Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Street pastors again

Published:Thursday | February 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Devon Dick

By Devon Dick

Recently, the Street Pastors ministry was relaunched at the Webster Memorial United Church on Half-Way Tree Road, in a worship service filled with six greetings plus remarks by Peter 'Divine Intervention' Bunting, minister of national security, and the guest speaker, Bishop Les Isaac, chairman and founder of Ascension Trust, United Kingdom.

The primary aim of Street Pastors is not to verbally preach the gospel, though they will always be ready to share their Christian faith if invited to do so. Instead, Street Pastors are committed to the service of others in the name of Jesus. Their main way of spreading the gospel is to engage in a ministry of listening to persons who are troubled and then offer practical help on a non-judgemental basis to anyone and everyone who is on the streets.

There are now 11,000 Street Pastors volunteering worldwide.

Street Pastors will start in the Half-Way Tree area, and Marion McCreath, chair of the Half-Way Tree Ministers Fraternal, pledged the cooperation of fellow ministers of religion. Starting the Street Pastors programme in Half-Way Tree is an excellent idea. Half-Way Tree is one of the busiest intersections in Kingston and St Andrew. It is a fertile ground to minister to all persons of various backgrounds and orientations. The large Transport Centre is an important stop for young people who sometimes want to engage in deviant behaviour. In addition, there are persons who are homeless, who gamble and get drunk and who could benefit from the ministry of Street Pastors. There are many hustlers in this area who need help.

This new initiative was tried 11 years ago in Jamaica and the area of ministry was then Trench Town, possibly because the Street Pastors Programme of the United Kingdom inspired the actions of Pastors Bobby Wilmot and Bruce Fletcher ministering to the youth in Trench Town. However, it appears that Street Pastors from Deliverance Centre, Boulevard Baptist, Tower Hill Missionary, and Covenant Community found the going rough in spite of many visits. Perhaps the pilot was too hard based on the prevalent gun culture in parts of Trench Town. Therefore, Half-Way Tree is a better location to start and then evaluate the ministry.

At the launch, Antigua-born Les Isaacs, who was once a Rastafarian and has been awarded the Order of the British Empire for work among Street Pastors in the United Kingdom, reminded the audience that Jamaica has a special role to play in world affairs. He highlighted the influence of Jamaican culture and encouraged Street Pastors in Jamaica to play a role in crime preventing and fighting.

Street pastors necessary

Street Pastors have effectively patrolled the streets of London, the Caribbean, and other parts of the world, and it would be good if an effective ministry is achieved here. This ministry in Jamaica will see Street Pastors operating on Fridays from 8 p.m. to midnight, and members will be identifiable by a blue uniform with the 'Street Pastors' branding visible in white. They will undergo 12 days of training in order to patrol the streets effectively and provide care.

It is encouraging that Wilmot and Fletcher are involved in this new initiative and should bring their street-smartness and institutional memory to bear on this restart. They also have the support of former banker Richard Delisser as co-chair of the steering committee and present banker Michael Jones of the Christian Life. In addition, it has the organisational strength of Operation Save Jamaica behind it.

Street Pastors have a concern for a community and country. Let us support and enlist as Street Pastors and pray that, this time, it will be sustainable and successful.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.