On weekends, Lincoln streets are full of people enjoying themselves through a bit of music, dance… and alcohol. On these days, street pastors are often the reason most party-goers stay safe.
Lincoln Street Pastors are a group of volunteers from local churches that came together 10 years ago to keep revellers and the homeless safe and comforted at night.
They cover the High Street on weekends from 10:30pm until 03:45am, offering a helping hand to anyone in need or in trouble.
The Lincolnite joined the group on a night out in the city on their tenth anniversary to find out about their mission.
In their backpacks they carry coffee, soups and water to make sure that not only are the party-goers put to comfort but even the homeless have a warm night.
In the last year, they have given out 224 pairs of flip-flops to bare feet and 120 space blankets to homeless people so that they can stay warm on the cold nights.
They have trained 129 street pastors from 26 churches in and around the city in the last ten years.
“When we first started in Lincoln, it was perceivably different. It was more violent, there were more fights and people didn’t believe what we said we were going to do,” said Roy Ealden, who is 65 years old and has been a street pastor in the city since its beginning.
The group that started with a handful of people has grown to include 37 street pastors and 22 prayer pastors over the past decade.
Over the years, this group of pastors has not only grown in number but has also managed to gain confidence and trust of the people of this city. “People will now come up and recognise the uniform and share if they have difficulties, sadness and anxieties in their lives.
“They know that they are going to get a listening ear for as long as they need it,” said Will Nicolson, a 56-year-old volunteer.
The group never leaves for patrolling before praying for themselves and others. They believe this wards against evil and gives strength to people in need.
Street Pastors go out in two groups of three, while one pastor stays behind to pray for the city.
In situations where people are unable to go home or are lost, street pastors stay with them till they are sober and safe.
“We can’t ever leave them alone. We sober them up by providing them water and stay with them until someone comes to pick them up or they are sober enough to take a cab home. There are few situations when we had to call for an ambulance. Even in these situations, we make sure that we remain with them till the ambulance arrives,” said Roy while patrolling on a cold Friday night.
In the past year, 15 ambulances have been called by the street pastors when someone needed medical attention and 385 bottles of water have been provided to revive the inebriated.
There have been cases when the team had to see some unfortunate days, however the days when they are appreciated are much more in number. “People come up to us, high five us and say ‘street pastors we love you,” said Patt Good, who has been volunteering for 10 years. “We even receive letters thanking us for helping them out.”
She also told The Lincolnite about the huge challenges that come with the role and described how on one night out she helped a young man who required CPR by paramedics. He sadly died later that night.
Street pastors also pick up empty glass bottles and throw them away to make sure that nobody steps on broken glass.
Close to 2,500 glass bottles were picked up by the street pastors in 2017.
The pastors are not only appreciated by the people they help, but also by the police and the door staff. “These people are amazing. They take a lot of load off us.
“Whenever we spot someone who needs attention, and we are unable to take out time we call the street pastors. They are very friendly and helpful people,” said Alison Aspinwall, who works on the security team at Red Five on Guildhall Street.
Lincoln street pastors will be completing 10 years of volunteering this month.