Dublin Street Pastors take to the streets on Saturday nights
(From the October - December 2019 issue of VOX)
With 17 volunteers from different churches across the city, Street Pastors has been “on duty” from 11pm to 4am every Saturday night since the Dublin group was launched. VOX magazine spoke to Tomás Jenkinson, Coordinator of Dublin Street Pastors to find out more:
First pioneered in London in 2003, Street Pastors groups operate all over the UK, providing a compassionate response to the problems of inner-city nightlife. In Ireland, the award-winning Cork Street Pastors launched in 2012 and after several years of planning and prayer, Dublin Street Pastors was launched in May 2019.
“We meet at 10.30pm for prayer and then head out with a team of three or four people at 11pm. In the early part of the evening, we might be in Temple Bar or around Grafton Street,” Tomás said.
After a tea break at 1.30am, the team goes out again between 2am and 4am, patrolling the area around Clarendon Street and checking in alleyways and back streets.
Dublin Street Pastors was set up in consultation with An Garda Síochána and there is a positive relationship with guards on the beat. The team is trained to understand the role of the Gardaí so that they can support and complement the emergency services.
Sweeping up broken glass and picking up over 200 glass bottles a night is a small but important service to protect people in the city centre. The team takes care of people who have become sick or vulnerable through substances misuse, sitting with them and finding help either by calling a friend, alerting the emergency services or helping them to return home safely. They also carry supplies of flip-flops and bottles of water.
“Sometimes, we find ourselves nearby when a fight is brewing and stop to pray. We’ve seen scenes beginning to calm down and people dispersing without further incident,” Tomás shared.
The team has helped avert potentially dangerous situations. Street Pastors were walking past when a young lady fell out of a taxi she was sharing with a man. She appeared to be intoxicated. The team asked where she was going and she replied, “Drumcondra.” This alerted the attention of the taxi driver because the man had told him to drive to Rathmines. Once “caught out” the man took off at a run and the Street Pastors were able to call an ambulance and the Gardaí. The woman had been drugged.
“We’ve met people who are depressed and some who are contemplating suicide,” Tomás added. “Our volunteers are all trained in “safeTALK” (suicide alertness) and we are able to put people in contact with services in the city where they can find help.”
It has also been exciting to find opportunities to talk about faith and to pray with people on the street.
“People ask, ‘Why are you out here?’ and it is very natural to reply that we are volunteers from churches in the city and we are on the street to care, listen and help,” Tomás said.
“One Saturday night, we were coming back from our break when four young people called out called us, ‘Who are you and what are you doing?’ We ended up having great conversations.
“I spoke with Yusuf* who said he was an agnostic. I shared my testimony. I told him how I had asked God to show me if He was real and I met Him in an amazing way while I was in Rome. Yusuf said, ‘I would need a bigger experience than that.’ So I told him, ‘Your heart needs to be open.’ He replied, ‘My heart is open, it is wide open.’”
While Tomás was talking and praying with Yusuf, other members of the team were chatting with three Brazilian young people. Fernanda* had a series of tattoos showing a caterpillar, a leaf, a cocoon and the blank outline of a butterfly. She noticed that Carissa, one of the Street Pastors’ team, had a beautiful, colourful tattoo of a butterfly in flight on her wrist.
“I always wondered what was the end of my tattoo. It felt incomplete,” shared Fernanda. Carissa began to share her story that through coming to Christ, she has found who she was created to be and is on an adventure with God.
As Carissa was sharing with Fernanda and the other Brazilians, Yusuf came over to the group and said to Carissa, “Pray for us! You must pray for us!”
Carissa asked, “What do you want me to pray? You need to be specific.”
So Fernanda said, “I want this love and hope that you have. I know that is what I’m looking for.”
Yusuf added, “I want more of whatever you have. I’m ready for it.”
And another of the Brazilians added, “I have been struggling. You were talking about the butterfly; it is fragile. Often people think of girls as sensitive but we [men] are fragile too. I have a lot of fear. Please pray that I will have no more fear but love instead.”
This was just one incident of many that the teams have encountered as they go out onto the streets every Saturday night. For Tomás, it is an example of how God has placed eternity in the hearts of every individual.
“What attracted me to Street Pastors was seeing churches working together and the priority it places on prayer. Our unity is so crucial to being effective and the whole area of prayer and intercession is something that God has been developing in my own life. We have Prayer Pastors working with us. The goal is that every time we go out, they will stay and pray. We can then send back updates during the night.”