Why Street Pastors?

Why I’m a street pastor: Belfast volunteers reveal all

Posted on Apr 13, 2016 in Interviews, Why Street Pastors?

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.

Find out more about Belfast Street Pastors here.

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#youmakeadifference tweets Chief Constable

Posted on Sep 16, 2015 in Messages of thanks, Why Street Pastors?

 

 

CCessex crop

What prompted the Chief Constable of Essex to say this?

It followed a conversation that the coordinator of Southend Street Pastors had with a rough sleeper who had contacted the team to ask for a sleeping bag.

“He turned up at our base with a young girl claiming she was his daughter. We know this guy and he hasn’t ever mentioned a daughter so I was immediately suspicious.

“During the course of the conversation the girl told me she was 12 and had run away from her foster home the day before and slept in the rough sleeper’s tent on the Friday evening. They were planning to visit Edinburgh later that day.

“Many alarm bells rang during the course of this conversation, not least that she didn’t once call him ‘Dad’. The police eventually arrested him.”

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What’s the point of Street Pastors? An answer to Critic no. 4

Posted on Feb 11, 2015 in Why Street Pastors?

Contributed by Ros Davies

Criticism of street pastors occasionally appears on the letters pages of local newspapers or online. Perhaps you’ve heard someone question the role of the street pastor, or even asked the questions yourself. In this series of blogs I will list some of these published negative comments. In answering them my hope is not to dismiss such observations but allow them to tell us something about how we relate to each other and how, through the Street Pastors initiative, we might be able to find new ways to talk about spiritual subjects.

Critic no. 4: “The street pastors have it all wrong. Those who are the worse for drink should spend a night in the cells, then they’d think twice before repeating the performance the following weekend.”

In recent months we’ve heard various reports, petitions and news headlines warning that the time has now come to charge people for using A&E services after drinking too much. The writer of criticism no. 4 is not alone in believing that there should be real consequences or deterrents for those who drink to excess and need medical attention. There is an important debate to be had about services, costs and crisis in A&E departments.

How do street pastors fit into these debates? Critic no. 4 infers that the work of street pastors prevents people from facing the consequences of their own action. However, there are always consequences for the person who has been drinking to excess – consequences to family relationships (the anxious parent waiting at home or the angry relative or friend who has to get in their car at 2 a.m. to pick up someone who has run out of money, lost their keys or been barred from a taxi). There may be financial consequences that follow a night spent in pubs and clubs. And, of course, the person who has drunk too much will feel rough the next day. So there are consequences, but if a street pastor is on hand for someone who is vulnerable or at risk of injury because they are drunk, the consequence that is a cost to the state may be avoided.

Jesus taught that judgements and consequences apply to everyone – the one who thinks they are doing good, the one who is oblivious to the effects of their behaviour and the one who knows they have messed up. And the Bible tells us that we all ‘do the same things’ and that the riches of God’s kindness flow freely to all. The river of this grace cannot be dammed up or diverted. Many street pastors have ‘been there and done that’ when it comes to alcohol or hardcore partying. Haven’t we all messed things up in our different ways, and haven’t we all benefitted from the help of another person? Our message should be that these mistakes do not have to hang around our neck for a lifetime – Christians know the God of new beginnings.

Read the answers to Critic No.1, Critic No. 2 and Critic No. 3

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What’s the point of Street Pastors? An answer to Critic no. 3

Posted on Feb 9, 2015 in Why Street Pastors?

Contributed by Ros Davies

Criticism of street pastors occasionally appears on the letters pages of local newspapers or online. Perhaps you’ve heard someone question the role of the street pastor, or even asked the questions yourself. In this series of blogs I will list some of these published negative comments. In answering them my hope is not to dismiss such observations but allow them to tell us something about how we relate to each other and how, through the Street Pastors initiative, we might be able to find new ways to talk about spiritual subjects.

Critic no. 3: “What’s the point in these guys? They wander around the city at night on Fridays and Saturdays giving water, hot towels* and a helping hand to drunks, but has anyone ever converted or gone to church because of this the next day?”

