News

Celebrating the 300th patrol in the Borders

Street Pastors in the Borders had their 300th patrol recently! It has been encouraging to patrol most Saturdays in Galashiels and one patrol a month in Hawick.

Duncan Cameron, the Coordinator of Borders Street Pastors says, “Folks have been glad to see us again after Covid, there have been some great conversations and some prayers on the street which is very encouraging.”

Sandy Gunn on saving lives and Perth’s decling nightlife

Street pastor Sandy Gunn, 79, on saving lives and Perth’s declining nightlife

Published in The Courier

October 19 2022, 5.53am

Sandy Gunn has seen plenty of change in 15 years as a street pastor in Perth.

A city centre that once burst at the seams every weekend with life, merriment and activity is now a quieter, more nuanced place.

Many of the hen parties routinely staged here have relocated to more exotic climes.

And the cast-iron guarantee of a busy night out has been punctured by changing drinking habits, Covid restrictions and the ensuing social and economic fallout, contributing to extraordinary levels of inflation.

But the street pastors aren?t going anywhere.

They are still volunteering on the streets of Perth, and parts of Fife, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm until closing-down time.

They are still providing vital, and sometimes lifesaving, care to those in need and at risk of harm.

And Sandy is still as dedicated as ever, ahead of his 80th birthday in February next year.

“I enjoy it and find it meaningful,” he says.

In this article Sandy talks about the serious and lighter moments of being a street pastor while observing how Perth?s nightlife has changed in his 15 years in the role.

Perth via Aberfeldy

Sandy Gunn?s commitment to helping vulnerable people is rooted in his devotion to the Church.

Inverness-born, he had minister positions at churches in Wick, Glasgow and then from 1986 in Aberfeldy, retiring 21 years later.

He continues to be locum minister at Aberdalgie, Forteviot, Aberuthven and Dunning.

Since 2007 he has lived in Perth with Ruth, his wife of 43 years who was a ward sister at Perth Royal Infirmary.

His two daughters live in Inverness; one works in social work, the other is a church community worker.

Bridge alert for missing people

Fifteen years ago Sandy was involved in the creation of Perth Street Pastors, a group that is now chaired by Gordon Loudon.

He has remained at the forefront of the scheme, taking on a supervisory role in Perth and becoming the vice-chair of street pastors in Scotland.

There are 21 units in Scotland. In Fife, pastors are on the streets of Dunfermline, Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy.

Perth has 30 street pastors who each do around one shift in the city centre every month.

They carry a defibrillator and are trained in first aid. The Church-led scheme provides comfort, reassurance and a listening ear for people who need it.

Volunteers also keep an eye out on Perth?s bridges if there is cause of concern for a missing person.

“We are not an agent of the police but if they need help with that type of thing we try to help them,” Sandy said.

Pastors go out in teams of four, usually comprising two older volunteers and two younger ones.

“If you put out a gang of four young lads it may be seen as a threat to people, but grannies are not seen as a threat,” Sandy said.

“Age is not a restrictive thing. What counts is that you are genuinely interested in people.”

Covid ‘changed night economy’

The pastors ordinarily stayed out until 3am but this is one of many things that has changed since Covid restrictions were enacted in 2020.

“With Covid the night economy changed,” Sandy said. “People are inclined to be out earlier in the day now.

“It?s intelligence led. There is no point staying on if there are only four people in The Loft, for example.

“We try to do it according to what we judge the need to be.

“We deal with people going through hard times in their lives.

“I spoke to someone who became bankrupt through Covid.

“They set up a business and had their house mortgaged against it. When the business went under they lost their house.

“That is the kind of thing that Covid has caused complications with.”

‘Already loaded’ revellers aren’t judged

In truth, things were changing in the city centre for a while before the Covid restrictions.

“There has been quite a lot of change with the night economy. It is coming back but very slowly,” Sandy said.

“When we started 15 years ago we had a lot of hen nights but Perth isn?t the same attraction now.

“People are going abroad, for example Prague or Dublin, for their hen dos.

“You don?t like seeing people whose jobs are very uncertain because of the economy. That can be a problem.

“Increasingly we found that people were coming out at night already loaded, drinking at home where drink is cheaper and then go to a pub or nightclub.

“We try not to be judgmental and want to show something of the love of Jesus to let people know they aren?t a number in a file.

“We want to treat people as people, whether we agree with them or not.”

