Montrose Festival this year has been mad. We had some great chats with people. Mostly an older crowd but still open to talk about spiritual things. Thanks to our dedicated team of volunteers!
Our founder and coordinator Andrew Burns has been awarded an BEM for service to the community in Dundee in the Queen's New Years's Honours List. He recently collected his medal in Dundee Council Chambers. Present with him were his family and supporters. Andy and his wife Marina were also invited to the Queen's garden party in July along with other recent medalist. Well deserved Andy!
Read press reports on Andy's award in our newspaper achieve
Thoughts on Street Chaplains witnessing on William Street, Lurgan.
You may ask why we have decided to get involved in Street Chaplains Outreach. Why does anyone want to stay out until 2 or 3am on a Friday and Saturday night when they would usually be tucked up in bed? We will come back to that question later. First, let me tell you about how Street Outreach has evolved.
Modelled on Dundee
Street Chaplains started in Scotland eighteen years ago. As many of you reading this article may already know, Andy Burns has consistently led the team across the Irish Sea. They reach out to the people of Dundee three nights a week on a Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The overall aim is to spread the good news of Jesus. Furthermore, the Scottish team have become acquainted with the practice of sharing the good news, not only on the streets, but in the nightclubs too! Over the course of the past four years, Street Chaplains have also ventured into the arena of Festival Outreach, attending festivals and concerts where hundreds and thousands of opportunities are rife.
How Lurgan started
What brought the Street Chaplains to Lurgan town? Well, the answer is quite simple. Our team leader saw the need to reach souls for Christ in our local town. Another group of Christians had previously set up on William Street and had therefore created a good rapport with many of the locals. This was no longer in operation so it made sense that we would continue the good work that had begun there. The hope was that our team in Lurgan would be modelled on the Dundee Street Chaplains’ style of outreach, which has proven very successful to date. Andy and his team have seen numerous people come through for Christ on the streets of Scotland’s fourth largest city.
Lurgan Street Chaplains began their journey in December 2016 and since then we have met once a month on a Friday and Saturday night. We provide simple things like bottles of water, tea, coffee, biscuits and flip-flops for the ladies who may have painful feet after an evening spent wearing heels. This, along with the offer of a lollipop, often opens up a doorway to speaking to those who would not otherwise entertain the idea.
Why do outreach
Some of our team have explained their reasons for joining Lurgan Street Chaplains. Ultimately, as disciples of Christ, we are called to express and expand our faith. Matthew 28:19-20 instructs us: ‘Go, you therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.’ We can view serving the Lord not only as a commendable thing to do but as an ‘act of obedience’ to Him. Each member of our team collectively has talked about the cold, hard truth: there are countless souls on the streets of Lurgan each week who have never heard the truth of the Gospel. It has been and will continue to be our mission to shine our light into the darkness.
Of course, this does not come without a cost and we each have faced challenges. We would appreciate prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit as well as help to remember verses from God’s Word when we are conversing. Tiredness is also another factor to consider, especially when our team is out for two consecutive nights until 2 or 3am. Being able to give good, Biblical reasons for our beliefs and dealing with difficult questions can also be testing. The devil can also attempt to intervene by sending us those who will make us temporarily question our ability to minister on the streets in this way. Perhaps one of the toughest challenges is hearing people reject and mock our Saviour. However, we know this was the case when Jesus, Himself, was on the cross, as well as throughout history; therefore, the precedent has been set and continues today. Jesus informed us that, ‘In the world you will face tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’(John 16:33)
Strengthened by God
Yes, the team have endured challenges, but on a more positive note, this has not deterred us. We know that, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’(Ephesians 6:12) This is why we are told to put on the full armour of God. One thing that we, as Christians, must constantly remind ourselves of is, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31). If the Creator of all that we see and experience in this life is there to support us and send His Holy Spirit, what else do we need? He is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God. How great is our God that he spoke our world into existence and so intricately designed everything and created each one with his or her own purpose? In addition to this, God saw that man had chosen to turn his back on God and serve himself rather than worship his maker. Still, God demonstrated that He so desperately loved us when He sent His own son to die in our place as he took on all of our sins of the past, present and future. Each member of our team understands that God has extended mercy and grace to us and we just want to show a glimmer of the hope of Jesus in this dark world.
What have our highlights been?
Each team member will have their own story to tell, but some high points have included being able to simply be there for those who struggle to talk to their family and friends about issues of faith or challenges they are facing in their everyday lives. Being able to demonstrate Jesus’ love in action and in a practical way by offering a simple tea or coffee as well as a listening ear has led to repeat encounters on the streets and thus the development of friendships and trust. It is also very rewarding to be able to say something to a person that causes them to seriously consider Christ. Another highlight is the camaraderie within the team. Everyone works well together and perhaps this is because we feel joy at serving Christ and having that common goal.
Personally, one of the things that I have enjoyed most is seeing someone of a similar age, who perhaps has no hope in life and immense questions about the meaning of life and their purpose, suddenly beginning to turn their eyes towards Jesus. We are told to persevere and we must remember that Jesus’ promises are true. Some of His last, recorded words before He returned to Heaven were, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’. These words ring true and should encourage us to do all we can to spread the Gospel in the short time we have left before Christ returns.
Alison Walker and the Lurgan Street Chaplains Outreach team.
