Talking with a Street Angel

So let us learn How to serve,
And in our lives Enthrone Him;
Each other’s needs to prefer,
For it is Christ We’re serving.

— Graham Kendrick

I was in Guildford for lunch and an evening dinner and talk on the New Testament. [see Where does the New Testament come from?]

As I was walking alongside the River Wey I came across my lovely Hungarian friend sat by the river reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. An excellent choice I said.

I told her I was on my way to lunch and that she was more than welcome to join me. She did and I had excellent company and conversation for lunch and the rest of the afternoon.

I asked did she know what what synchronicity was. Although she did not know, she would not let me tell her, she wished to try and reason it out herself. When she finally admitted defeat, I explained to her, though this was not until much later when we were sitting in Castle Grounds.

Synchronicity, I explained, after giving her a few examples, was a term coined by Carl Jung

Synchronicity is the coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer.

There was a reason, I said, why I raised the subject. The previous week I had come to Guildford to give her a present, only she was not around. That morning, before leaving the house, a message from Paulo Coelho that O Aleph (Elif in Turkey) had been published that day in Hungary and had shot straight to No One. I then come to Guildford and unexpectedly come across my Hungarian friend! I had with me a copy of The Alchemist, which I gave her as a present.

Over lunch she told me she did voluntary work. What, like working in an Oxfam Bookshop, I said. No she said, I work at night as a Street Angel. I was vaguely aware of what this was. I asked was this through a church in Guildford. She said no, and I let her explain.

She was outside a disco late at night queuing to get in when she saw people on the street called Street Angels. She knew little about them so she checked them out on the net, got in touch, had an interview, received some training, and now she too was a Street Angel.

They patrol the streets late at night until the early hours of the morning, this can be anything from 10pm until 4am, looking out for the vulnerable, trying to defuse trouble, there to listen and talk if people wish to engage in conversation with them.

She carries a rucksack on her back, in which she has pairs of flip-flops for girls who might otherwise cut their feet on broken glass. They have radios to call for back up. A brush to sweep up the broken glass.

During training she was warned not to be shocked by what she would find on the street. It is not uncommon to find people unconscious on the street.

In Guildford, Street Angels was set up as part of the town centre Christian Ministry. What in effect they are doing is cleaning up the mess of a broken society.

It is called the Nighttime Economy. So long as someone is making money, it is ok. In reality gangs of drunken scum roaming the streets, whose idea of a good night out is to get drunk, get into fights and throw up in the street.

To blame are the bars who fill them full of alcohol and the local councils who grant the bars a licence to operate.

On Friday night, and probably Saturday too, Guildford town centre becomes a no-go area.

I used to go to Guildford on a Friday, visit friends in the evening then come back late at night on the train. Not anymore as it is not safe. Gangs of drunken scum roaming around looking for a fight.

The people I feel sorry for are the transport staff who run the late night trains. They get abuse and threats of violence. And of course the innocent passers by who get caught up.

I still do go to Guildford on a Friday, but if I do, I return home late afternoon or in the evening, never at night.

If I return Friday evening, the scum are just arriving. They are already drunk, looking for trouble, bottles and cans in their hands.

The girls are little better. They will be dressed in the skimpiest, flimsiest clothes, tottering on a pair of heels that are too high. They look ridiculous.

What is true of Guildford is true of most town centres. It is what is called having a good time out.

A friend and I was in Reading late one night. As we walked through the streets of the city centre it was full of drunken gangs roaming around looking for trouble. The train was no better. As the train set off, it had not left the station many minutes when a youth was beaten to a pulp before our feet. The driver and a passenger told us this was typical behaviour for a Friday and Saturday night.

The bad behaviour is even taken abroad. In Prague they have to suffer drunken British scum coming for drunken weekends. In Ayia Napa for a week or more of drunken binge drinking.

In Puerto de la Cruz, during La Carnaval, there are thousands on the streets enjoying themselves until the early hours of the morning, but you do not see this drunken behaviour.

I can talk with friends in Europe. An evening out if not to the theatre or an exhibition, is maybe a meal, a beer or a bottle of wine and intelligent conversation.

I was in Istanbul and not once did I see this drunken behaviour. Well actually I did once, that was a drunken Irishman who was being abusive and threatening to everyone around him, but he was the exception, not the norm.

