“I’m not an angel but I love the way you care.”

That’s what a beefy man said outside the Duchess pub as he chatted with a group of Dover Street pastors on their Saturday night tours.

The Saturday night patrol in front of the Lord Nelson. Photo: Sam Lennon

In Pencester Gardens, a group of young people happily accepted the Patrol’s offer of bottled water, chocolate bars and lollipops in their backpacks stuffed with supplies.

As the pastors were ready to move on, they were given a cheerio with punches.

The pastors of Dover Street, despite what could be frightening and potentially violent encounters with weekend drunks, appear to be attracting genuine goodwill.

By following them on patrol last Saturday night, I was able to unlock the secret of their success.

They keep the balance between making themselves useful when needed, but not interfering or being where they are not wanted.

Street pastors observe the white horse in Dover, pictured with co-owner Stuart Fox
Street pastors observe the white horse in Dover, pictured with co-owner Stuart Fox

This may explain why members of the Dover Street pastors, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary this month, have never been physically assaulted and have rarely been verbally abused.

During the three hours that followed their patrol, I did not see them endure a single tense encounter.

They just walked around and said “hello, how are you?” To those they met and were greeted with polite and friendly responses. When there was a feeling that a conversation was desired, they would stop briefly and chat.

Pastor Alan Boxall said: “If anyone tries to abuse us, a pub porter or even a member of the public will say, ‘Don’t talk to him like that, he’s a street pastor.

“In one case a young man was hitting his girlfriend and when we got there his attitude changed and he stopped. He probably didn’t want any witnesses or just became embarrassed. The atmosphere changed when we were there. the low.

“Our job is to take care and listen …”

“When the street pastors were brought to Nottingham city center, crime dropped by 70%.”

Senior Pastor Jan Jones said, “We are all Christians, but we don’t stick religion down people’s throats. Our job is to care and listen.

These unpaid volunteers go out at night to help people, for example by providing food, hot drinks or first aid.

They also clean up discarded bottles and glasses to prevent someone from accidentally cutting themselves – or using them as weapons.

Also, they help to recharge phones or make calls to stranded people.

Jan Jones Senior Street Pastor
Jan Jones Senior Street Pastor

Ms Jones said: “We never know when we are needed. One night absolutely nothing happened until the last few minutes of our patrol. A young woman who had been drinking too much fell. We had to retrieve her. and take her home. “

In another case, a student at the University of Kent in Canterbury fell asleep on a train late at night and found herself stranded and distraught at Dover Priory station. The pastors paid for her taxi to go home.

Ms Jones said: “One of the saddest encounters I had about three years ago when we met a young woman in Stembrook who wanted to kill herself.

“We managed to talk him out of it.

“She was a drug addict but not anymore and the last time I saw her she was fine.”

Alan Boxall Street Pastor
Alan Boxall Street Pastor
Street pastors at their base in Dover.  Photo: Sam Lennon
Street pastors at their base in Dover. Photo: Sam Lennon

Street pastors aren’t just on the lookout for Friday and Saturday night revelers in the city center.

They also check the welfare of homeless people further away, ready to give them blankets and hot drinks when needed.

Our patrol left the city center behind to sweep the waterfront, the shopping gates of De Bradelei Wharf, as well as the banks of the River Dour at Pencester Gardens.

Asylum seekers are not forgotten either and prayers have been said for them on the waterfront.

The night before I joined the patrol, the pastors of Dover Street celebrated their 10th anniversary at One Church in Noah’s Ark Road.

“It’s about bringing hope to the desperate.”

Around 100 people attended the event and £ 250 was raised for the upkeep of the service.

The keynote speaker was Reverend Les Isaacs who founded Street Pastors UK in 2003.

He said: “When the pastors of Dover Street walk the streets and people feel loved and comforted, it is about bringing hope to the desperate.

“The spirit of God is helping us take care of the people and reach out and make Dover a better place.”

Mike Connolly, chairman of the Dover District Council, said: “Many human needs and vulnerabilities are met by the pastors of Dover Street who do a fantastic job.

The cup of cake for the birthday celebration.  Photo by Marie McMonagle
The cup of cake for the birthday celebration. Photo by Marie McMonagle

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke revealed that she also joined the volunteers on patrol.

She said: “I have seen with my own eyes the vital work they do to keep people safe on our streets. Keeping an eye out for young people in the city, as well as those sleeping in shelters and in the street.

“A big thank you to all the volunteers for the support they provide to those in need.

“The pastors of Dover Street are now on the lookout for new recruits. I strongly encourage anyone who feels inspired to help them in their vital work to get in touch with them to find out more.”

The Mayor of Dover, Gordon Cowan, presented awards to street and prayer pastors in recognition of their decade of service.

Special guests and speakers at the Dover Street Pastors' Birthday Celebration.  Photo by Marie McMonagle
Special guests and speakers at the Dover Street Pastors’ Birthday Celebration. Photo by Marie McMonagle

He concluded by saying, “Your generosity, your time, your practical assistance to those in need and your kindness have made our streets safer for everyone. You are a vital part of our city life and are respected and trusted – proof that our community cares about everyone.

Currently in Dover, there are five teams of street pastors plus teams of prayer pastors who work in shifts every four weeks. Groups meet at a downtown base where prayer pastors stay while street teams go on patrol.

In 2019, nearly 2,000 hours were worked by volunteers and contact was made with nearly 900 people from Dover during a patrol.

The pastors of Dover Street are a group of Christians from different churches including Church of England, Baptist and Methodist.

They work in partnership with Kent Police, Dover District Council, Dover Community Safety Partnership, Dover Outreach Center and other relevant organizations to help support a peaceful presence in the night streets of Dover.

As of 2003, more than 240 towns across the UK have a team of street pastors, adding up to 20,000 volunteers for the network as a whole.

To learn more about the pastors of Dover Street and if you would like to join them, visit the website streetpastors.org/locations/dover/

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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