There’s more to the Street Pastors than flip-flops

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AT 10.30pm on most Saturdays, as people are getting into the swing of their night out in town, the Street Pastors are just starting work...Laura Hammond recently joined them.

AFTER a quick meet up at the town’s CCTV office, four pastors took to the streets of Boston for the night, in the hope they would be able to help people in need.

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Armed with rucksacks filled with bottled water, flip-flops, foil blankets and face wipes, they would spend the next five-and-a-half hours wandering around the night-time hotspots.

Mike Jessop, coordinator of the Street Pastors in Boston, said: “We just talk to people and engage with them. We are very much part of the peace-keeping in the town.

“We’re all Christians, but we’re not preaching. If people want to talk about their faith we are happy to share with them, but we won’t bring it up.”

This team is one of several which go out every Friday and Saturday night in the town, in a bid to offer support to revellers who need somebody to talk to or a helping hand to get to a taxi and get home at the end of the night.

Street Pastors have been around for a while nationally, and they have been operating in Boston since last January.

In that time they have become well-known for their work in the town, particularly handing out flip-flops to women who have abandoned their heels in favour of bare feet.

Mike explained that the flip-flops can save them from stepping on broken glass when they’re walking around at the end of the night.

It is for a similar reason that the team spend much of their time using their trusty dustpan and brush to sweep up broken glass on the street, and seeking out glasses and bottles which have been left outside various premises in the town.

Pastor Martin Fleetcroft said: “We’re just here to make it safer for people.”

Throughout the night the team chatted to several people who were drunk, just to check they were OK.

One man, who was on leave from Afghanistan, spoke to pastor John Hewitt at length, and asked if the team and their supporters back at the CCTV office would pray for him when he returned to duty.

Later in the night the pastors received a call from the office to ask if they would go and talk to a man who was outside the After Dark nightclub, after having too much to drink.

When they arrived pastor Helen Austin just sat and talked to him, helping his friend call for someone to come and collect him and helping to clean him up after he had been sick.

The pastors carry sick bags, bottles of water and face wipes for this very reason.

All of the people involved in the Street Pastor scheme are given training in self-defence, just in case anything happens. Despite this, none of them said they felt threatened while they were out.

Mike added: “Most of the people are very friendly, and we have prayer support at the CCTV office. We have to call through every half an hour to keep them up to date.”

If there is any violence, the group will offer support to people in the crowd who needed it. They also try to talk to people in an attempt to diffuse potentially violent situations.

They do not get involved in breaking up fights or carrying out police work, but they can try and talk to people who have been affected by it.

Since the Street Pastors arrived in Boston last year, they have been welcomed by police, bar and club owners and revellers alike.

One man who was on a night out and asked not to be named, said: “I really respect the Street Pastors, because their job is rubbish.”

Several women also approached them to ask if they would be around later to distribute flip-flops.

Steve Abel, general manager at After Dark and Bluu, said: “They do a great service for the town at night time. I think they’re extremely helpful They look after our customers and other people’s customers. Long may they continue.”