Life-saving intervention

Street pastors have helped save a number of lives over the years. Sandy recalls one such occasion six years ago when his presence was vital.

He said: “We have had a number of people who have come up to us and said ‘we were going to take pills one night but you helped stop me.?

“I remember one night stopping somebody who was going to go on the old bridge and go over.

“I basically listened.

“He was a super guy in many, many ways. He had a reasonable job, reasonable cash, reasonably good looking.

“But underneath he was hurting deeply because of something that had happened.

“A tired, weary person takes a while to open up. He had had a jar or two but was by no means drunk but he felt it would have been better if he wasn?t here.

“You just never know the results of what you do.

“We are called to be faithful rather than successful, which would be judging people.”

Mum saw ‘sleepover? daughter on the town

There are also some lighter moments.

“On one occasion we spoke to a girl who said ‘my mum thinks I am having a sleepover so we are out on the streets,” Sandy said.

“We went round the corner and recognised the mother of this girl out herself.

“She told us, ‘it?s great, my daughter?s having a sleepover so we can go out on the town now?.

“Unbeknown to each other they were both out on the town and were about to meet each other.

“We left it to them to deal with!

“You do see amusing incidents.”

Teaching doctors to master eye contact

Sandy emphasises his ethos that “bottling it out is better than bottling it up” in training sessions to prospective pastors.

He has been taking seminars to student doctors at St Andrews University Medical School who are going on placement with pastors on the streets of Fife, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

He explained: “The reason we are training doctors is so they can deal with unpredictable things and see people in a holistic way instead of just anyone.

“For example, if you have been to the doctor it is nice for them to be looking at you.

“But some doctors are inclined to look at their notes and looking at the screen all the time, so we try to train medical students that eye contact is precious.”

Shingles concern

Sandy is keen to continue his work as a street pastor but he has recently suffered a bout of shingles that is causing nerve damage on his right leg.

“I am on the board for Scotland and can keep on doing that,” he said.

“We will see how this leg goes and if it eases up.

“I can walk for an hour but we are talking about a three, four, five hour shifts. That would be difficult.”

 

Street Pastors in Caithness ‘from November’

By Gordon Calder

Victims of sexual harassment, people with mental health problems and revellers who have drunk too much could all be helped by a new initiative being set up in Caithness.

A team of street pastors will be providing what is described as “a beneficial service” in Wick and Thurso and will operate in areas where bars and clubs are located as well as in some housing estates to assist anyone in need.

Plans for the Caithness Street Pastors – which were delayed due to the pandemic – have the backing of the police, local councillors and church leaders.

The scheme, which was founded by the Ascension Trust in 2003 and has a presence in more than 20 towns and cities across Scotland and in 282 locations worldwide, will be in the far north from November. Volunteers, drawn from local churches of different denominations, will offer reassurance, safety and help to anyone who requires it.

Alan Finch, the co-ordinator of the Caithness Street Pastors, said the initial focus will be on housing estates but will later include areas with bars and clubs.

At present, four volunteers have been trained but it is hoped that two teams of six volunteers could operate in Wick and Thurso and at events such as music festivals and Highland Games.

Mr Finch, who was a street pastor in Aberdeen for seven years before moving back to Caithness, said Police Scotland, local councillors and church leaders are “very supportive” of the initiative and feel it will be useful.

“I think there is a need for this service. People’s mental health seems to have become worse since the Covid pandemic and some feel reticent, anxious and stressed after being locked up for almost three years,” he said.

“We believe and it is clear from the issues the pandemic has brought about that street pastors will provide a beneficial service for the community.”

Mr Finch stressed that volunteers have to be trained, have to be Christians, belong to a church and be over 18 years of age. The training lasts 12 days and is done over a 12-week period. Volunteers will wear branded jackets and caps when they are out and about and carry backpacks with items such as foil blankets for people who are cold.

“Volunteers offer worse-for-wear revellers practical help to get them home safely and assist people at times of stress, vulnerability and even danger,” he said.

“Street pastors are able to deal with many low-level situations that ordinarily would be handled by the police, such as calming down people who are being rowdy and deal with situations with compassion and in confidence.

“We stress the importance of listening to people and the trained volunteers will engage with people who have mental health issues, are victims of sexual harassment or are experiencing other problems.

“There is a need for people to listen, care and help confidentially and non-judgmentally and, although volunteers would be in the main patrolling Wick and Thurso, they would do their best to help people in distress safely return to their homes in outlying communities,” added Mr Finch.

