Why did you choose to volunteer for this role?
My wife and I moved to Taunton in November 2007 after retiring from leading a village church in Essex. As newcomers to the area, it took us quite a while to settle in and I began to look for ways to connect more with the local community and be involved in some form of Christian ministry in the town. We had a number of street pastors in our church and they all talked enthusiastically about what they did and how God was blessing the ministry, so I felt that maybe this was an answer to my prayers and I should follow it up. The training programme was great and I got really enthused and became a fully-fledged street pastor in May 2012.
Which parts of your role do you enjoy most and why?
I believe the principal role of a street pastor is to show the love of Jesus in practical ways: helping to keep people safe on the streets; helping them out when they get into difficulties through too much drink; caring for the rough sleepers – and it’s good to feel you’ve played a little part in this. But, for me, the most satisfying times are when people, quite unprompted, ask questions about faith or share about issues in their lives and we have an opportunity to speak about Jesus or even to pray with them. There is a real sense of God being in those encounters.
What do you do when you are not street pastoring?
Being retired, I now have plenty of ‘free time’. Over the years, church life and ministry have always filled a large portion of my time and I still like to be involved where I can. I enjoy being a ‘hands on’ grandparent – our daughter and her family also live in Taunton. I love playing the piano and have just joined an art group in the town. I like walking, particularly hill walking, and the opportunities for doing this have increased greatly since we moved to this part of the world – there weren’t many hills in Essex!
What has most surprised you about being a street pastor?
One of the things that has surprised me most is how enjoyable it can be! When I started as a street pastor I feared that it would be a struggle to get through the night and that most of the people we would meet would be hostile and most of the situations threatening. However, thankfully, my experience has been different. The time soon passes, out on patrol, as we chat with members of the team or interact with those on the streets, and I am always greatly encouraged by the numbers of people, particularly young people, who go out of their way to thank us and express their appreciation for what we do.
What would you most like to see change in your town or city?
Like most believers, I would love to see our town impacted and lives transformed by the love of Jesus. I believe we play an important part in that as we live out being His ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in our community.
What do you do if you are finding an incident or an individual difficult?
I’ve found that the best thing to do is to pray – to stay alert and engaged but at the same time involve God in the situation. We are not alone on the streets, God is with us and we always have people praying back at ‘home base’. God can and does transform difficult situations.
How has being a street pastor changed you?
Being a street pastor has given me a greater awareness and experience and, hopefully, a better understanding of a different aspect of life in our community: the night time economy; interacting with the police, ambulance services and club door staff; dealing with the homeless and just talking with ‘ordinary’ people out on the town. We may all have different things going on in our lives but the one common factor is we all need Jesus.