The Street Pastors initiative has grown dramatically since its birth in London 12 years ago, when the Church began to establish new forms of contact with hard-to-reach communities of young or disenfranchised people in urban centres. Now, with teams in more than 270 diverse locations around the UK, the initiative is responding to the challenge of setting up a team in a place that is, literally, harder to reach – Stornoway, the first town in the Western Isles to launch Street Pastors.
At Cumbernauld airport, halfway between Stirling and Glasgow, James Mackenzie, coordinator of Street Pastors in Stirling, boarded a small private plane, waiting on the basic half-a-mile stretch of runway. The flight, a gift to Street Pastors from the pilot, has made it possible for James to deliver the first session of training for the nine new volunteers in Stornoway. James was accompanied on the flight by a professional actor who will help him to lead the training through role-playing.
Training new street pastors is a big event in the calendar for any Street Pastors team, with 42 hours of training and observation to cover, new uniform to order and commissioning events to lead. Ascension Trust (and Ascension Trust Scotland), the governing body of Street Pastors, sets the requirements for training and sees it as a key way to communicate the credibility of the Church to the Police and other agencies, and its commitment to serving communities.
Instead of the four-and-a-half hour journey through the central belt of Scotland to the ferry at Ullapool, James’s plane passed tightly around the right-hand-side of Ben Nevis, and landed at Stornoway airport in one-and-a-half hours.
This first session of training in Stornoway is an important landmark for the fledgling team. It began the process of explaining the roles and responsibilities of a street pastor. With much latent spirituality in the Western Isles and a high level of church attendance, the cross-church response that drives every Street Pastors team, is a much-needed, positive expression of a living faith.