I contrast the drunken scum and their appalling behaviour, lack of self-discipline, lack of self-respect, lack of respect for others, with the young of the Middle East, in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, who have taken to the streets in peaceful protest to bring down evil regimes, who have faced down security thugs, tear gas, tanks, live ammunition.

Street Angels was launched in Guildford in October 2008 by the Town Centre Chaplaincy.

The Guildford Town Centre Chaplaincy is a charity established by the Churches of Guildford to care for people of Guildford town centre.

During the night, Street Angels made contact with 138 people and spent time listening to people who just wanted to chat, handing out flip flops to girls with sore feet, supporting door staff by minding a couple of vulnerable people until their lift home arrived and many more simple acts of service and kindness. It was wonderful to see volunteers having fun and encouraging to hear just how grateful people were for us being there.

Street Angels first appeared on the streets in the UK in Halifax in 2005. They have made a difference to violence on the streets. They are always on the look out for more volunteers who are happy to give up one night a month to help patrol the streets. You can be of any faith or none, just a commitment to help people in need. The only requirement is that you are non-judgmental on the people you meet and willing to work unsocial hours for no pay. Hours are 10pm until 4am.

Since launching in Halifax in November 2005, the conecpt and vision of Street Angels has spread widely across the UK. In July 2008 the CNI Network was launched to help facilitate networking, sharing resources, launch projects in new towns and cities and offer prayer and news sharing. In April 2010, Street Angels – Christian Nightlife Initiatives became a Registered Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee.

Love Your Streets, is a recent initiative, taking responsibility for where you live.

Neighbouring towns to Guildford having seen the success of Street Angels in Guildford are seeking to establish similar schemes.

Angels help revellers enjoy night on the town
Street Angels look set to fly into town
Street Angels set to watch over Walton revellers
Street Angels out in Camberley by end of month
Street Angels group scoops £1,000 community prize
Churches inspire new legion of Street Angels

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2 Responses to “Talking with a Street Angel”

  1. stobio Says:

    The Street Pastor initiative is a parallel initiative to Street Angels. There are nearly 10,000 Street Pastors who voluntarily give of their time, like Street Angels, on a Friday, Saturday and occasionally a Sunday, prior to a Bank Holiday, evening. Why? because they want to help others unconditionally. Many people come into town centres to have a good time, a few wish to get drunk and have fights. Regardless we want to be there to help them get home and be available to listen – not to evangelise. It’s that unconditional love for others we want to leave them with, not a feeling of hatred because of what they have done. Some might call it ‘Cameron’s BIG Society… I’d call it what I was called to do.

  2. keithpp Says:

    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:13

    We live in a sick, dumbed-down, dysfunctional society, where for many the idea of a good night out is to get drunk, throw up in the street and beat a few people up.

    We saw what happened in the London riots this summer, which then spread across the country. We saw what happened in London on Boxing Day when two gangs met in Oxford Street, one youth knifed and killed, in Salford an innocent Indian student shot dead at point blank range for no apparent reason.

    In many town and city centres it is only Street Angels, Street Pastors and similar voluntary groups who are keeping the lid on. But they are not the answer, we are merely treating the symptoms.

    We should shut down the bars and night clubs which are filling the yobs with booze. If they need bouncers to keep order then they should not be open.

    But that does not go far enough, we have to deal with a society that has no values other than greed and I want.

    It is those who have nothing, who have nothing to lose, who carry out the worst acts of depravity, the unloved, the unwanted.

    Canon Andrew White in Faith Under Fire writes of the groups he deals with in the Middle East. If you did not talk to the men of violence there would be no one to talk to. What are their grievances?

    It is easy to love the people we like, like the people we love. It is loving the unlovable, loving our neighbours, our enemies, turning the other cheek that is the hard part.

    When Canon Andrew White talked to Sheikh Talal Sidr, founder and leader of Hamas, it was seen as beyond the pale. Sheikh Talal Sidr turned his back on violence, became a proponent of peace. Asked why he would say: I am pulling up thorns and planting flowers. On his death his funeral was attended by members of the Knesset in out-of-bounds Hebron.

    And no, you should not evangelise, Evangelists, Christian fundamentalists, are a pain in the arse, get up everyone’s nose, lack grace and do a huge amount of harm and damage.

    Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
    Love Wins

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