Initially, the team will operate once a month but as volunteers increase it is hoped two groups could undertake patrols in Wick and Thurso two weeks each month. Mr Finch stressed the volunteers will offer reassurance, safety and support where needed.

He explained that the street pastor group could not get off the ground without “a community driven need” and pointed out interested parties first got together in November 2019. That was followed by further meetings in Wick and Thurso but their plans were put on hold when the coronavirus pandemic struck the following March.

“We were on track until the pandemic was declared and had a small number of volunteers who wanted to become trained as street pastors. We were successful in gaining some funding through Your Cash Your Caithness and even organised the initial training modules,” stated Mr Finch.

He said a number of modules need to be completed before volunteers are allowed to go out on the streets. Training is monitored by the Ascension Trust  to ensure quality standards are maintained so volunteers could relocate to another part of the UK and continue to be a street pastor.

The first Caithness volunteers have completed their training and will be commissioned at a special service in the Wick Baptist Church on November 19. “After that, we will be able to go out on patrol,” said Mr Finch. “Our motto is caring, listening and helping,” he added.

King Charles III and the Queen consort visit Dunfermline

BRIEF STREET PASTOR REPORT OF

THE KING AND QUEEN CONSORT’S VISIT TO DUNFERMLINE

MONDAY 3 OCTOBER 2022

9AM – 3PM

It was a cloudy, dull and slightly chilly morning but not raining which we were pleased about.  Roger, Moss and Helen met at 9am at the Yes-U-Are Partnership building (the old Andrew Erskine church), had a cuppa together and spent a short while in prayer.  We were grateful to Roger for offering this as a venue to meet; he has an office there.  Helen read the verse 17 from Isaiah 32: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.”

We left the building at 9.25am and walked down towards the bottom of the High Street opposite the Council Chambers.  A small crowd had already gathered and we were able to walk through and past the people.  We spoke to a policeman to inform him that some Street Pastors had arrived who said he was from Kelty and knew of Street Pastors In his area which was a nice contact at the beginning of our patrol.

There was a crowd beginning to form near the Abbey and along St Catherine’s Wynd, by the library.  Police were standing in front of the barriers; we had a brief conversation with them and took the opportunity of reminding them what the Street Pastor role was and that we had been invited to attend by a member of the town council.

During the course of the next hour or so the 3 of us cut up through the alleyway opposite the library onto the High Street and back again a couple of times. We were able to help a lady who was very unsure of herself, walk through the alleyway to be able to stand in the road to see the Royal party.  We also had a good conversation with a member of the ambulance crew who was pleased to see us and said that she was a Christian and attended a church in Burntisland.  Helen gave out doggy treats to a few canine friends and that was an opener to friendly chats.  The atmosphere was happy and friendly; everyone we spoke to were keen to be there as they felt that it was an historic occasion to have the new King and Queen Consort in the city of Dunfermline and didn’t want to miss it.

On the grassy area near the Abbey the crowd was growing with many different people assembling.  Quite a number of S6 pupils from Woodmill High School were pleased to be there as were a couple of painters & decorators.  Some parents were there with young children and as the time grew closer to 11am when the Royal party were expected to arrive, employees from various shops and businesses around also put in an appearance.

The Dunfermline Pipe Band marched along St Catherine’s Wynd, looking resplendent in their kilts and tartan uniforms while playing well known Scottish tunes. They performed to the patient, waiting crowd a couple of times which was appreciated by everyone.

At about 10.30am Lorraine Beveridge arrived and joined us on patrol then just before 11am Wilma arrived and waited with us on the grassy area in front of the Abbey.  She found a seat and chatted with a man on another seat.  Shortly afterwards Sylvia, Sharon, Lynda and Suzie arrived so we were all there ready for the arrival of King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort.

At about 8 minutes past 11am, the Royal car swept along and stopped next to the Council Chambers.  Moss and Roger had taken up position behind the crowd at the lower end of the High Street so were able to see the royal party arrive in the car.  They stayed there until they left the City Chambers, then made their way back to the Yes-U-Are building.

The other Street Pastors had been engaging in conversation with members of the public but the crowds hushed on the arrival of the royal car.  Shouts of “God save the King” were heard as well as some clapping.  A few moments earlier some “boos” were heard from amongst the crowd around the corner near the Council building, but these evidently were reserved for Nicola Sturgeon the First Minister of Scotland.