Photos of lurgan street chaplains
Reflecting on Montrose festival. I have had a lot of thoughts. On Friday night a person said God was just like Santa. That did get a sharp reaction. My God is eternal and real, Santa is not. We chatted to a number of people and it was great to share God's love and the gospel with them. We thought about what happened in Manchester and to be honest I was delighted that everyone enjoyed themselves, we will not be fearful, we will dance and sing and enjoy ourselves - that's a quote from The Beach Boys. To that we say "Amen". But as festival chaplains we add that we will not be silenced in our mission to reach the lost for Jesus, and if it rains... well we will dance in it. God bless. To the Montrose Festival committee and everyone involved, thank you for allowing us to be part of your team. Looking forward to next year.
Dundee Street and Club Chaplains recently won STAR Awards Dundee Safer Streets Award. Many thanks to all who helped make this happen.
One missed payment is all it takes to be penniless, alone and on the street — homelessness can strike at any time.
And it can affect anyone, with students increasingly falling foul of landlords, according to one of Dundee’s street chaplains.
Andy Burns, a street chaplain for Urban Impact Christian Ministries, has spent the past 16 years helping those on the city’s streets find a safe haven for the night.
He spoke to the Tele about what’s changed over the years and how his team has adapted to it, as well as a general snapshot of a night with a street chaplain.
It comes as the chaplains have released a video to show the work of the team in Dundee — A Night In The Life of a… Dundee Street Chaplain.
The video shows the chaplains talking to folk on the street, offering them hot drinks and a friendly chat.
A variety of people — including teenagers on a night out as well as the older generation — are spoken to by the volunteers throughout the night.
Andy said: “It’s fairly quiet in town at the moment — it’s always quieter after Christmas but this January is even quieter than usual.
“The main change over the 16 years I’ve been doing this in Dundee has been how much better it’s become — it used to be much worse.
“The problem we’re increasingly tackling is homelessness — and not just the people visible on the streets, there’s a hidden homeless seeping in too, people you wouldn’t expect to be in trouble.
“We’re hearing of students in particular who are left sofa surfing after not having enough of their loan left to pay rent.
“And that’s fine, as long as they have someone willing to offer a sofa, but if that disappears before the next loan comes in then their troubles really begin. We’re here to provide support and guidance to anyone in that situation.”
Andy said the quieter town centre had allowed the chaplains more time to focus on issues such as homelessness, although they still had their work cut out to keep people safe on nights out.
He added: “There’s been such improvement in the services available and the way that we all work together now.
“We have a great relationship with all the agencies involved in safety in the city.
“But legal highs are still a problem and not one we’re particularly geared up to handle.
“They were all over the city at Christmas and we kept coming across them.
“They cause us issues because of the erratic behaviour of people using them.
“We’re all well-trained and mostly experienced first aiders so we know how to deal with people on drink or even on known drugs.
“But legal highs are incredibly unpredictable and so are the people on them.
“It can actually be quite scary watching them. They’re all over the place and you have no idea what they might do. It’s definitely more an issue among students rather than older people — but it’s a dangerous one.
“We’d like some training on legal highs and how to deal with someone on them.
“Some of the legal highs make people act very crazy.
“And we are not always prepared to handle the more extreme cases.
“I’m very glad the new laws banning legal highs came in. The issue may not have got better yet, but it’s stopped getting worse.”
Andy said the Dundee Safe Zone bus was a crucial resource for the chaplains as a safe place to take people regardless of what state they are in.
He added: “The bus is invaluable to us. It gives us a base for people to come to us for help, whether it’s medical or just putting them in a taxi home. Of course, we will also call the police and an ambulance if necessary.”
A 'Jesus Loves Festivals' edition of Mark's Gospel is to be made available to festival-goers across the UK.
The special edition version of The Message is to be available at V Festival in Staffordshire, Edinburgh Festival and Leeds Festival as part of Christian based outreach.
Paul Blakey MBE, one of the coordinators of Leeds Festival Angels, explains, "When you set up church in places people don't expect it there is a often a real openness to discuss faith and spirituality. In past years at Leeds Festival we have invited people to leave prayer requests and to watch the I.Am movie which has led to discussions and people changing their concept of the Christian faith. This year we wanted to leave people with something that would help them discover more and the Jesus Loves Festivals Gospel will help do that."
The outreach at Leeds Festival last year saw around four thousand people regularly visiting the Prayer Cafe over the festival week whilst at the V Festival in Staffordshire they gave out twenty two and a half thousand cups of water.
Two thousand copies of the special edition fifty-six page Gospel have been printed and include sections on how to read the Bible, how to think critically, how to pray and an overview of the Christian message.
The Rev’d David Newsome, coordinator of the Festival Pastors team at the V Festival, says: “Last year at the V Festival we gave out 22,500 cups of water to thirsty festival goers. This special edition of St. Mark’s Gospel is a great gift to give to those who ask why we do it.”
Publisher of The Message, Dan Pape, comments, "It is so very exciting to see that the contemporary usage of English for Eugene Peterson's parishioners in Maryland is the same language that will reach many attending festivals in the UK. I pray The Message serves its purpose – to incite a curious desire for God's word"
More information on the work at music festivals is available at www.festivalnetwork.org.uk .
ROCK Street chaplains
This blog will keep you updated with the latest from the work and ministry of ROCK Street, Club, and Festival Chaplains.