The book Stories from the Streets seeks to share some insight into the work of Street Pastors, from a volunteer's perspective.
The Church is a force for good in the world and it is represented by a body of people who exhibit a rich history of caring for the poor, the weak and the vulnerable in our society. The Street Pastors initiative reflects this relevance of the Church and, even more importantly, of Christ and His gospel.
Stories from the Streets seeks to demonstrate and celebrate this relevance by highlighting the excellence and the transformative power of the work being done by what I can only describe as a formidable army of Street Pastors who have become a welcome presence in their various battalions in towns and cities across our nation. The book captures the excitement and the passion of all the volunteers who serve as Street Pastors as well as the gratitude of those with whom they come into contact. The stories also remind us that God is in the business of taking ordinary people and using them in powerful and practical ways.
I started Street Pastors in Brixton in 2003. I was inspired by a model that I saw in Jamaica, where individual churches joined together to take their presence and values out onto the streets. We started in London by providing practical help to people engaging with the night-time economy. Our work included handing out space blankets (foil blankets) outside nightclubs, as well as flip flops to clubbers who were unable to walk home in their high heels. We also gave out drinking water, chocolate for those low on energy, personal alarms and bus timetables, and assisted others to call taxis to get home. In some cases, as a last resort, we were able to facilitate access to sleeping bags stored in churches. Our teams would also remove bottles and other potential weapons from the streets in order to discourage violence and vandalism, and they were there to generally ensure the safety of those who were out on the streets and vulnerable.
Over the past seventeen years, Street Pastors has expanded its reach nationally and internationally and has developed partner initiatives, including School Pastors (who mentor young people in schools and work to reduce bullying, antisocial behaviour and drug use, as well as to help to remove barriers to learning), Rail Pastors (who work to prevent suicide attempts and fatalities on the railway) and Response Pastors (who support those who are affected by disaster or crisis).
To date, there are 270 active Street Pastors groups nationally and seven internationally, and together they have worked with more than 12,000 volunteers, with a phenomenal level of commitment and hard work that testifies to the robustness and relevance of so many churches that I have had the pleasure of working with over the years and the hundreds of amazing individuals who make up those congregations.
There are so many stories that have not been captured in this small volume, but it is my hope that those that have been included will remind us of the impact that the Church is having on the streets of the United Kingdom every weekend. Furthermore, it is my hope that these stories may inspire our current Street Pastors not to become ‘weary in doing good’ because ‘at the proper time’, they ‘will reap a harvest’ (Galatians 6:9, NIV UK). And I also hope that they may inspire a new generation of volunteers to take up the mantle of becoming Street Pastors, since volunteerism is the lifeblood of what we do.
For myself, if I ever find myself in any doubt about the Church’s impact through the Street Pastors initiatives, I should only have to pick up this volume and browse through it to remind myself of why we have been doing what we do for so many years, and why we will continue to do it. One of the most recent stories that highlights the value of the work for me is the recognition that was given to the Preston Street Pastors group, in July 2020, for their service to the community and the group being voted as the number one charity to go on the city’s new monopoly board. That is impactful! And a real tribute to the men and women who serve in Preston.
I would like to express my gratitude to Sue and Luke for gathering these wonderful stories and for sharing them with us and with all those who read this book. May they encourage us all to know that we have a role to play in making our society and nation a great place to live!
Les Isaac, summer 2020