Volunteer 'Street Pastors' will take to the beaches of Whitstable in Kent on Friday nights throughout the summer in what is believed to be the nation's first ever scheme of its kind to operate on a beach.
The Street Pastors say they are not there to evangelise or convert people to Christianity, but to offer support to Whitstable's night time beach goers. Throughout the summer, they will wander the beaches, offering assistance to anyone who needs it. That may involve giving away water or flip flops, helping people to get a taxi home, or simply proving a listening ear.
All of Whitstable's 14 churches have joined forces to put the pastors on the beaches after the idea was hatched by the local police and Tankerton Evangelical Church. They identified a problem with young people drinking on the beaches at night and making themselves vulnerable.
Lee Russell, co-ordinato of the schemer, said, "We are really grateful for the support of all the churches working together, in providing pastors, members of the prayer team, and financial backing."
"It's a fantastic thing having this common vision," added the Rev Helen Letley, Minister of St John's Methodist Church. "This is about discipleship in action and demonstrating who we are as Christian people, so offering God's love in terms of active assistance."
Street Pastor schemes, set up and supported by the Ascension Trust, are widespread, with over 10,000 trained volunteers in around 250 teams throughout the UK. But this is believed to be the first project to put pastors on Britain's beaches. Pastors receive a full 12 days of training, which includes sea safety.
"My dream is that this is a good news story in our town," said the Rev Steve Coneys, Team Rector at Whitstable. "This is something which round the country seems to be received as unambiguously good news. Ordinary people get this."
The schemel was launched at a service on 20 July at St John's Methodist Church in Whitstable.