Based around the principles of the national Street Pastors model, Town Pastors Lowestoft is one of the Suffolk town schemes operating at weekends in the county looking after those within the ‘night time economy’ (generally defined as ‘the consumption of services such as ‘drinking, dancing and eating’ on- and off-site in the town centre based around licensed leisure, food and entertainment outlets such as wine bars, pubs, nightclubs and fast-food outlets’).
Town Pastors Lowestoft (TPL) is an inter-denominational group of Christians working ecumenically to make a very real difference to our town centre as part of a multi-agency team, in collaboration with the police and local council, in short being a positive influence on the streets. Caring, listening and engaging with vulnerable people in Lowestoft’s nightlife areas around the many pubs and nightclubs, the street pastor-style model was started in London in 2003 by Revd Les Isaac and The Ascension Trust and has now spread to over hundreds of towns and cities across the UK.
Suffolk now has nine Town Pastors schemes, originally started in Ipswich in 2006, it soon spread to Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket, now covering Woodbridge, Sudbury, Stowmarket, Felixstowe and Haverhill as well. The Town Pastor scheme here in Lowestoft launched in March 2010 and we have become a firm part of the town’s weekend night scene, well-known to most people out late at night, often greeted with chants such as ‘the ‘Freddo people’, ‘the town pasties’ or the ‘God Squad’ as we walk around. It is so rewarding for us as local committed Christians that our churches can unite in the town so practically and be so active in bringing faith in action and the sign of Jesus to the forefront of our community life.
The TPL scheme currently operates street patrols on Friday and Saturday nights from around 10pm until approx. 4am in the town centre with one or two teams of fully trained, equipped and uniformed Town Pastors (TPs). Back at the town centre base, base prayer partners will stay in contact with the TPs and provide prayer support, hospitality to the team when they return and log radio and telephone conversations. Meanwhile, dedicated folk in their houses, our home prayer partners, pray during the day before the shifts and many commit to praying the whole time that the pastors are out on the streets!
We are funded by generous public donation, local government funding and grants from organisations such as the Suffolk Community Foundation.
What next? As well as continuing a consistent weekend coverage every Friday and Saturday night on the streets of central Lowestoft, TPL is keen to extend its coverage to include Oulton Broad as another area of operation, this will very much depend on our attracting a significant number of new volunteers as prayer partners and town pastors.
We also hope to be more involved at other times around the Lowestoft area, perhaps for planned events such as the Town Carnival or large music and cultural events as well as in response to unexpected emergencies; in short, whenever large numbers of people are predicted to be out on the town’s streets, we want to be there for them…