Sounds From The Street

THE SMILING faces, the Street Pastors’ jackets, all looked familiar as they made their way from Saks, past the front entrance of The Last Post. They appeared to be greeting those who were just hanging about, waiting for cabs, or lifts. They looked happy. They were in for a long night…

DAVID ELCOCK kindly provided the photos that accompany this News Item, and Street Pastors’ leader DAVID INCE gives us his thoughts on the Street Pastors’ debut on Saturday 28th May, below….

WELL WHAT a night; an interesting, exciting and encouraging night!

It started with all but two of the sixteen Street Pastors assembling together, slightly earlier than usual, at 8pm for a meal at Clarence Road Baptist Church. It was decided that, as this was our first night and only time, certainly for a while, that we would be going out in such numbers it would be a good start. This proved to be an excellent beginning, due to the good sense and even better catering of volunteer Jill Poole, of St. Nicholas’ at Great Wakering!

We were joined by Les Isaac, director of Ascension Trust and by John Austin of Echo Newspapers, who’d never had an assignment to cover, quite like this one before! During the meal we shared various scriptures, a letter of encouragement from Gill Johnson of The Well church, who even burst into song on the piano – and Gill can sure bring a piano to life.

While we were downing lasagne and French bread, John Staff of Leigh Road Baptist Church also began recording interviews with team members, for use on Southend Hospital Radio and for possible use on BBC Essex and a future Love Southend audio-production. John Austin was doing something similar for the Echo. Before we went out, we were joined by Steve Currell in uniform, who again publicly stated that we had the full support of both the Southend, and Essex Police Force.

There’s no doubt that Steve has been key in gaining much support and financial backing for Street Pastors – God has clearly placed the right man in the right place at the right time.

So, after prayer, and with the knowledge that Wendy Thomas was upstairs at Clarence Road with a prayer team which included local councillor Judy McMahon – joining in the prayer efforts of those remembering us before God in their homes – the four teams went out at 10pm and covered the Woodgrange Estate, the Kursaal, the Golden Mile of the seafront and the High Street. The Woodgrange was strangely quiet, so after praying for the area they moved back into one of the other areas. Eventful it was…

…as we engaged with some 196 people in total, many of whom took our calling cards and a copy of John’s Gospel. We came across those in doorways, those under the influence of drugs, a very vulnerable and distraught lady who is awaiting an operation for breast cancer; a man flat-out in an alleyway near Churchills, who we monitored and who eventually came to and went off to Shoebury in a taxi (I’m sure nighttime taxi-drivers are a different breed and all credit to them) and also, many people in different states of intoxication and undress. Indeed, a group of lads walked down the High Street without any trousers or underwear on – a bit different to Marks and Sparks on a Monday morning.

We often got asked, “What’s A Street Pasta, then?” We explained that we were not for cooking or eating, but Pastors with a real concern for the local community. “Sorry, mate…” came the reply, usually followed by, “…we need you”, “thanks for what you’re doing”, “Southend needs this”, “hope to see you again”, “don’t go down the seafront because that’s really rough and I don’t want to see you harmed…” – how about that for reciprical care!

We returned to Clarence Road just before midnight for a cuppa and a debrief with Les giving some wise advice, before going out again, after 1am. We returned at 3.30am to share our experiences. We all agreed that it had been excellent, that God had been with us all the way. We gave thanks for our prayer team and partners, closed in prayer and to the sound of the birds singing, went home to a most welcome bed.

Overall, brilliant. We truly felt the calling of God and His love for Southend.

– David Ince

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