Friday, 8 July 2011

Church without walls

I read this week a story about Christian volunteers patrolling the centre of Halifax at weekends, according to a statement by West Yorkshire Police they have helped reduce crime, say West Yorkshire Police. Street Angels, an initiative of Churches Together in Halifax, are celebrating five years of ministry outside nightclubs on Friday and Saturday nights. Since they started in 2006, violent crime in the town centre has dropped by 57 per cent, prompting praise from Chief Inspector Viv Cutbill: ‘We welcome the fantastic work the Street Angels do.’ A couple of weeks ago I was in Chester City Centre at 11pm, not a time I usually go into Chester, what a different perspective you get of Chester at this time on a Saturday evening! The street were full of people enjoying the nightlife on offer and was particularly busy I think as it had been a Race Day.

I was in Chester to visit the newly set up Night Church. This is an initiative led by a local Christian Charity called The Light Project in partnership with local churches from all different denominations. It takes place in St Peters Church right next to the Cross in the centre of the City Centre and is once a month on the 2nd Saturday from 9.30pm til 2.30am. I also met up with some Street Pastors; these are very similar to the Halifax Street Angels. Early in 2008 representatives from the Churches, Cheshire Police and the Council met to consider having Street Pastors in both Chester and Ellesmere Port. A management committee was formed and the scheme was launched.  Initially the aim was to have a team on the Streets of Chester every Friday night, and the first patrol went out in Chester city centre on Friday 27th September 2008. In March 2009 there began a weekly, Thursday community street pastor initiative in Ellesmere Port and as numbers of volunteers have grown we now have patrols out in Chester every Friday and Saturday night. Today there are 60 volunteer Street Pastors! In just under 3 years they have removed 2,069 bottles and glasses from the streets of Chester and gave out 1,736 pairs of ‘Flip Flops’ in 2010 alone!!

I love it that Night Church, Street Pastors and the Street Angels initiatives takes the church out to where the people are instead of waiting until the people come to find the church!  The Street Pastors have five core values that motivate them: The sacredness and sanctity of Human Life; Valuing and honouring the community; Being a person of integrity; Taking personal responsibility; Promoting the growth and development of the Individual to their fullest potential. These values are fantastic and would serve us all well in our pursuit of life and community cohesion.

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