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BWCF's Open Forum 18/02/09

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The latest Open Forum of Borough Wide Churches Forum was held at St Paul ’s Church in Great Yarmouth on Wednesday 18th February 2009.  The hosting minister, Rev John Greenway, opened the meeting with worship and a reading on spiritual gifts.  The meeting was extremely well attended with representation of many denominations across the Borough.  An article in the previous Friday’s Yarmouth Mercury, regarding Street Guardians, prepared the ground for the opening subject of the meeting based upon the forthcoming Street Pastors initiative for Great Yarmouth


Street Pastors



Val Dodsworth Co-ordinator of the Street Pastors for the Norfolk area gave an informative talk about the work of the Street Pastors.  With her were Steve and Isabel who have just completed the course and who hope to be part of the Great Yarmouth team once it has been set up.


 Val (pictured right) began by saying that she felt that at last things were moving forward to bring Street Pastors to Great YarmVal Dodsworthouth .  At the moment there are six people who have been trained and they are working with the Norwich team until they are able to operate in Great Yarmouth.


 Street Pastors started in London on January 2003 and was pioneered by Rev Les Isaac, Director of the Ascension Trust.  Street Pastors is an inter-denominational Church response to urban problems, engaging with people on the streets.  To care, listen, and dialogue with vulnerable people.  They have experienced some remarkable results, including a drop in crime in the areas where they have been working.   


Each city project is set up by Ascension Trust and run by a local coordinator with support from Ascension Trust, local churches and community groups.  Also working in partnership with, Police, local council and other statutory agencies!  


After speaking about the background of Street Pastors she spoke of how they started in Norwich in March 2007.  The police weren’t too sure at first but now they all work together very well.  On Friday and Saturday nights they walk about the streets offering help when needed and defusing aggressive situations.  There are occasions when aggressive people determined to start a fight end up hugging, because of the street pastors who manage to diffuse the situation.


The Street Pastors do not preach with words but with actions, they preach the Gospel showing love, care and help.  The team have a back up group of people specially selected to sit up all night and pray.  When difficult situations arise they ring up the prayer group and ask for back-up in prayer.


Steve and Isabel spoke of how they start their evening’s work by breaking bread and praying together.  They make sure that their back packs have all the necessary items such as chocolates, hankies, water bottles, tea and coffee, gloves and scarves and flip flops and bags if people are sick.  Steve said that it was amazing how the offer of some chocolate can defuse aggression and moments of anger.



They are then ready to set off to meet all kinds of situations, people who are drunk, vomiting, and distressed.  Young girls often have cut and bleeding feet through wearing high heel shoes.  They are given flip flops which are gratefully received.


One thing the Street Pastors never do, and that is get involved in violent situations.  That is left to the bouncers, the door men of the clubs and of course the police.  Sometimes, however, the police will call them in to help.


Before a team can be set up in Great Yarmouth more recruits are needed to train.  Each new team needs at least twelve people.  Also people are needed to sit up all night and pray back at the base site.   There will be another training course in March, the training course consists of the following components:- Drug and alcohol awareness, listening skills, safety on streets, child protection, working with the police and their role as a Street Pastor.  Once the block has been completed they go to work on the Norwich streets to gain experience.


It is also necessary to involve the local churches and then the police and local authorities get involved.  There have to be at least four churches on board to give their support.  Peter Paine suggested that it might be a good idea to write to the churches.  Rev Ward from St Andrew’s has already given his support.



Police Sergeant Craig Miller spoke on behalf of the police by saying that they supported the concept of Street Pastors but that they would prefer a multi-faith scheme and were looking at starting up something similar called the Guardians.  Val Dodsworth spoke up and said that we can work together and the town is big enough for both to work together.  Val also pointed out that Street Pastors are backed by the Home Office and that Norwich has a board of trustees and they are a registered Charity.  It costs £100 to supply the uniform and back pack for each Street Pastor and that the costs are paid for them they don’t have to pay for this themselves. Peter Paine pointed out that there is a bigger picture which will come about when the casino comes on to the seafront and also the new harbour.


If you are interested in becoming a Street Pastor and taking part in the March training course, then please contact Val Dodsworth.




Val Dodsworth

Co-ordinator Norfolk Street



Tel: 01603 472753




 Proposed support for bereaved families at the Crematorium on Mothering Sunday



Rev Peter Paine reminded those present that Mothers' Day is an emotional time for visitors to the Crematorium and this had been highlighted a couple of years previously by Rev Pat Atkinson who had visited the Crematorium on that day having recently lost her own mother and felt that she needed someone to talk to.  Rev Linda Ricketts then brought to BWCF’s Planning Group the idea of providing support on that day in future years.  The Group has set the wheels in motion to provide three ordained people to talk to people and pray with them, a team of stewards who would be identified by prominent badges would walk around being available for chatting if requested, and informal tea and coffee facilities.  Rev Peter displayed an example of the small cards that will be available with words of comfort printed on them.  Rev Peter then reminded the audience that this idea would need the support of churches to succeed and that BWCF should be contacted to indicate willingness and times available on the day this year (Sunday, 22nd March)

To register your support and to volunteer, please email BWCF:


Farewell to Rev Canon Michael Woods



Rev Peter Paine welcomed the Rev Canon Michael Woods and described him as one who had upset every councillor in the town with a smile!



Rev Woods (pictured left) said that he grew up as a boy in YarmSEAFARERS 150TH VERSION 2 007outh and returned as minister for St Nicholas.  Coming to such a large church wasn’t easy but he has worked here for seventeen years.  He spoke of how, after the war, church attendance declined and there wasn’t the same need to be a Christian.



People have changed, they are no longer interested in events that happened in the past they are only interested in the present.  Over the last forty years people think differently their values have changed and there is no commitment.



There was strong emphasis on the word commitment; he said that this is the one thing that the church needs.  No one should feel guilty because they aren’t able to help the church grow; only the Holy Spirit can do that.  The Gospel is offensive today because it is selfless.  People are only interested in celebrities and themselves.



St Nicholas he said was built for people and throughout his ministry he has watched the congregation dwindle, however, this is now changing. In the churches at one time were packed but since communism was overthrown and people have more freedom that has changed. 



About his retirement to he will have 6-800 people come to listen to him.  The people out there are full of enthusiasm and he is looking forward to that.  He said that out there you can apply for an acre of jungle to cultivate.  This is what he is planning to do, he will build a house and he will create a garden where he can pick his own fruit.  With the dry humour that we all have come to know, he told of how the British government will pay him £250 towards heating.  And in the same humour, he said that he has been told that there are dusky maidens out there who look after you and he is looking forward to that


The meeting closed with prayer


report by Yvonne Hill and Judith Edmonds