barrier – I speak from experience and I am so grateful to still be able to serve the Lord (while sitting in my chair, aged 92). Street Pastors would welcome your offer of becoming a prayer warrior.
Meet David, who is now 91, and became a street pastor when he moved from Cambridge to Tunbridge Wells to be near his daughter. In 2015, with failing eyesight, David transferred to become a prayer pastor. His desire is “just to continue”.
What wonderful role models – we honour and respect you! It is our hope that the Street Pastors initiative may be a catalyst for prayer in our nation and for the mobilisation of ordinary Christians in response to the community around them, and we are excited by the evidence that many older Christians are rising to the challenge.
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.
“Seeing what God is doing and joining in”: Brian Anderson reflects on a night out with Belfast Street Pastors
Revd Brian Anderson is the president of the Methodist Church in Ireland. This weekend he spent four hours on the streets with Belfast Street Pastors. Here’s what he posted on Facebook the next day.
“A group of five pastors quietly observed the antics of those on the streets in the earlier hours, intervening when appropriate. A quiet word with a homeless person in a doorway, engaging in banter with a few rowdy lads, ensuring a guy got a bed for the night, a quick word with other groups out to help, a chat with a shopkeeper offering us tea and coffee, giving flip flops to some shoeless girls, picking up 30 empty bottles, making sure that a young girl who had drunk too much got home safely, giving water to another, providing a blanket to keep a person warm.
“We speak of incarnational theology, seeing what God is doing and joining in. The Street Pastors project is a great example. It is also a great testament to churches and other agencies working together for the common good.
“I travelled home to Bangor around 3 am this morning thinking there were many feet on the streets of Belfast last night, but the feet of Him who brings good news were also there.
“Well done, Street Pastors, and others. You bring some safety and care to the streets of Belfast every Friday and Saturday night. I have been humbled by your loving presence.”
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’!”
Tim, a street pastor in Melbourne, Australia, shares this story of a “dispiriting” encounter with a man with atheist views, and what he learned from it.
Some people who notice us in Swan Street are wary, or indifferent. A few take the view that they are superior to us as Christian believers. Most, once they find out what we do, respond very positively. It is extremely rare to come across anything even remotely like actual antagonism. But it occasionally happens.
On one patrol we were accosted by a self-professed atheist, who started to denounce our Christian beliefs and behaviour. We replied politely, but it was clear that he didn’t want a discussion, he wanted to deliver a lecture. We remained polite, and eventually he departed with his friends.
It was slightly dispiriting, but when we discussed it later at our break, we agreed that engaging with people who are hostile to Christians is actually an important part of our role.
Interactions like this may well be more important than many of the more pleasant experiences we have. When we pray that God will be at work through us, we should be grateful when he sends us tasks that answer that prayer, even if they aren’t necessarily tasks we would choose!
We went back out after our break and continued the patrol, resolved to deal cheerfully with whatever happened. Right at the end of the night it looked like that resolve was going to be tested. We were watching the last patrons straggle out of a bar, checking that they were all safe, when the atheist man and his friends approached us again.
I can’t speak for my team mates but I was steeling myself for another abrasive encounter. But I needn’t have done. The man was very apologetic for his earlier behaviour, and he and his friends began asking about what we were doing.
We had a good, lengthy, discussion about spiritual issues, gave a bottle of water to one of the group who was dehydrated, and eventually parted with goodwill.
I realised that this experience was a gift to us. God was showing us that even the least promising situation may, even if we don’t know it at the time, have some small incremental effect on the people we meet. The presence of street pastors encourages an atmosphere of spiritual engagement, and even if it is not always a comfortable time, I’ve got lots to learn through it, too.