“Hey Street Pasta, give us a lolly!”
It’s stupid o’clock in the morning, if I’m honest I’d rather be tucked up in bed asleep, but I’m out on the cold, wet streets of Reading, trying to do my bit as a Street Pastor (not pasta!) I smile, hand over said sugary treat (usually reserved as an aid to help people sober up quicker) and send the person on their way.
For those who don’t know, far from being an Italian staple (though it is an often repeated joke!) Street Pastors is a Christian organisation that doesn’t just pass out lollies, rather it seeks to represent Jesus on the streets of towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night.
We do this by being a friendly face to those out on the town, responding to radio calls for help for specific individuals, handing out flip flops (for when high heels aren’t working out anymore), and even clearing broken glass from the pavement.
We get very competitive within the teams as to who can clear the most glass bottles from the streets, so as to avoid them being weaponised later! Town can be a scary place at night, particularly for those who are vulnerable, so it’s an amazing privilege to be able to help where we can.
On one of our recent patrols, we helped a diabetic girl who had been found unresponsive in a nightclub toilet. We were able to call an ambulance for her, contact her parents, and provide first aid to her whilst waiting for the ambulance to arrive (a pretty tense wait I must say!) It was great to hear the next day that she was fine, and her mum was really grateful to us for what we did.
As I’m sure you can imagine, in three years of Street Pastoring in Reading, I’ve seen all sorts of things. I’ve been hugged, participated in an impromptu dance, even nearly squashed trying to prop someone up (drunk people don’t really do social distancing!) but whilst we do see some people at their lowest, we also see people at their best too.
There are many passers by who offer to help, or at the very least give us some words of encouragement. I’ve been challenged by the work that we do, humbled by the gratitude of people that we help and encouraged by the diverse team that I work in.
As much as these sources of encouragement and words of gratitude are a nice part of the role, they aren’t all that motivates me to be a Street Pastor. I believe that I am serving Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as spending his life serving others and meeting them exactly where they were. I count it a huge honour to try to emulate him in some extremely small way.
I would say see you in town, but hopefully you’ll never need us!