In the early days of the initiative there was anxiety among statutory bodies that street pastors would turn out to be evangelists and street preachers. Street pastors have demonstrated, to the contrary, that although they are motivated by their Christian faith, their primary aim is to provide practical care.

This critic assumes, like others before them, that street pastors must have an ulterior motive. Christians are getting out into their communities, playing their part in public life, taking their place alongside other partners who work for the safety of a city –  but what do they really want? This can’t be the whole story. They might be busy doing all this, but don’t forget (I hear this critic say) that a Christian’s number one aim is to tell other people about God.

Street pastors believe that the ‘whole story’ is exactly what Jesus cared about. Jesus was concerned for the whole person – their physical health, their mental well-being, their family relationships, their sense of belonging. All of this and their spiritual state of health. So, following Jesus, street pastors and many other Christian-led initiatives and projects, take it as their primary responsibility to be a channel for Jesus’s love for the world through social action – to be involved in the issues and problems that are manifested on our high streets.

Through street pastors we are starting to see new arenas for spiritual conversations. Street pastors meet people who have spiritual questions that they want to ask and these conversations are taking place right there and then on the street. Street pastors have enabled a new engagement with the Christian faith. Right from the outset the public have asked ‘Who are you?’, ‘Where do you come from?’ and ‘Why do you do what you do?’ The answers to these basic questions are that street pastors are the Church in action, meeting the practical needs that are on its doorstep.

In the final blog in this series, Critic no. 4 argues that street pastors should step aside so that real deterrents for antisocial behaviour can be implemented.

*I don’t think street pastors give out hot towels.

Read the answers to Critic No. 1, Critic No. 2 and Critic No. 4

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What’s the point of street pastors? An answer to Critic no. 2

Posted on Feb 6, 2015 in Why Street Pastors?

Contributed by Ros Davies

Criticism of street pastors occasionally appears on the letters pages of local newspapers or online. Perhaps you’ve heard someone question the role of the street pastor, or even asked the questions yourself. In this series of blogs I will list some of these published negative comments. In answering them my hope is not to dismiss such observations but allow them to tell us something about how we relate to each other and how, through the Street Pastors initiative, we might be able to find new ways to talk about spiritual subjects.

Critic no. 2: “They go around the city at weekend nights, seeking those whom they regard as vulnerable, cosseting them in blankets if perchance the night has a chill to it, and the taxi queue at some God-less hour is slow moving. They distribute flip-flops to damsels whose high-heeled shoes may cause them some discomfort as they make their unsteady way from pub to pub.”

This critic is arguing two things: first, that the people that street pastors help are not really in need – they are just drunk, cold or wearing the wrong shoes. Second, the critic infers that the care that street pastors provide is not needed and over-protective.

It is important that street pastors are available to all – for the temporarily unwell or unhappy as well as the unconscious person in the shop doorway. Being available to all means that street pastors develop a ‘presence’ on the streets and that by responding to anyone in need they are then often well-placed to be a listening ear for the issue behind the issue. No, not everyone that street pastors meet is in crisis – many are just having a good time – but there are others for whom a night out and alcohol is masking a deeper distress.

So the question seems to be, what is the point of a simple, non-lifesaving act of kindness? Many emails and social media posts tell how grateful individuals are for the simple acts of kindness they have received from street pastors. It makes a difference to them. Then there’s the issue of building trust – at a community level as well as a personal level. Trust grows when the public is aware of the distinctive, consistent presence of local people from local churches in their town; people who are alongside them when they are having a laugh and alongside them when a night out goes wrong. The ‘soft skills’ that street pastors bring to incidents of antisocial behaviour, anxiety or drunkenness are enabled because street pastors have more time to give than police officers do. Their presence stops an incident from escalating and saves the resources of the police and the emergency services for those people and incidents that need them most.

In the next blog in this series, Critic no. 3 asks what’s the point of street pastors if no one ever goes to church with them the next day.

Read the answers to Critic No. 1, Critic No.3 and Critic No. 4

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