Thought for the Month (October 2008)

I want to stretch your imagination. Do you know what it is like on Tunbridge Wells High Street at 2 am on a Saturday or Sunday morning?

Well I have to confess I have not experienced it myself but I have heard others talk about it. The head of licensing at Tunbridge Wells Council believes up to about 4,000 mainly young people come into Tunbridge Wells on a typical Friday and Saturday night for the late night clubs and pubs. They call this the night-time economy! Many of these people end up drinking too much or taking drugs and there are often distressed people on our streets in the early hours of the morning.

Sadly Tunbridge Wells is no different from many other towns and cities in our country but over the past five years a remarkable Christian ministry has started up called Street Pastors, which already operates in over 70 communities in this country and by the end of the year this is expected to increase to about 120. This ministry involves groups of Christians going out on the streets between 10 pm and 4 am on Friday and/or Saturday nights to help the late night revellers. This help includes picking up bottles so they can't be used as weapons, accompanying lone or distressed people, offering advice about getting home, providing flip flops for girls who can no longer get their feet into high heels and simply providing a safe and peaceful place on the streets.

The amazing thing is that Street Pastors seem to be greatly appreciated by the largely young people they are trying to help and so far they have a 100% safety record. A Sunday Telegraph reporter writing in June this year was amazed at the welcome they received on the streets. The politicians are also taking note. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, speaks of an 'extraordinary and inspiring movement.' David Cameron is quoted as saying, 'It's absolutely fantastic the job the street pastors are doing.'

Should we be surprised at what is happening around the country? Well, we are constantly being told about how binge drinking is perhaps the biggest social problem of the young. God has clearly stirred the church to do something about it and Street Pastors seems to be His answer. Christians are serving where there is a desperate need in our society.

Well, this leaves a challenge for Tunbridge Wells. Could we run a Street Pastors scheme here? If Maidstone, Kingston, Sutton and many other communities can do it, why not Tunbridge Wells?

A number of the church leaders here have been convinced that such a scheme is needed and we are looking for someone to organise it. We are looking for a committed Christian and a good organiser who would take on this task.

It is a considerable task. It would require raising a group of perhaps 40-50 Christians who would be willing to participate in this ministry. This would include people who would be willing to walk on the streets, people who would run a base from which they would operate, people who would pray in support of the Street Pastors and also administrators. (Typically each Street Pastor would only do one night per month).

It would also require liaison with the police and the Borough Council, as well as Ascension Trust who provide the Street Pastors' model, the training and other advice.

If you have any ideas please let us know but also please pray that we will find an organiser and the necessary team. We really cannot ignore the pain and anguish present on our streets. We may be asleep in the early hours but that is no excuse for ignoring the problem.

The alcohol culture may not affect you personally but it is quite likely that you know friends or family where alcohol or drugs have got a grip. Perhaps you would be pleased to know that there was a Christian on hand to help. Incidentally, the most successful Street Pastors are middle-aged women.

Remember, our community is our responsibility and we really are called to bring the aroma of Jesus onto our streets.

May God bless you as you serve Him.

Yours in Christ,

Bob and Karen

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church