Merton Street Pastors are a group of ordinary Christians from local churches who, motivated by the love of Jesus, go out late on Friday nights to patrol the streets of Wimbledon, Mitcham and Morden. We look to care for people, to listen to people and to help people. If invited, we tell them about our motivation for doing this, enabling us to share the Gospel in a setting which is familiar to them.
I’ve been a street pastor for over three years and although I love my other voluntary work – at a homeless drop-in and co-ordinating Everyday Wimbledon’s winter night shelter – this is the activity I enjoy the most.
I always patrol in Wimbledon and when I am on patrol I meet the rest of the team, usually another guy and two females, at Tower Lodge, behind the YMCA. We meet at 10.00pm. Being on a rota and being able to choose dates which are best for me means that the team varies each time, so there is some catching up with people I may not have seen for several months.
We pray for about 30 minutes, gather our equipment (radio, space blankets, lollipops, spikeys and flipflops) and head out onto The Broadway. For the uninitiated, spikeys are little plastic stoppers that you can put into the top of an open bottle to prevent someone spiking your drink. The lollipops go some way to alleviating the effects of alcohol and the flipflops are in great demand when young girls realise that, come 2am, their 5’’ heels are no longer a good idea!
The first thing that we notice is how much the, mostly young, people we meet really appreciate what we do. They’ve either been helped themselves in the past or know of someone who has, especially when they’ve consumed more alcohol than they had planned. Equally the doormen, the restaurant workers and the police have only good things to say. Street pastors are often quoted as being a key factor in keeping peace on the streets.
There are regular rough sleepers in a couple of the doorways and we check up on them, getting to know them well over a few months. With the average life expectancy of a rough sleeper being quoted as 47 years, anything we can offer to improve their situation is more than worthwhile.
True, sometimes people get a little excited and we are asked to step in and calm things down, but I have never felt threatened or been in a situation where I’ve felt exposed. We seem to be able to convey to people that we have their best wishes at heart.
Depending on how busy it is, we can be out until 2am-2.30am, but there are so many interesting interactions with a variety of people that the time flies by and you only feel tired when you get home.
So come out and observe what we do without any obligation – let’s face it, what else would you be doing at this time of night except sleeping and you’ve got plenty of time for that when you get old!