Gravesend's street pastors mark 10 years of keeping town calmer at night
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 September 2019
The man behind Gravesend's street pastors was back in town to help celebrate the group's 10th anniversary.
In September 2009, in The Pembroke Pub, which is now The Goose, some 20 newly trained volunteers were commissioned as street pastors by the Rev Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors nationally.
A decade on, and Mr Isaac paid another visit to Gravesend to join in celebrating 10 years of caring.
Sixteen of the original team are still active as street pastors and were presented with plaques recognising their loyalty.
During the service at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Windmill Street, seven new street pastors were commissioned.
What began as teams of four patrolling the streets from 10pm until 2am every Friday night developed into teams being out and about, listening, caring and helping, each Friday and Saturday, with fewer than 10 nights in the past 10 years having patrols cancelled due to inclement weather.
The police acknowledge a reduction in crime and disorder figures with the softer approach shown by the pastors, whose presence can help soften and absorb aggression - distributing free lollipops may help a little here too.
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The group has not stood still during its time.
Just three years ago, in response to a request from Chris Norwood, head of Northfleet School for Girls, another group of Christian volunteers undertook to train as school pastors.
Since the autumn term of 2016, small teams of school pastors - some also acting as street pastors - spend two lunch times each week in school, listening, caring and helping.
At the birthday celebration, four new school pastors were taken on.
Priscilla McBean, chairwoman of Gravesham Street Pastors, said: "They are there to be a reliable presence, helping the pupils to dream big and to give reassurance when expectations and dangers collide, leading to anxiety and loneliness."
Priscilla added: "All the pastors are volunteers who pay for their own training and uniforms.
"They do not preach to the people they encounter but demonstrate in a practical way that the church is there and ready to engage with anyone who may be feeling vulnerable."
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