As far back as 2008, a group of local Christians, supported by their local churches, were keen to introduce Street Pastors in Inverclyde … see www.streetpastors.org and arranged a presentation about them which was attended by people across a range of services, including the local council. health services the police and local church representatives.
Organised by Inverclyde Christian Initiative, who oversee the service, an initial group of 12 Street Pastors were commissioned and started patrols in October 2010, having received detailed training on a number of skills beforehand.
Under the banner of Caring, Listening, Helping, Street Pastors have been out on the streets of central Greenock and Gourock most weekends from 10pm to 4am since then, making sure people are safe, and helping those out on the night time economy in various ways. These include providing the legendary flip flops to ladies who have taken off their high heels after a night out, so they don’t damage their feet on cut glass etc, thermal blankets for those very cold, administering first aid, as well as chatting to many who want to chat about their lives and its challenges, and other who are vulnerable for a number of reasons.
Alistair McAlees from Hope Community church in Greenock has been the Inverclyde Street Pastor Co-ordinator from the beginning as well as being a Street Pastor himself. ‘Being a Street Pastor has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life’ he said. ‘It is one thing being in church, which I love, but quite another being out on the streets helping the public in a number of practical ways. We have received so many thanks over the years from those out and about, and also from our police colleagues, as we show the love of Jesus to all who ask. It is a privilege being part of people’s lives even for these short times at the weekends’.
Inverclyde also has seen the introduction of Rail Pastors in late 2017 and they have been able to be of help to those on the trains and at railways stations where potential suicides are an issue which they have been trained to help prevent.
In the current coronavirus pandemic, late evening patrols have stopped for the present, but Inverclyde Street Pastors, like other Street Pastor initiatives across Scotland, are experimenting with day patrols. Alistair explained, ‘The current pandemic has brought with it so many uncertainties, from those who have lost loved ones, to jobs disappearing, anxiety about exams and the experience of being locked away from so much and so many friends. Our Street Pastors lend a caring and listening ear and our experience across Scotland is that we are now a valued service across the wider community. We are about to experiment with day and early evening patrols in Inverclyde and expect to find the same landscape here.’
Since 2010, the Street Pastors have given out over 2,500 pairs of (free) flip flops, nearly 1,300 thermal blankets, removed over 1,500 glasses and bottles from the street which can be regarded as potential weapons, and have received several thousand spontaneous thanks from those they meet.
To be a Street Pastor, you need to be 18 or older (there is no upper age limit!), a regular churchgoer for at least a year and have a passion to help. ‘It is about Christians rolling up their sleeves and getting involved practically, and there is lot of training to help our Street Pastors with all the practical issues they could meet’ Alistair said. ‘If you are interested in the idea of becoming a Street Pastor, please call me on 07740 201853 or email [email protected] You can also come out as an observer with a Street Pastor patrol locally to get a feel of things without commitment.’