Two senior clergy, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and the Chair of the Methodist District will come face to face with the renowned nightlife of Leeds when they spend an evening with police officers and a team of church volunteers on the city centre streets this coming Friday night at the launch of a new initiative.
The Rt Revd John Packer and the Rev Dr Liz Smith will join a team of volunteer ‘Street Chaplains’ who will be present on the city centre streets from 11pm next Friday November 9th offering help and advice to clubbers, especially those who find themselves in trouble or danger.
The Street Chaplains is a joint initiative by the Leeds City Centre Churches Group.
A dozen volunteers, some clergy and some lay people, will be joined by Community Support Officers for the launch of the initiative this Friday (November 9th). It is hoped that Street Chaplains will, in future, patrol the streets every Friday night, helping people in areas where there is a high concentration of clubs and bars. The volunteers will be wearing high visibility jackets with the words ‘Leeds Churches Street Chaplain’.
Methodist Minister, the Revd Dr Adrian Burdon, one of the organisers of the Street Chaplains scheme, says the aim is to provide a Christian presence on the streets. “We will be there to offer help, advice and support to people who are out and about and to be there especially for those who are in trouble, who are the victims of trouble or who find themselves in difficulties.”
Among those taking part in Friday’s launch and going on the city’s first Street Chaplain patrol will be Bishop John Packer, the Revd Dr Liz Smith, the Revd Canon Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds, the Revd Dr Adrian Burdon, Superintendent Minister of Leeds Methodist Mission and ministers and members from a variety of churches across Leeds. The team will be based for the night at Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, which will also provide a safe house for anyone in trouble or difficulty.
Similar schemes such as 'street pastors' have been running in other cities in the UK for a number of years.
The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon says that the experience in other cities is that where the scheme has started there has been a marked reduction in arrests and trouble. “We will be in the Boar Lane - Corn Exchange area initially, and will be working closely with Community Support Officers. Issues such as binge drinking and criminal activity will be on the agenda as well as issues of safety and security for the majority who drink and behave responsibly. The aim is to be visible, and to be available to offer help for those in town that night.”