It’s another Friday night in Wolverhampton and the local volunteer Street Pastors are once again out on the city centre streets as they are most Fridays and some Saturdays throughout the year.
This December night is a little different as the Street Pastors are joining with extra police, medical staff from the local Primary Care Trust who are manning the ‘Safe Haven’, Red Cross volunteers and officers from the local council’s licensing department who are involved in Wolverhampton’s ‘Keep It Safe’ campaign over the Christmas and New Year period.
These Street Pastors are church members with a concern for society who are willing to engage with people by caring for, listening to and helping those individuals outside pubs, clubs and places of entertainment as well as bringing a smile to the streets of the city.
At the weekends right across the country, from Inverness to Falmouth and Tunbridge Wells to Bangor in north Wales, there are teams of Street Pastors bringing the love of Jesus to the streets of towns and cities in the nation. Street Pastors patrol from around 10 pm at night until the early hours of the following morning. During the evenings the Street Pastors will often help people who have over indulged by getting them to a medical facility or by helping people find a taxi or perhaps to giving out foil ‘space blankets’ to some women who are rather under dressed for a cold winter’s evening or just by talking to people and in some cases thereby defusing situations that could have become violent.
In Wolverhampton over the last few weekends the local Street Pastors have talked to many revellers as well as to door staff at the many clubs and pubs in the town and picked up glass bottles left lying in the streets. In some cases they have quietly prayed when they have seen that a fight is about to start; in these cases they have seen the participants suddenly walk away from the situation and therefore there has been no ‘incident’.
In fact not only do the West Midlands Police say that the presence of Street Pastors causes the number of ‘incidents’ in the city to drop but police forces across the country say the same thing about the work
of Street Pastors in their areas.
Street Pastors was first started by the Revd Les Isaac in the streets of Brixton in London, but the seed of the idea was planted in his mind following a two-week mission to Wolverhampton in 1992. During his time in Wolverhampton he was paired with the then vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Heath Town, Alistair Palmer, who was in the process of reorienting his ministry to look outwards into his community as well as pastoring his congregation.
During his stay in the city Les Isaac also met a group of nuns who had relocated from their convent onto a council estate in order to serve the people there. It was through these two acts of service and outreach that God spoke to him not only about his own ministry but about the ministry of the church in Britain as a
whole. It was ten years after his visit to Wolverhampton that Les Isaac saw the Street Pastors initiative born.
The call to become a Street Pastor touches Christians from all ethnic backgrounds, church denominations and ages. To become a Street Pastor an individual needs to be over 18 (there is no upper age limit), a church member and able to commit to work a minimum of one night per month, usually a Friday or Saturday night from 10pm to around 4am, after they have successfully completed the course of 12 training sessions. The training includes subjects such as counselling skills, drugs awareness, sociology, knowing the local community plus the roles and responsibilities of a Street Pastor.
To find out how to become a Street Pastor and join the next training course that starts in your area local area visit the national website at www.streetpastors.org.uk and click on the ‘Current Locations’ tab that will take you to the list of Street Pastor groups across the country.