Great Yarmouth Street Pastors on the beat
by Louise Lyle, Park Baptist Church
First of all, may I begin by stating that I’m a talker, not a writer, so forgive me if this doesn’t flow as well as it should. I first heard of the Street Pastors project while attending a BWCF meeting held at St Pauls in February 2009. Goodness! That’s a year ago. How time flies. Street Pastors is an ecumenical group of people who care about the people of their town who are out and about on Friday or Saturday nights. I sought further information, and they invited me for an interview. Having been accepted, I went for 4 weekly training sessions and was on the streets of Norwich (because the Great Yarmouth team had not been set up then) by April
I don’t consider myself a superwoman or even super-spiritual. What we do is with God’s grace. So what does a Street Pastor do? Here’s a short description of what we do every weekend: The evening always begins with prayer and communion around 9.30 pm and the team splits into two – the Prayers who stay behind, and the Walkers who go out onto the streets (“Innies” and “Outies”). The two sections are in constant communication by phone. I should add here that if there no Prayers then the Walkers don’t go out, as we consider prayer vital to our mission
The Walkers go out around 10pm in a group of four, with at least one woman. We walk and pray about the streets and we chat to door staff, people we meet, and we keep an eye out for homeless and vulnerable people. If we can, we give out sweets and chocolates, hot drinks, flip-flops (in cases where the girls can’t walk in their high heels), insulating blankets, bottles of water, and sometimes information cards for organisations such as drug support agencies
We return to base after approximately three hours for some food and rest, and then go out again until we are not needed anymore, which is normally about 3-4am. As already stated, we let the “Innies” know what is happening by phone, tell them what the atmosphere is like and what they can pray for. This helps their prayers to flow and almost certainly keeps them awake during their night on duty!
The Great Yarmouth team started on the August Bank Holiday weekend last year and has now got to the position of going out on the last two Saturdays of each month because we haven’t yet had enough volunteers for full monthly coverage. However, April is the exception because of Easter and the Fair coming to town, so we are going out on the first 2 weekends as well
We all come from different churches and we use Park Baptist Church as a base as it is central in the town. The reaction from the police, the door staff and the people we meet on the streets is very positive, and we spend time listening and talking to those who want or need to talk to someone, often because we are strangers showing compassion. An example of this witness was a conversation I had in January with a woman whom I encountered as we walked from one club to another. I had my arm around her to help steady her because it was icy and she was in high heels (and not much clothing!). By showing her compassion by keeping her warm and safe she opened up about how, at the old people’s home where she worked she was upset by some of her favourite residents dying and she wanted to talk about her feelings; this led her to talk about her own mortality and I asked her about her personal faith. She admitted that she used to go to church and I encouraged her to go back there. She said she would. When I left her I prayed and asked the Prayers to pray that she would remember this conversation and would indeed go back to church. Who knows what can happen when such seeds are sown in His name?
If you feel that God is calling you to be a Street Pastor (either an “Innie” or an “Outie”), may I encourage you to contact your church leader who can give you further information, or phone Norfolk Street Pastors on 01603 340017