Spreading the Word of God on the streets

Street Pastors John Bathgate, Nick Adams, Heather Eboji, Linda Farrer, Dr Barr and his wife Margaret spent some time with Jimmy Fraser

The Moderator of the General Assembly is helping to share the “calming” love of God on the streets of Scotland’s capital city tonight.

Right Rev Dr Russell Barr is joining a team of Street Pastors who will be offering help and assistance to people they find in distress.

He and his wife Margaret will be out and about with John Bathgate, the chairman of Edinburgh Street Pastors, an inter-denominational Christian charity, and its new co-ordinator, Andy Amour.

The ministry is supported by the Church of Scotland Guild which has so far raised £84,034 for The Ascension Trust - the umbrella organisation of Street Pastors.

Edinburgh Street Pastors has been part funded by a Church of Scotland Go For It grant and donations from Kirk congregations across the Capital.

Street Pastors tend to patrol the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights when pubs and clubs are in full swing.

They assist vulnerable people who are feeling the effects of too much alcohol, become separated from their friends, are lost, cannot get home or just want someone to talk to.

Valued work

Dr Barr will also see Street Pastors engaging with homeless people – a move that reinforces the Christian message that all people are valued and loved by God.

The issue is close to the Moderator’s heart because he founded a Edinburgh-based charity called Fresh Start in 1999, which helps people who have been homeless turn a new tenancy into a home.

Dr Barr said: “Having heard a lot about the work of Street Pastors, Margaret and I were delighted to accept an invitation to join the Edinburgh group.

“As well as looking forward to seeing what they do, I will also be very interested to see the response they receive.

“From various conversations I have had during the past year with police officers, I know how much the work of Street Pastors is valued by Police Scotland.

“It is another of the imaginative and innovative ways in which the church is connecting with its local community.

“It promises to be an interesting and at times challenging evening, and hopefully it will stay dry and not be too cold.”

Dr Russell Barr
Dr Barr

Mr Amour said he and his colleagues were “delighted” that the Moderator and his wife were joining them on patrol.

He added that their visit was a “real encouragement” to volunteers who freely give up their time to help others in need.

Mr Amour said: “Street Pastor work in exciting and rewarding.

“After most people are tucked up at home, our volunteers are out on the streets getting close to whoever we find.

“The Moderator will be out in centre of the capital's night time economy - places like George Street, Lothian Road and the Grassmarket - not the normal domain of our church members,

“But none the less important to us.

“If there are people there, then we need to be there too to meet their needs and share our message of Good News with them.

“He will see at first hand those who find escape in drink and drugs as well as those who have fallen on hard times, real stories of human need and brokenness in our society.”

Tremendous contribution

Mr Amour said the Moderator and his wife will also meet so-called night time economy workers.

“The police and ambulance crews, taxi drivers, night club staff and so on,” he explained.

“There is a real partnership effort going on out there which Street Pastors form a valuable part of.

“We are grateful for the Church's support because without which we wouldn't be able to function.

“So it's great to have the opportunity to show the church leadership first-hand what we do.”

Caring influence

Mr Amour said Street Pastors make a tremendous contribution to society in many different ways.

“Experience has shown that we have a calming influence in an area and in some parts of the country studies have taken place which show a reduction in crime rates when Street pastor initiatives have been started,” he added.

“Our own experience has shown that we have a calming influence when we are about and this has proved the value of our work."