Street pastors bring care and hope to the streets

Glendine Soiseth graduated from Augsburg and Luther Seminary in 2004 with a dual degree—Master of Social Work and Master of Arts in Theology. She was ready for the challenge of an international experience and is the supervisor of therapy services for a fostering agency in Flintshire, Wales. She lives in nearby Chester, England.

In 2006 Soiseth heard about the three-year-old Street Pastors program and trained as a street pastor leader in Wrexham, Wales. She led her team on patrol once or twice a month, from around 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Recently, with her move to Chester, she also serves as a Chester lead street pastor and will alternate patrols and voluntary time between the two locations.

In September she wrote about street pastor work for a community ministry blog in Chester. With permission, we’ve reprinted excerpts from it.

Call

Historically, I have consistently been involved in faith, community, and political organizations, either working with people, programmes, or the community in developing a voice and making a difference.

When the St. Margaret’s vicar in Wrexham started talking about Street Pastors during a service, I immediately experienced a ‘call.’ Not a lightning bolt, but it was made very clear that this (street pastoring) was something I needed to do. I realized I was being asked to take a leap of faith despite not knowing how the new initiative would take me.

After training and graduation, I was out on the streets in my street pastor uniform talking and explaining to people, door staff, vendors, police, and emergency personnel what a street pastor is and does.

Community

When I mentioned to people at the time that I lived in Wrexham, the response was universal, ‘nothing good comes out of Wrexham … .’ I knew it would take more than a marketer or one person to make a difference. It would take the ‘Urban Trinity’—police, civic partners, and church—coming together in agreement on community initiatives and protocols, as a means for it to work.

Street pastors are now recognized, respected, and welcomed in the community by pub/club goers, police, emergency personnel, door staff, street vendors, CCTV, and visitors. They have witnessed and experienced our commitment, tenacity, unconditional positive regard, and passion for what we do.

We’ve been accepted as part of their community for not only sticking it out when it is raining, cold, and miserable, but, more importantly, for listening, being authentic, and providing practical assistance—not preaching ‘heaven and hell,’ but getting back to basics of what it means to be a ‘caring’ community and how diversity can bring together unity.

Hope

I can’t begin to tell you all the stories I have heard on the street in my role as street pastor. … about the drug dealer, or the rugby player, or the person we picked up off the road just before a car came round the corner, or the person who had been involved in a cult, or the alcoholic, or the soldier. But they are just stories about people you don’t know. What I do know is that Street Pastors makes a difference in our community. I make a difference. We make a difference.

From a human perspective, getting back to basics with the above is a step in not only providing a community with hope, but also it can be a difference between life and death for that person we talk to on the street. … A good deal of our work is ‘working in the moment where that person seems to be at that time.’ Street pastoring works. I truly feel blessed and privileged every time I go out into the street.”

Street Pastors is an inter-denominational church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets to care, listen, and dialogue. For information, go to www.streetpastors.org.uk.

Posted in Auggie Voices