Weekly thousands of Jamaicans go to church, often to escape the harsh realities of their communities, but what if they instead devoted that time to social work? That’s the idea behind Street Pastors, an initiative which founded in Jamaica become a runaway success in the UK, but is only now gaining sufficient support locally.
It’s not about evangelising but instead functioning as auxiliary social services: whether it be offering counselling to a potential suicide victim or as an intermediary for police to broker gang truces. Published in today’s Sunday Gleaner is my interview with members of Street Pastors’ Jamaica and UK teams, done as part of my work for The World Bank NextGENDERation project.
The genesis of Street Pastors was the realisation that preaching to the converted was unlikely to have any direct impact on the youths outside that space.
A common criticism of churches and their congregations is that they’re turning their back on the reality outside their doors, building megachurches to hide inside. Some years ago the JDF mapped murder hotspots and found that they were often close to churches – proof in a way that for residents in poor communities the church space functions in a similar role to that of a rum bar, just more spiritual than spirits.
Not a churchgoer myself, though my family are, I respect people’s faith yet can’t help wondering that were Jesus around today he would be investing his energies out on the road, where his message and actions would be needed most, rather than in the house of God. Maybe as a Christian you agree, so why not volunteer? Click here to contact Street Pastors/Operation Save Jamaica.