In the run up to the New Year, the NHS said that it was considering setting up mobile units in town centres to deal with young people who’d had too much to drink and preventing more alcohol related incidents going to overstretched A&E departments.
Town Pastors (TP’s) in Dereham are a presence in the town and it’s much more than just looking after alcohol-related incidents. The Dereham team run the TPs between the hours of 3-5pm on a Friday at the end of the school week. At this time, it might be stepping in when someone is being bullied by school mates, engaging with young people on the recreation ground and just having a presence in the town. Some people request information about being a Christian, which is encouraging, but it is acceptance that the young people value the most.
Let me introduce you to Keith and Erica Balich who have moved to Dereham from Somerset and were street pastors in Minehead. They bring a wealth of experience and form part of the Town Pastor (TP) team in Dereham town centre.
Erica is part of the team out on the streets and she says that the first and most essential requirement is to be non-judgemental so whatever situation a young person finds him/herself in, they won’t be judged, just helped. If a young person was worse for wear, TP’s could offer reassurance, might offer to get a taxi, wrap a blanket around them or contact parents – if asked.
If Keith, who is responsible for recruitment, can find more volunteers, then the current service could be maintained and there would be scope to offer more
on-street hours as it is the late evening and early morning hours, when young people visit the pubs and clubs in the town, that need to be covered. Volunteers are also needed to pray whilst the TPs are on duty on the streets.
Keith says that training is provided which includes safeguarding, basic first aid and what should be done when confronted with certain situations, so new recruits are well informed and supported. Uniforms are provided, the outer jackets are pink and easily recognisable. Town Pastors always go out in 2’s or 3’s and are supported by a prayer group who pray in a local church and at home whilst the TP’s are on duty. The Town Pastors are ecumenical, coming from a variety of churches in the town. They are there to help, listen and care. Erica commented that the TP’s “go out in the Lord’s strength and are ambassadors for Christ. God never sends you where He has not been”. The police praise the work of the TP’s.
If you think this might be for you and you would like more information, do look at the Dereham TP website for more details. derehamtownpastors.org.uk or ring Keith on 01362 698537