Prayer support backing up Street Pastors while they’re out on the streets is an integral part of the Street Pastor ethos. This happens is several ways. Individual Street Pastors ask one or two fellow Christians to regularly hold them in prayer, specifically when they are doing a shift.  And at the start of each the shift, the team start with prayers; for grace, wisdom and
protection for them in whatever lies ahead during the coming night, as well as for all the
people they’ll encounter on that shift.

When Steve Jones came to my church one Sunday to give a talk about the work of the Street Pastors and to commission one of the congregation as a new Street Pastor, he said they were short of people to provide prayer back up. I’ve always been well impressed with the work of the Street Pastors – it seems to me just the sort of place Christians need to be – and the possibility of being involved in some way was appealing. Age and church duties on Sunday morning made me reluctant to consider becoming a full-blown Street Pastor, but leading a short act of worship before they went out on their shift sounded do-able.
I contacted Steve to express my interest, and he arranged for me to go out with the Street
Pastors as an observer one Saturday night, to see how it works and get a flavour of what
happens, and how the Street Pastors deal with incidents.

It was a cold, wet winter night when I found the entrance to their base behind the big wooden doors by the reference library. I was given a warm welcome, a high vis jacket with “Observer” on in large letters, and was briefed about going out with them. I found the atmosphere among the team awesome! There was a mix of ages and denominations, some bringing work backgrounds skills and experience; there was relaxed chatter and downbeat humour as they got kitted up, replenished supplies and checked that phones and “walkie-talkies” worked properly. They exuded a quiet sense that they knew what they were about. I felt helping to send them out blessed for the hours ahead was definitely something I wanted to offer.

So I go every 4-6weeks, getting there for about 9.45pm, as the Street Pastors are arriving and getting ready to go on duty. I usually help make a hot drink for them and boil water to fill flasks to take hot drinks to the homeless, then sit with them as the team leader gives a briefing about any particular things to watch out for that night. Then it’s over to me to lead the 5-10 minute worship slot that I’ve prepared, consisting of a few verses of scripture and some prayers on a relevant theme, finishing with us sharing the Grace together. I choose to stay till they return for their mid-way break, the time of which varies, of course, depending on what’s happening on the streets. I tidy up the coffee cups, then settle down to pray. I’m not into rosaries, but I find taking my knitting works well! I focus my thoughts on a different aspect for each row. Some of the team leaders phone me when they’re called to a situation, so I can pray about the particular circumstances and people involved. One of them usually phones in to let me know they’re on their way back for a break, so I can get the kettle on and get out whatever food goodies are on offer that night.

The Street Pastors really appreciate this support. And it’s wonderful for me to be a small part of this Christian initiative, which reaches out as a compassionate presence to those in need – just as Jesus did. But there’s still a shortage of people to provide prayer back up. I encourage anyone reading this who thinks they could offer such support, to contact Steve. If anyone feels moved to be involved in this way, but unsure about leading worship, I’d be happy to help with finding material and resources etc.

Gill Carding