The UK is facing some grave challenges, with homelessness, youth-related crime, drug addiction and, even, loneliness taking its toll on the individuals involved and communities up and down the country.The police force is one section of society that is, perhaps, feeling the heat more than most, as it endeavours to respond to the increasing demands of the people it serves with fewer officers and support staff to share the workload. In a bid to meet the needs of communities in spite of the obstacles, Evangelical Alliance member the Christian Police Association (CPA) helped to set up the Faith and Police Together project in autumn last year.
The aim of the initiative, as its project manager Marie explains, is to encourage police officers and faith groups to work together more closely, and strategically, in order to significantly reduce the number of cases that sit within these four priority areas. With only 12 months to lay a foundation and get police officers and faith groups on board, Marie certainly has her work cut out.
How did the Faith and Police Together project come about?
Paul Blakey MBE, chief executive of Christian Nightlife Initiatives, Debra Green OBE, national director and founder of ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) and Lee Russell, executive director of the CPA, could see the good work that faith groups were involved with to assist the police in tackling crises that are wrecking people’s lives and our communities, as well as putting immense pressure on officers.
However, they felt that it was imperative to improve the way that these groups and the police work together. So, last year, on Monday, 16 April, in the Houses of Parliament, the Faith and Police Together (FPT) project was launched to encourage and facilitate closer working relationships.
CPA president, deputy chief constable Paul Netherton, has supported the project throughout and was instrumental in helping arrange the year’s secondment from my position as police sergeant with Norfolk Police to lead this project, get the momentum going and make this a national initiative.
I started in my role of project manager in September and hope to inspire the police to start thinking about faith communities as an untapped resource. I’ll also engage with faith communities so that they can support the police in tackling our four key priority areas: homelessness, youth-related crime, drug addiction, and loneliness.
Twelve months to build links between local police and their local faith communities seems a huge undertaking. What’s your strategy?
The key is to establish a network which sees local police around the UK build meaningful relationships with their local faith groups, and vice versa. So far, I’ve written to the national police chiefs and used my contacts within the service and the CPA to promote what I’m doing, connect with as many faith groups as possible and get the message out.
Christian organisations have played an important part in helping us to spread the word. Premier and Churches Together in England have already used their platforms to disseminate information about this initiative, and now we’re featuring in the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance. One of the main challenges at this stage is ensuring police departments hear about the initiative and catch the vision. We need buy-in; if officers aren’t sharing the message, then it’s less likely to take hold.
How each force area runs with this project will vary, because it’ll reflect the needs of their communities and the resources and support available. Hitherto, several forces, including Essex, Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and my own force Norfolk, have said that they are keen to take part. They would like to explore the approach as outlined in the FPT project.
For the duration of this project and thereafter, we expect to share best practice examples to help communities tackle these priority areas. These approaches can be ‘franchised’, or groups can mix and match or come up with their own ideas.
There were calls for the police to work more closely with faith groups following terrorist attacks in recent years. Is there any connection between that push and the FTP project?
What I’m doing with the FTP initiative is quite different and a separate operation all together, not least because we’ve got in place Prevent, which is part of the UK’s counter terrorism strategy and through that officers are engaging with all faith communities to avert acts of terrorism. However, there is a natural fallout of better connected communities, in that there’d be a flow of intelligence and information. So, there’s potential to tie in with Prevent. But, ultimately, we’re focusing on the four priority areas that I’ve mentioned. We only have one year to build the foundations and try to encourage faith communities to think about engaging with their police in a different way.
I’m the only person working on this project, so we’ve got our work cut out. But, who knows where we’ll be by the end of the year and what can be achieved afterwards? What are some of the challenges that police forces in the UK are facing?
Since 2010 there has been a significant reduction in police funding, which has resulted in 20,000 police officers as well as support staff being let go. Consequently, it’s even more challenging responding to all the needs of our communities. It’s certainly a difficult and demanding job. The police have to prioritise, and we do this based on level of vulnerability. Chief officers are speaking openly about priorities and how best to use the valuable resources that we have, and this is happening more and more. The challenges don’t take away from wanting to protect our communities; all officers, of all faiths and none, want to do a good job.
Considering cuts and continued high demand from communities, is there capacity for police forces to get behind this project?
It is certainly a challenging time and a tough period for the police, so getting behind this project might seem like extra work initially. But, if we spend time engaging with our faith communities to address these issues now, particularly addiction, there is real potential for significantly reduced demand in these areas in the long run.
Why is it important for faith groups to work with the police to tackle some of the issues that are affecting communities around the UK?
Faith groups have an incredibly high drive to do good and to see their communities transformed. This zeal is especially evident in the church. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the answer and because God is involved things will happen. We need that faith and commitment!
Meanwhile, other faith groups will have approaches that work within their communities, so they will be able to deal with certain issues better than others would. Fundamentally, faith groups form a significant part of our community; if we don’t engage them, we will be excluding them and missing out on the good that they do. We shouldn’t do that.
Which other faith groups are involved in this initiative and do you think they can set aside differences for the sake of their communities?
