"Later, we had a laugh when two people said to us, 'Are you the mythical people who hand out flip-flops?'"
The St James church family is at the heart of supporting the Street Pastors initiative which is an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets to care, listen and dialogue.
It was pioneered in London in January 2003 by Rev Les Isaac, Director of the Ascension Trust. Since then there have been some remarkable results, including drops in crime in areas where teams have been working. There are now over 100 teams around the United Kingdom with each city project run by a local coordinator. Each project that is launched around the country is helped in the initial stages by Ascension Trust and receives continuing support from them. In Bishops Stortford it is the partnership between local churches, the Hertfordshire Police and Bishops Stortford Town Council that makes it such a success.
“Street Pastors is about Christians rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in practically responding to the problems of crime and safety. They are like beacons on our streets and I want to see them shining brightly in every constituency” – David Burrowes MP
Here we have a day in the life or… possibly even evening!
We started off by going down to Sworders Field – lots of groups of young people, even some parents and young children, because of the great weather. We picked up around 50 beer bottles from Sworders Field alone.
Met a group who seemed fairly clued up on what we were doing. One of the girls used to go to St Michaels and was interested in being a Street Pastor when older.
Near M&S, we came across four people, including one girl who had hurt her leg falling off a bike. We helped with some water and a bandage.
We had a good conversation with a group of diners at the Rivermill…..including the son of one of our friends.
Met a group outside McDonalds, including a young man who is doing RS at BS High School. He is thinking about becoming a Christian and he was given an invitation to the Community Church’s “Revelation” young people’s meeting in July.
We were talking to a group of people outside the Rose & Crown when a girl came up to us in tears, asking us to call the police. A group of about 20 of her friends moved towards the cinema to confront the security guards who had allegedly kicked her. The Police arrived and we were in the group of young people keeping the peace – we assessed this as being relatively safe, since we have a good relationship with all concerned. A female PCSO, on foot, was the first to turn up, followed by a male PC in a car with flashing lights. They dispersed the crowd, and we left with the crowd. One thing which was good to see was one guy doing a very good job of calming one of his (male) friends, who was infuriated about the situation.