Grantham Journal Big Interview: Street pastors picking up pieces for five years

Reverend Andy Scholes with the original team of street pastors.
Reverend Andy Scholes with the original team of street pastors.
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Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of street pastors coming to Grantham.

For anyone who hasn’t seen them while out on the town, they are Christian volunteers who give up their time on a Saturday night into the early hours, in order to offer assistance or a friendly ear to anyone who seems distressed.

Street pastor co-ordinator and community outreach minister at Grantham Baptist Church, Reverend Andy Scholes, looked back over their work over the past five years.

How did the street pastors start in Grantham?

It is a national initiative that was started in Brixton, London, in 2003 by Reverend Les Isaacs - who is speaking at our fifth anniversary event this weekend. He wanted to help solve problems surrounding the ‘night-time economy’ in London. We heard about it and that it was running in Lincoln, so we explored the possibility of bringing it here as well. It is part of Churches Together in Grantham and District, and we work with South Kesteven District Council and the local police - this is known as the urban trinity. There are now 16 street pastors in Grantham, all of whom are volunteers, and work together in four teams.

Describe a typical night for a street pastor.

We go out at 10.30pm on a Saturday evening, and then stay in the centre depending on what happens until about 3am. We have a route which takes in the Market Place, Westgate and the High Street - all around the main venues. Sometimes we are called over to a certain place by those monitoring the CCTV. We are there to help pick up the pieces. If it seems like there’s going to be more serious trouble, we of course don’t interfere but let the police get on with their jobs. We are also all trained in first aid, and are equipped with tissues, anti-septic wipes, and bottles of water. We can even give out ‘street pastor’ flip flops and lollipops. We also sweep up any bottles and broken glass we see while on our route.

Are there many incidents?

They are few and far between - if anything, in the five years it has got quieter. That may be because with the recession people have less money to spend, or they are drinking at home. In my personal experience I’ve never had any major incident. Sometimes we have been asked to pray with people, which is a privilege.

How can those out and about spot a pastor if they need help?

We wear jackets with street pastor on them, and beanie hats or caps.

Tell me about your plans to mark the anniversary.

The street pastors’ fifth anniversary celebration service is taking place at the Grantham Baptist Church on Wharf Road at 6.30pm on Sunday, March 8. If you are interested in getting involved, email grantham@streetpastors.org.uk - we look forward to hearing from you.