We were put in mind of the parable of the Good Samaritans today during our TSSF small group meeting. One of our tertiaries told us a little about his role as a member of his local area Street Pastors team. This initiative has spread all over the UK; the town where I'm based is due to launch the scheme at the end of this month. So - what is a Street Pastor? Well, to quote the Street Pastor UK site:
A Street Pastor is a Church leader/minister or member with a concern for society - in particular young people who feel themselves to be excluded and marginalised - and who is willing to engage people where they are, in terms of their thinking (i.e. their perspective of life) and location (i.e. where they hang out - be it on the streets, in the pubs and clubs or at parties etc).
Street Pastors will also be willing to work with fellow activists, church and community leaders, and with agencies and projects, both statutory and voluntary, to look at collaborative ways of working on issues affecting youth, and initiatives that will build trust between them and the Street Pastors.
As the Street Pastor gets to know people in the community he/she will find out their needs are and what can be done to help. A presence of Street Pastors will earn credibility in the community, so that people know that the Church is there for them in a practical way. The role is not about preaching heaven and hell, but one of listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way.
Listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way; sounds very familiar and so Franciscan. It doesn't surprise me one bit that our fellow tertiary feels called to take on this role. As mum to two adult, but still young people it's reassuring to know that the Street Pastors are out there. Our place isn't exactly the inner city either, but it so needs its good samaritans. The town centre is a pretty scarey place at nights; over the years I've picked up on stuff from my two that would make your hair curl. And this is just what they've told me about...
With all the debate recently about the marginalisation of Christianity in public life, it's great to see a Christian-based initiative that's presenting a positive image and that truly seems to be accepted and appreciated by wider society. It seems that there've been reports of a drop in crime rates in many of the areas which have taken on the SP scheme. It's going to be very interesting to see how it fares in our neck of the woods.