Could you become a street pastor?
By The Bristol Post | Thursday, September 27, 2012, 05:00
YOU might be forgiven for crossing the street to avoid a drink-fuelled argument in the city centre on a Saturday night.
But a new "street pastors" scheme is hoping to enlist an army of Good Samaritans who are willing to step up to the challenge of caring for those a little the worse for drink when the city centre's pubs and clubs are in full swing.
The scheme is the dreamchild of Mike Pout, a 45-year-old IT consultant from St Anne's who wanted to put his own Christian convictions to a practical purpose.
The father-of-two, who has been a regular member of the congregation of the non-denominational Woodlands Church in Clifton for the last three years, first had the idea on a night out in Chepstow.
"As I walked through the town I saw this group of people wearing distinctive blue uniforms with the words Street Pastor printed on them. I had never heard of street pastors, so I stopped and talked to them about what they do."
The Chepstow street pastors were one of around 250 similar groups, run through umbrella organisation, The Ascension Trust.
The Trust trains street pastors – who can come from any church denomination, but must be practising Christians – to be prepared to care for those made vulnerable by the excesses of drink and drugs.
"It can be as simple as carrying lots of pairs of flip-flops, cheap shoes that you can hand out to ladies who are regretting wearing impractical high heeled shoes after a night of dancing, or handing out bottles of water to people who are feeling a little dehydrated after a night of drinking heavily," Mike explains.
"Or it can be a matter of helping people who have drunk so much they're incapable of getting themselves safely home, or even stepping in when there is an altercation in the street to try to calm the situation.
"I thought it was such a brilliant idea, and I was amazed when I came home and did a little research to find out that we didn't have a street pastors scheme here in Bristol – although there are neighbouring ones in Kingswood and Weston-super- Mare. I decided somebody needed to set one up, then I realised that would have to be me."
More than 30 people have already signed up for the scheme, which was launched last night at the Council House alongside police and city council representatives, who are supporting the idea. Street pastors will take to the streets early next year, after six months' training. For details on getting involved, email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.