The Ascension Trust, is a Christian inter-denominational organisation that engages with people in many local communities around the country in different ways. The charity was started in 1993 by Reverend Les Isaac in London as a response to crime levels locally. It now operates nationwide, including in Scotland. Over 12,000 volunteers, who play an active part in strengthening community life and working for safer street, have been trained.
One of the Ascension Trust’s initiatives is Street Pastors – at St Michael’s, we are supporting our local Street Pastors in Newcastle over the next 3 years. Street Pastors, ‘the Church in Action on the Streets,’ engage with people on the streets to care for them, listen to them and help them. They work together with other partners in the night-time economy to make communities safer. Each city project is run by a local coordinator with support from local churches and community groups, in partnership with the police, local council and other statutory agencies.
On Sunday 3rd February, we were visited by Paul Waugh, the co-ordinator in Newcastle, and 3 of his colleagues, Simon, John & Mike. We heard a bit about their work and also some amazing statistics – Newcastle Street Pastors give out almost 600 pairs of flip flops and 400 foil blankets every year, mainly to those who are ‘out on the town.’ They work closely with the Police in particular to protect those who are vulnerable. They also look after rough sleepers as best they can, particularly in cold weather, by giving out water and Mars bars and praying with them.
They can get involved in serious situations. John told us of an incident involving a soon-to-be-married young man, Ben, who was suddenly taken very seriously ill in Newcastle City Centre. By being on the spot, John and his fellow Street Pastors were able to call for help and look after him, praying over him until an ambulance arrived. Ben made a full recovery. He said that they had been praying from Proverbs 3 earlier that evening, using the following verses:
‘5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’
We look forward to hearing more about the work of Paul and his fellow Street Pastors in the months and years to come as we partner with them as a church.