Members of churches in Kingswood are preparing to train as Street Pastors in order to care for others, especially young people, who find themselves in need of help in the town centre late at night.
A Civic Launch is being held at Kingswood Salvation Army Citadel in Two Mile Hill Road at 7.30 pm on Friday 25 February.
Speaking in anticipation of the event, the Revd Andy Mason, leader of the Kingswood Street Pastors steering group and Team Vicar in the parish, said,
This is the most significant night so far in our journey to bring Street Pastors to Kingswood, as it is our opportunity to share the vision with local people. Churches in Kingswood are uniting together to bless and encourage our community and to celebrate the exciting things we believe God is doing among us.
We will showcase a short presentation from Churches Together setting out our five year vision to develop an 'outreach hub' shop on the High Street. The project has the working title of The Living Room to emphasise the broad aims of the initiative. It is hoped that the partnership will also sponsor a youth outreach project impacting the streets, parks and bus shelters of Kingswood.
A number of civic leaders will be attending the launch including Bishop Lee, local MP Chris Skidmore, Councillor Pat Rooney, Superintendent Andy Williams and Community Beat Officer Lee Humpreys. The meeting will also be addressed by Major Martin Hill, the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army in the South West, who is also a senior representative of the Ascension Trust, the parent body of Street Pastors nationally.
Welcoming the prospect of the first Street Pastor scheme within the greater Bristol and South Gloucestershire area Major Martin Hill said,
It is amazing the impact that Street Pastors is having around the country, bringing a sense of reassurance and safety. I am encouraged by the joint working of Kingswood churches to develop a Street Pastor team willing to serve the patrons of the night time economy. Street Pastor schemes are one way in which todays Christians are earning credibility and respect in the community, so that people know that the Church is there for them in a practical way. The role is not about preaching, but one of listening, caring and helping; offering support in an unconditional way.
There are now 7,000 Street Pastors serving over 200 towns and cities across the UK and abroad. Street Pastors are eager to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to explore ways of working together on issues affecting young people, and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.
Volunteers are over 18 (there is no upper age limit), active church members and willing to complete a challenging programme of training including sessions on youth culture, drugs and homelessness.
A Criminal Records Bureau Check is required and references are obtained before joining a team of at least four people, each of whom will work a minimum of one night a month, usually on Saturdays from 10pm to around 4am. A distinctive uniform is worn when on patrol and radio communication is maintained with the communitys CCTV control centre, police and licensed premises door staff.
Police forces across the UK have welcomed the development of Street Pastor teams which have contributed to a significant reduction in crime levels, sometimes dramatically.