Street Pastors

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Street Pastors
Street Pastors logo.jpg
Motto Caring, Listening, Helping
Formation 2003
Type Charitable network
Headquarters London
Region served
United Kingdom, other countries following
Les Isaac
Parent organization
Ascension Trust
Website streetpastors.co.uk

Street Pastors is an interdenominational network of Christian charities operating across the UK and world wide.[1]

Street Pastors is an initiative of Ascension Trust.[2] Individual street pastors are Christian adults with a concern for their community, who undergo 12 days of training in order to voluntarily patrol the streets of towns and cities at night, helping and caring for people in practical ways.[3] The initiative began in the United Kingdom and is now being operated in other countries.[4]

Street pastors wear a blue uniform, with the term 'Street Pastor' visible in white.[5] Street pastors work closely with councils and police in their local areas, but maintain an operational independence.[6] Street pastors seek to maintain confidentiality so far as is legal, and do not have any powers of enforcement or arrest.[7] Street pastors are expected to provide services unconditionally.[3] The aim of Street Pastors is not to proactively preach or evangelise, but to provide a neutral and reassuring presence in local communities.[4][8][9][10][11]

History[edit]

Les Isaac on Street Pastor patrol in Chinatown, London, 31 Dec 2014

Street Pastors was founded in Brixton, south London, UK in 2003 by Rev. Les Isaac. It was based on a model from Jamaica in which individual churches joined together to take their values out onto the streets.[4][12] Street Pastors is an initiative of the Ascension Trust, a registered charity established in 1993. The initial activities of street pastors in areas such as Lewisham and Hackney focussed mainly on confronting gang culture and the use of knives and guns. As Street Pastors started to operate in other areas of the UK, the initiative responded to other local issues, including anti-social behavior and drunkenness.[13]

By 2008 there were Street Pastors groups in 70 locations, with another 50 being established.[12] As of January 2015 the official website states that there are over 270 active groups.[1]

In 2010 Ascension Trust devolved responsibility to oversee Street Pastors in Scotland to Ascension Trust (Scotland), a Scottish registered charity which has an office in Perth, and whose first chairman is former police officer Sandy Scrimgeour. In 2015 he became CEO and was succeeded in the chair by Shaw Anderson.[14][15]

In 2010 Michael Frost and others established the first Australian group in Manly, New South Wales.

In 2013 several churches in Chico, CA established the first United States Street Pastors group in Chico, CA.[16]

School pastors[edit]

In February 2011 a sister organisation School Pastors was launched nationally after several trial projects. School Pastors aim to reduce bullying, anti-social behaviour and drug use, and to remove barriers to learning. They mentor young people within a school setting, and patrol outside to break patterns of negative behaviour at the end of the school day.[17]

Training and support for volunteers[edit]

Individual street pastors are Christians, over the age of 18, committed to a local church for at least one year, who pass an enhanced CRB check and who have a positive reference from their church leader stating that they would be suitable to be a Street Pastor and are leading a Christian lifestyle. They must complete 12 training sessions spread over a year, covering subjects including conflict management, counselling and basic first-aid.[18]

Street Pastors is also supported by 'Prayer Pastors', who do not patrol but who provide support to street pastors by praying for them and sometimes keep in touch with them by mobile phone.[19]

Services provided[edit]

Street Pastors is designed to provide a reassuring presence in local communities. Individual street pastors seek to listen to and talk with people in their local community, to provide information on local agencies, help and services, and to discourage anti-social behaviour.[10][11][19]

Practical help provided by street pastors include handing out space blankets outside nightclubs, and flip-flops to clubbers unable to walk home in their high-heeled footwear; giving out water, chocolate for energy, personal alarms, carrying bus timetables; and ensuring the safety of vulnerable persons. Street pastors remove bottles and other potential weapons from the streets, in order to discourage violence and vandalism.[20] They may also have access to sleeping bags stored in church buildings as a last resort.[9][12][18]

They occasionally report saving the lives of people they meet.[21]

Responses to Street Pastors[edit]

Ascension Trust did not initially seek official funding or support, in light of some communities' distrust of local police.[4]

Local police and ambulance services in areas such as Sutton, initially expressed concern that Street Pastors would increase violent incidents. However, many police services, in areas such as London and Scotland, have praised the scheme.[12][14] Ascension Trust reports that reduction in crime figures have been recorded in areas where the Street Pastors initiatives have been operating,[8][22] which have been confirmed by official police figures.[6][23][24]

Politicians who have expressed admiration or support for the scheme include UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.[12]

Frank Soodeen of the pressure group Alcohol Concern has also praised the work of Street Pastors, for their work assisting drunken young people to get home safely.[13]

A number of local Street Pastor groups have won community awards.[25]

Whilst some individuals have reacted negatively,[19] the general public response to Street Pastors has been markedly positive, even among those who have been observed being abusive to the emergency services.[12][20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Current Locations on official website
  2. ^ Street Pastors home page on official website. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  3. ^ a b What is a Street Pastor? on official website. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Dominic Casciani, Street pastors on a mission from God, BBC News, 5 November 2004
  5. ^ Wantage and Grove Street Pastors, August 2011. Wantage Community and Business Website. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  6. ^ a b Duncan Smith, Police praise Island Street Pastors, 22 January 2010, Island Pulse (Isle of Wight News). Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  7. ^ Daniel Binns, Waltham Forest: Christian 'Street Pastors' to patrol crime hotspots, Waltham Forest Guardian, 20 July 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  8. ^ a b Street Pastors on patrol in Birmingham, BBC News, 4 February 2005
  9. ^ a b Street Pastors in Plymouth, BBC News, 19 December 2007
  10. ^ a b Street pastors prepare for action, Wiltshire Times, 15 October 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b Street pastors for Kirkcaldy, Fife Today, 11 June 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Rowena Mason (in Sutton), Street pastors making a difference after-hours, Daily Telegraph, 1 June 2008
  13. ^ a b Emily Dugan (in Derby), A night on the town: Vomit, violence and God, The Independent, 17 January 2010
  14. ^ a b ‘Valuable addition’ say police, Perthshire Advertiser, 10 March 2009
  15. ^ "Plan for 'flip flop angel' for Tain". The Northern Times. 13 October 2011. Archived from the original on 30 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  16. ^ Ashley Gebb (31 August 2013). "Street Pastors patrol pavement in Chico with aim to aid". Chico Enterprise-Record. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  17. ^ "Working with faith communities". National Policing Improvement Agency. 2011. p. 20. Archived from the original (pdf) on 10 December 2011.  (Note: large 472-page download)
  18. ^ a b Sunderland street pastors hit the streets in Sunderland, BBC News, 9 July 2010
  19. ^ a b c Street Pastors in Weymouth, BBC News, 24 November 2008
  20. ^ a b Perth Street Pastors ‘blown away’ by public’s response, Perth Evening Telegraph, 18 April 2008
  21. ^ "Street pastors 'save two lives' during evening patrols". The West Briton. 1 March 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Crime drops after street pastor patrols, Christian Institute, 27 April 2010
  23. ^ Crime 'drop' after pastor patrols in Northampton, BBC News, 23 April 2010
  24. ^ Tara Russell (22 July 2010). "Street Pastors hand out hundreds of flip flops in Southampton". Daily Echo. Southampton, UK. Archived from the original on 30 November 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 
  25. ^ Awards on official website

External links[edit]