Stories from the Streets is about the work of Street Pastors – can you briefly share who they are and what they do?
Street Pastors started almost 20 years ago and employs volunteers to care, listen and help in a range of scenarios. It is an interdenominational organisation bringing together Christians from a diverse range of churches.
Initially their focus was on the streets during the night, helping, for example, clubbers who may have drunk too much, or the homeless. The role of Street Pastors has now expanded to schools (School Pastors), railway stations where suicides may occur (Rail Pastors) and following crisis-level events (Response Pastors) such as the Shoreham Air Crash (2015), the terrorist attack on Westminster (2017) and the Grenfell Tower fire (2017).
Street Pastors are supported by Prayer Pastors who commit to pray during the night and at other times for them and their work.
You have volunteered ‘on the streets’ for many years – how has the experience impacted your faith?
For Luke, I think one of the main changes to my faith has been to have a greater interest and concern for people outside of the Church and to be less judgemental of others. Jesus as our example spent most of his ministry time in public talking to everyday people in ways that they could relate to. Street Pastors I would suggest works in a similar way.
For Sue, it’s given me the opportunity to put into practise caring for those who are often ignored by society or looked down on, the very people Jesus often went out of His way to show compassion to.
What is one of the most memorable encounters you have had as a Street Pastor?
Luke says, there have been lots of memorable encounters, but being part of a team that has helped avert potential suicides, being able to administer first aid after a fight, helping young vulnerable people get home and being able to support homeless people have all been memorable. Read the book for more details!
Sue recounts that, I once had an hilarious time talking about God to a young man celebrating his 21st birthday dressed in a pink tutu and matching tights!
Why do you think it is so important for Christians to be visibly serving their communities in this way?
Street Pastors, where they patrol, have been shown to reduce crime, save the police and the NHS money, and save lives. Jesus asked us to let our light shine. Street Pastors try to do that by going out and demonstrating the love of God. Many communities are desperate to see love in action.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering with Street Pastors?
Find out as much as you can and read Stories from the Streets! Then go out a couple of times as a Street Pastors observer. If you feel it will be suitable for you, chat it over with a couple of people and then if you still want to, go for it! Apply to do the training.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Street Pastors?
This has affected different groups in different ways. As far as I am aware most groups have had some level of furlough, but groups have also got out between lockdowns. Some groups such as Reading have diversified into day time patrols as written about in the book.
The Street Pastors in Antigua are running a soup kitchen once a week serving up to 80 people including rough sleepers. The pandemic has discouraged tourists from travelling there which has had a direct affect on the livelihoods of many people.
How did you find the writing process, working as a pair of writers?
We both found it hard work, but also rewarding. It was also stressful at times as we both have different work and writing backgrounds. However, I think the book is hugely enriched by having two different authors with our different backgrounds and perspectives.
Sue says, it was a learning curve for both of us. I had to do more research in some places which was outside my comfort zone. I enjoyed writing about the many different characters on the streets and how they were impacted by the work.
How did you find the publication process?
Instant Apostle as publishers were great, I would recommend them. Always encouraging, helpful, polite and professional, but also critical as needed. It was sometimes tough being under such scrutiny, but the work benefitted from that. Having Instant Apostle take care of all aspects of the publishing process was an immense help.
Finally, what is your favourite book and why?
Luke suggests probably Roots, as in his view it tells an important story that remains relevant to the world today, with modern day slavery. I read it a while ago, but remember it as being carefully researched and beautifully written.
For Sue, it’s hard to single one out. One favourite is Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, who writes so lyrically but also holds up a mirror to societal prejudices and judgemental attitudes of the time.
Find out more from Luke and Sue at: www.storiesfromthestreets.org