Faith on the Streets
Charting the extraordinary growth of Street Pastors over the past ten years, with much to inspire and inform
Faith on the Streets
By Les Isaac and Rosalind Davies
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
ISBN No: 978 1 444 75009 6
Reviewed By: Jeannie Kendall
If you Google “Street Pastors” you get about 2 million results, many about specific Street Pastor schemes, which now run in over 270 locations in the UK. The extraordinary growth of Street Pastors over the past ten years is the topic of this book, the second on the topic (the first, Street Pastors, was published in 2009. As I have, regrettably, not read the first I cannot comment on the comparison between the two.)
I suspect no-one reading this is unaware of their existence, but, to quote from their website street pastors are “trained volunteers from local churches who care about their community. They patrol in teams of men and women, usually from 10pm to 4am on a Friday or Saturday night, to care for, listen to and help people who are out on the streets.”
Emerging from the work of Ascension Trust, Street Pastors have caught the imagination of many, including the media, normally uninterested in the church or Christianity. With volunteers across the denominations, Street Pastors are clear that they are the church on the streets: in one telling quote, a street pastor was asked who they were. When they replied the church, the reply came – where have you been until now?
This book consists of several strands, tracking the rise of Street Pastors, a few stories from those who have encountered them, something of Les Isaac’s story, and a look at some of the principles surrounding their work such as the “urban trinity” of police, local authorities and the church, the balance of evangelism and social action, and what the street pastors’ movement says about the church finding her way out of the building.
There is a great deal here to inspire, and to inform. If I had one slight hesitation it is perhaps that the various strands sit a little uneasily together.
There will be those, I suspect, who would like far more emphasis on the stories, and others who would like more on the implicit theological debate about the role of the church in the (wider) mission of God.
The interspersing of quite contrasting strands and styles gave the book a slight sense, for me, of identity crisis. Unlike the Street Pastors themselves, which has to be one of the most exciting things to emerge from the church over the past couple of decades. There again, I am distinctly biased….
Jeannie Kendall is co-minister of Carshalton Beeches Baptist church and a member of the Sutton Street Pastors’ Management Board