This year the church has decided to raise money for the local arm of an international movement. Coventry Street Pastors work with the ‘night-time economy’ in the city centre (that means anything that runs at night – pubs, clubs, restaurants, casinos, taxis and the people who work / use them). Its aim is to bring peace and a Christian presence among the night-life community – to be Christ’s hands, feet, ears, voice and heart on the streets – to listen, to let people know that somebody cares and to help those in need and those who have got into difficulties. This can cover a wide range of activities – helping people find phones, wallets, handbags or friends from whom they have got separated, persuading taxi drivers to take people home, dealing with people who are depressed/distressed/ suicidal, defusing tense face-offs, getting to know the homeless, working with the police and paramedics, first aid and contacting home for people – as well as the better-known jobs such as handing out water, lollipops and flip-flops for those who have decided to walk barefoot through city streets rather than wear their painful shoes! Where appropriate the teams will take the opportunity to share their faith and pray with people. With two local universities adding to the permanent residents of Coventry there are thousands of young (and not so young!) people enjoying the night-life of the city and the Street Pastors teams work to keep them safe.
Street Pastors is a Christian interdenominational organisation which draws its unpaid volunteers from churches across the city and nearby areas. Its values include working in partnership and so it works with the police, the city council, churches and the business community, striving to bring a positive impression of the local church and the relevance of the Christian Gospel. Each Street Pastor undergoes 50 hours of training in their own time, on topics including conflict resolution, mentoring, drug awareness, first aid and relationship building as well as exploring the faith base upon which the initiative is founded. The local charity has to fund this training – bringing in experts in each field and hiring venues for the training. It also has to fund the kitting out of each Street Pastor with an all-weather range of jackets and hats (compulsory to wear these) and often a personal alarm. Senior Street Pastors (think of them as patrol team leaders) also receive a fully kitted-out rucksack containing first aid kits, space blankets, a dustpan and brush – broken glass is cleaned up for the safety of those on the street – and a torch. The water, lollipops and flip-flops (which the local initiative has to buy in) are added at the start of each patrol and this rucksack becomes the travelling resource pack for the night and is well-used! Holyhead Road has three members who have been involved with this initiative from its outset in Coventry – Erica Young and Janet Powell are both team leaders with patrols while Wynne Davidson is a Prayer Pastor linked to a patrol team, leading them in prayers before they head out and praying for them from home as they patrol.
Former Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Lynnette Kelly, said: “I have been really impressed by the work of the Coventry Street Pastors. Every weekend the volunteers take to the streets with one sole purpose: keeping people safe. “Not only do they reduce the number of victims of crime, but they have also helped ease demand on police officers by preventing crime from happening. I’d like to say a big thank you to the street pastors and encourage anyone thinking of becoming one to get in touch.” Street Pastors have to be aged over 18, committed to a church for more than one year and have a personal reference from their minister. Isabel McIntyre, co-ordinator of the Coventry street pastors, said: “Street Pastors have been patrolling since March 2016 and in that time we have become a recognised and accepted part of the night time economy. We are known by the clubbers and party-goers, as well as the homeless and the vulnerable. We are often asked for lollipops, water and sometimes, even prayer. “We listen to people when they are happy and look after them when they are hurt. Most importantly we are there; taking Jesus out of the churches and on to the streets.” Sergeant Tim Roberts, who headed Coventry’s Neighbourhood Policing Team until recently, said: “The Street Pastors are a force for good in Coventry. As a team of volunteers they give up their own time to help keep people safe during and after a night out. “Not only do they look out for vulnerable people, but they help prevent crime by offering support to people in distress. Coventry is a safer place at night with the Street Pastors patrolling”.