The ceremony in the City Chambers lasted nearly an hour so it was a while before the Royal party emerged.  Those of us on the grassy area saw the King and Queen Consort slowly walk down the street stopping to speak to members of the crowd who eagerly shook hands with them and bunches of flowers were given to Camilla.  Again, there were shouts of “God save the King” and the Royal couple appeared happy and pleased to receive people’s welcome comments.  From where some of us were standing, Camilla walked towards the grassy area which was a slight diversion from following the King down towards the Abbey.  She had a lively conversation with people standing there which was appreciated by all.  She then turned to walk towards the Abbey.

At this point Helen left to join Moss and Roger for a welcome cup of coffee washed down with biscuits and pecan slices.  We had a cheerful chat looking back on what had been an enjoyable morning if a rather unusual patrol.

Wilma and the remaining Street Pastors stayed in the area and had conversations with school pupils (one was so delighted that the King had shaken his hand, he exclaimed “I will never wash this hand again!!”). We had conversations with parents with toddlers, and with the police. After a while, the King left the Abbey and we waved and cheered the Royal party. We went into a café but it was too crowded – however we did have two conversations there before we left. We went up to the High Street, stopping for a number of conversations on the way. Six of us went into the café and one SP invited a young man to join us. We had a long conversation about technology and about spiritual matters. We also had a lengthy conversation with a young man who had been a missionary in Pakistan, and a lady who had seen us on the street and came to ask what we were doing. A lady sitting at the next table also chatted with us, and as we left the café, a dog with a sore paw attracted our attention, leading to a conversation with the owners. A man in a kilt stopped us at the exit and had a number of questions for us, and we had a good conversation with him. One street pastor went shopping and although she was no longer in uniform she was approached by a lady who recognised her as a street pastor – she wanted to talk about problems she was having in her life. After few more  conversations at the bus stop, we left Dunfermline.

Helen Mulford & Wilma Aitchison

10th October 2022

Street Pastors at Freshers’ Week in Aberdeen

Photo from The Press and Journal

Street Pastors available to ‘everyone and anyone’

Volunteers from the Street Pastors offer support to those enjoying a night out in Aberdeen, from giving people a listening ear to making sure they get home safely.

They work closely with the police throughout the weekend to make sure everyone is enjoying a safe environment.

Steve Skinner, a team leader for Street Pastors said: “We do the same thing every week in terms of it’s just about being available to everyone and anyone.

“On nights when there’s more freshers in town we expect more interactions with younger folk who don’t know the city well, people who might have had a bit more than they’re used to drinking that sort of thing.

“Certainly last year, freshers was fairly busy and this was a very useful resource.”

The teams work to find out which halls students stay in to help them get home to safety.

They also have teams patrolling the streets as well as on board a vehicle based on Union Street, working between 10pm until 4am.

The team works closely with the police to get people home safely.

To read more about partnership working in Aberdeen betwteen Police Scotland, the Alcohol and Drugs Partnership and other organisations during freshers, read the full article in the Press and Journal.

In memory of Sandra Jewell

We are sad to report that Sandra, wife of Ascension Trust Scotland CEO Chris Jewell, has passed away after illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Chris would like you to know that you are invited to take part in the funeral. This will be held at 1pm on Thursday 8 September at 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, Scotland, PA15 1SH.

This will be live streamed for all who can’t attend: https://youtu.be/88ulMIMx3uw

Please remember Chris and his family in prayer. Chris has asked specifically that you would pray that the funeral will have a deep sense of God’s presence.

Sandra Jewell is very highly thought of… one example is the family business, a babywear shop in Greenock. The announcement of her passing brought over 1,400 responses and 573 individual comments on the shop’s page, saying things like ‘So sorry to hear this. What a lovely woman she was, so friendly and helpful. She’ll be missed by everyone. Thinking of you all ’.

Please access the livestream: https://youtu.be/88ulMIMx3uw

‘Pray for people’s wellbeing’ says Eustace Constance of Ascension Trust

Chief operating officer for the umbrella organisation Ascension Trust for Street Pastors UK has told Premier Christian News we should “pray for our cities” as they warn of the dangers to life near open waters.

Shrewsbury Street Pastors have warned people, who are on a night out, to be cautious and stay together, after several deaths in the River Severn.

A safety review is being carried out by Shropshire Council after two men died earlier this year.

Read the full article on Premier Christian News