Like this page?
Send it to a friend!
Street Pastors on patrol
Teams of Christian Street Pastors take to the streets of Weymouth aiming to help out the inevitable casulties of the town's night time economy.
The Street Pastors movement started in London in 2003 as a response by Christians to issues including knife crime and drug abuse.
It's based on the philosophy that listening and talking to people on the streets, and helping out where necessary, can help ease social problems.
To see the sort of challenges the volunteers face, BBC Radio Solent's Emily Hudson spent a night with some of the 23 Street Pastors in Weymouth.
Every Friday night since June, the volunteers from all denominations of the town's Christian churches have been taking to the streets to deal with the aftermath of nights on the tiles.
As the pubs start to close, after a communal prayer, the Street Pastors patrol left from St Mary's Church in the centre of Weymouth.
Before too long, co-ordinator Tony Stephens had to physically put himself between two girls intent on slogging it out in the street. "Once you are there, other people will come around and pull them apart," he said.
Street Pastors in Weymouth
Other tasks included picking up broken glass, making sure vulnerable-looking girls get safely into taxis, giving out space blankets to stop clubbers getting cold, checking on people sleeping on the esplanade or on the beach.
Inevitably not everyone was welcoming of the team's attentions and they suffer the occasional torrent of abuse. "Sometimes you can feel intimidated but we won't rise to it and provoke it more," explains Tony Stephens.
So what gives them the courage to step in - into what could be potentially dangerous situations?
The Street Pastors do receive backing from local police, club security staff and ambulance services, but they are also guided by another "prayer team" back at base. They describe themselves as a "middleman between God and the Street Pastors patrol" who spend the night praying and guiding the team out on the street via walkie-talkies.
They insist the previous week, the street team were guided to a domestic violence incident they would otherwise have missed, due to the intervention of the prayer team.
Catherine, one of the volunteers, explained her motivation as a Street Pastor:
"I feel we can help make sure people enjoy themselves safely. It's just to get alongside and offer conversation - not because I'm trying to force religion down their throat, but because I genuinely like people and care about their condition."
"It's sad sometimes to see just how much trouble people get themselves in, when I think the answers are really quite simple."
last updated: 24/11/2008 at 12:20