Street pastors roamed Rye area during June and July. Generally they found Tilling Green, Rye Harbour and Camber quiet. The pastors – from Bexhill – engaged with those turning out of the Crown pub (at 1am) and Club Horizon (at 2am). They had 89 conversations of five minutes or more and gave support to 12 vulnerable people. Observers from the Churches Together in Rye and District team were impressed by the street pastors’ effective style and the positive reception from the managers and customers of late night establishments. The pastors were met with a very warm welcome at Pontins holiday park in Camber, where their mediation skills would, according to a member of staff, have come in handy in the event of the occasional “domestic”, but fortunately none occurred that evening.
The street pastors went the extra mile – and more – with six merry New Zealand sheep shearers who were working on farms in Udimore. The six found that no local taxi responds at 2am and that a Hastings firm needed 90 minutes to arrive. So a kind street pastor took the shearers to their destination, but that is not a normal part of their service!
There are differing views on the value of pastors in Rye. Certainly starting a local group would be a big undertaking, and would need to be weighed against the level of need. The pastors do represent an opportunity for outreach by the church to meet with, on the whole, a younger stratum of society. The police are very keen on the pastors’ contribution to keeping public order, their disciplined and non-confrontational approach and the obvious respect they engender within the community. On the other side perhaps is the question of whether voluntary helpers should be assisting in maintaining a peaceful clientele for private companies engaged in the “night-time economy”.
“Churches Together in Rye and District would need to seek a co-ordinator to support the introduction of street pastors as a local project,” said Canon Richard Orchard of Rye. “We would not contemplate starting until next year.”