Pastors keep up night time watch

PUBLISHED: 11:50 02 January 2012

Street Pastors

Street Pastors

Archant

A FRIEND in need, is a friend indeed. Many drinkers on a Saturday night will not notice them, but those few that do will be forever grateful. And one young woman in particular will realise how lucky she has been.

A quick message from the police tells Weston’s Street Pastors that a drunk woman has been found in Princess Royal Square. When they get there, they find a woman, no more than 25 years old, seemingly abandoned by friends she was out with, shivering, unable to stand and barely able to speak.

It would be easy to judge and criticise. But 2am, with a woman barely able to stay conscious, is not the time. With a sense of compassion that many claim has left British communities, the Street Pastors set to work.

Two of the quartet hail down a taxi to take the woman - who has no handbag, ID or phone - back to her sister’s home on the Bournville estate.

But when they arrive she cannot remember the house number and she has to be taken to hospital. The two volunteers stay with her until she is treated.

The Street Pastors are ordinary people who do not have to be there. At 4am on a cold Sunday morning they ought to be tucked up in bed asleep - the fact they are not is a testament to the characters of the 50 people who make up the Weston group.

One of the greatest challenges facing the Street Pastors is the alarming, but nonetheless real threat, facing some vulnerable women.

On their regular round, the volunteers stumbled across another young woman on the floor where she was being encouraged by three men to tell them where she lived.

Jane Milsom, co-ordinator of the Weston branch, said while the situation could have been totally innocent, it is something they always have to be wary of.

She said: “It’s a very real problem that we see. I’m not saying every man is like that but there are men who want to take them off us. We have to err on the side of caution.”

But Jane, who has been a pastor since October 2006, said Weston had improved dramatically during her time with the group.

She said: “When I first went out five years ago I remember the most enormous fight in Regent Street with about 100 people involved, police were in swarms and it was quite shocking.

“Thankfully we don’t see that now. We have been praying for this town and it seems to have worked.”

As the group’s name suggests, the importance of prayer to the group is paramount. As well as helping youngsters get home safe, the pastors pray for their safety because there is a realisation they cannot be there all the time.

John Simons, aged 77, who has been a pastor for several years, recalled a night when one man jumped into the sea and could have drowned had a pastor not called in the coastguard.

But it would be wrong to think of the group as an extension of the emergency services. There is a refreshing awareness of what can go wrong and they take all precautions to make sure things run as smoothly as possible on your night out.

They sweep up broken glass on the ground before anyone hurts themselves or uses it as a weapon and offer flip-flops to those walking around bare-footed.

The importance of their efforts can be seen by the positive reception they get. The number of people on first-name terms with the pastors suggests they have been fortunate enough to receive their help at some point.

The Street Pastors are not there to stop you having fun. They are there to ensure you are safe having a good time. Jane said: “Having children myself and seeing them get to the age where they were able to go out at night, I became aware and concerned about the welfare of those who are out to enjoy themselves in our town.

“When I heard about Street Pastors I realised this was an inspirational idea and already knew it was having an amazing effect in London, with statistically less crime.

“The Street Pastor vision is to walk our streets together and demonstrate love without preaching.”

Perhaps the whole spirit of the group though was summed up by John when he said people ask him what difference does it make helping one person when on any night 50 people could be in the same situation. And as he said, it makes a whole lot of difference to that individual.

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