Christians walk the walk to keep city centre night owls safe

New street pastors were joined by police at a special service held at the High Court Chambers before going out on the streets to help and advise people at night
New street pastors were joined by police at a special service held at the High Court Chambers before going out on the streets to help and advise people at night
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Volunteers with a difference are hitting the streets of Sheffield on Friday nights.

As well as looking out for trouble and keeping an eye on drunk revellers, they’ll also be dispensing Christian goodwill and, if required, prayer.

Meet the Street Pastors - helpers patrolling Sheffield in distinctive blue jackets, on a mission to make the church more visible on the streets.

The pastors will be handing out water and lollies to pub-goers, blankets to the homeless, basic first aid to the injured and flip flops to girls struggling in high heels.

The launch follows similar schemes in cities around the UK and a trial has been running for a year in Burngreave. Street Pastors co-ordinator Tricia Watts said that trial has been very well-received.

Tricia said 14 pastors went out on the first night and four will be out every Friday.

“We’ll be walking around, making sure vulnerable people are okay, and chatting to people,” said Tricia.

“We’ve done training in street safety, drugs and alcohol abuse and listening skills.”

The project is a partnership between local churches, police and Sheffield Council and the pastors will be able to communicate via two-way radios overseen by CCTV cameras.

“If a dangerous situation develops we’ll back out and call the police,” said Tricia.

“We’re not there to be the police, we’re there to listen, care and help. Recruitment is ongoing and we have a rolling training programme.”

Chf Insp Simon Verrall said: “It’s really supportive to have volunteers who want to assist the police and engage with young people.”

Tricia, aged 50, is a part-time teacher at Bradfield and Dungworth Primary School and became a Christian at 16. Her husband Jon Watts is pastor of the Rock Christian Centre, Burngreave.

“We always pray before going out, and when we come back as well. We believe God will protect us, but not if we’re being stupid and going into dangerous situations.

“We’ve had very good conversations and built up a lot of relationships with shopkeepers, local pubs and the like. The city centre will be very different, though, because it’s 100 times busier.

“We don’t want to preach to people, but if people ask why we’re doing it we tell them we’re Christians. In a lot of other cities street pastors have got a very good response - hopefully we’ll see the same.”