A night with the Levenmouth Street Pastors

Street pastors on Leven High Street. (Pic by George Mcluskie)
Street pastors on Leven High Street. (Pic by George Mcluskie)

For the last seven years, a group of volunteers has been watching over the streets of Leven on Saturday nights.

Twice a month, between 11pm and 3am, the group walk up and down Leven High Street and North Street and around the bus station, helping those in need.

These are the Levenmouth Street Pastors.

The pastors, who come from different churches throughout Fife, monitor the streets, providing bottles of water, first aid, sick bags, or even just someone to talk to.

I meet with the group at the Baptist Church Hall at 10.30pm to get a first-hand glimpse at what they do.

Elizabeth Hutchison (56), one of the long-serving members, said there is a common misconception about the group.

“A lot of people, because of the word pastor, associate it with the church,” she said, “that we are going to hold up a bible and preach ‘don’t do that’. But because we offer them a pair of flip flops, a hug, a bottle of water, they think ‘wow’.

“If they need help, we are there to help them, to pick them up when they’ve fallen.”

After a few minutes of prayer, we head out onto the High Street.

Within a minute of leaving the hall, we spot a woman vomiting against a wall. Esme Carruthers (52) and Elizabeth approach, offering water and a sick bag.

It is this type of help and support which attracted Alan Robertson (50) to join earlier this year.

He said: “It’s something I thought I’d like to get involved with.

“I thought this was exactly what my idea of evangelism is. I believe that we are called to love folk. I think God takes care of the rest.

“And this is about the meeting of communities, getting out and meeting folk, helping folk.

“My idea of service is about helping folk, getting alongside folk, showing love, support, sympathy, helping, listening.”

A former policeman, Alan said walking around streets at night was not new to him, but admitted the response was.

“Straight away what struck me was how appreciative folk are, how well received the street pastors are,” he said. “I wasn’t used to walking around the streets and having people want to hug me, thanking me. People were just really thankful that we were there.”

The pastors don’t talk about their religion unless asked about it – but it doesn’t take long for it to come up in conversation.

While Esme and Elizabeth help the woman, a man approaches Ian Wilson (57) and starts asking about religion. Soon a crowd has formed around the group, chatting and asking questions – one man even starts dancing with Esme.

“I love making connections with people,” she said.

“In society today I see a lot of isolation, deprivation, a lot of darkness and sadness. This type of thing brings hope onto the streets by making connections with people.

“The conversations we have with people are often a spur of the moment thing. But we’re there to be that listening ear.”

What is obvious is how polite and relaxed people are around the pastors – folk come out just to chat with them.

Handshakes and hugs are exchanged before the group re-enters the pub. We continue down the High Street and come across another group stood outside a pub. The same happens – some people are curious about their beliefs, while others just want to talk.

“I think the church is about going out and showing love,” Ian said. “Also, as a parent, I want to make sure that people are safe.

“I think back to when I was that age and it would have been good to have the street pastors around.”

The pastors check the bus station and then start walking around to North Street.

For the remainder of our time together, the streets are quiet – people are heading into the clubs. I take my leave just before 1am, just as the pastors are taking a mid-shift break – they have another two hours to go.