The FPT project is open to every faith group, and we are working with the National Association of Muslim Police, the Jewish Police Association, the National Police Pagan Association, among others, to see this initiative move forward and succeed. While there are examples of different faith groups failing to unite for a shared purpose, there are excellent examples of people from all faiths and none working together and bringing about change. So, it could be a challenge for some, but it doesn’t have to be.
It’s also important to bear in mind that each community is different and has unique needs that, as is often the case, only a specific faith group can understand and address – the Jewish and Islamic communities being prime examples. Faith groups would generally cater for their own communities and we need to leverage the advantages of that.
The FPT project focuses on four priority areas: addiction, homelessness, youth-related gang and knife crime, and loneliness. Loneliness may not have made my shortlist; why has it made the FPT project’s?
With drug addiction being one of the police service’s largest demand generators, yes, it’s expected that it would be ‘top of the list’. Addiction feeds into homelessness and anti-social behaviour, in that these are often driven by the actions of both the supplier and user.
Loneliness is different. But we have found that people who are lonely, many of whom are elderly, but not exclusively, struggle to cope at home alone and become persistent callers. They may make frequent calls, often with odd requests, to the police and ambulance services, simply because they haven’t got anyone else to talk to or they don’t know what to do in a given situation.
One force had a persistent caller and would receive a very high number of calls in a week. The force organised for this person to receive the help they needed, and once they did, they stopped calling. Worse still, loneliness could end in suicide for some, which is a tragic loss of life and creates a significant amount of work for us. The more time police spend on these cases, the less time they’ll have to tackle serious crime.
How can local churches support the FPT project?
We urge the UK church to work with us to tackle homelessness, addiction, youth-related gang and knife crime, and loneliness. First and foremost, we need the church’s prayers, so we implore congregations and individual Christians to bring these grave challenges before God. We recognise and value the great work that local churches and Christian charities are already doing in these areas. But, as people around the UK remain trapped in vicious cycles, which unsettles communities and puts significant pressure on stretched police resources, it’s essential that we continue to petition God for help.
We also encourage local churches to connect with their local police departments and establish a relationship with officers. By doing so, congregations can find out the specific issues their force is dealing with, as these change every two or four weeks. Then, congregants can pray into these particular areas as well as the broader priorities. Churches want to see their communities transformed, and are keen to help, but as they don’t have access to the information that police departments do, they are not fully informed and, therefore, will unlikely be able to channel their resources where they are most desperately needed. So, building a relationship and maintaining contact are so important.
Finally, consult with God to find out what He is calling your church congregation to do specifically. It may be laid on the heart of some local churches, for example, to provide a service for people who are lonely. Other gathered communities may sense a pull to pray into these areas during meetings. While others might be drawn to support financially an existing project which is led by a church or Christian charity. In the meantime, though, visit www.faithandpolicetogether.org to find out more.
Inspired by the article ‘Jesus Loves Festivals’, Revd Amanda Evans packed her camping stove, tent and courage to slip on a pair of Festival Angel wings – more of a T-shirt and Hi-Viz jacket to be fair – and headed to Boardmasters last summer.
Amanda is the assistant curate at Mabe and Ponsanooth and was searching for a way to get out there, to meet and connect with young people and to get a better sense of what mission might look like among them. A music festival seemed like the perfect place.
THE KEY TO BEING A FESTIVAL ANGEL IS COMPASSION
The site swelled to around 45,000 people each day, a quarter of whom were aged 16/17 and most of whom were there to party. “The key to being an Angel is compassion. It’s about not judging, but meeting people where they are, even in the mess, and rolling up your sleeves to do whatever practical is necessary to help,” says Amanda.
Festival Angels will see life at its best and not-so-best. They hope to be a trusted, reassuring presence, to try to keep people safe and offer practical assistance. “We’re not medics, but we can help to get people to safety. We hand out plasters, water and sometimes bananas!”
The first few days of Boradmasters saw Amanda lugging camping equipment across the site, helping to put up tents in the boiling sunshine and then helping to peg them down as the wind and rain swept in. “People are so surprised to be offered help, for free. Many of the festival goers are very young and have travelled a very long way – it can be overwhelming.”
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
There is always debate about whether Christians should be in places like festivals. There’s a simple response – what would Jesus do? You can bet He’d be right there, in the thick of it. Helping, coming alongside people, on hand to chat, encourage or just to be.
There are plenty of fringe benefits to being a Festival Angel at Boardmasters – the chance to see, this year, the likes of Florence and the Machine or Franz Ferdinand, the amazing location over-looking the sea and the surfing competitions. As Amanda says, “No one can complain about our young people not being in our Cornish churches if we don’t take the opportunities to be where they are.”
“It was a lot of fun,” she says. “Utterly exhausting, but brilliant. I loved how the young people queued up to have selfies in front of our big ‘Jesus Loves Festivals’ poster. Endless opportunities to chat and, crucially, to listen.”
This year the Boardmaster Angels are hoping to have a roving, detached team and a team to help in a new-for-this-year prayer tent.
To find out more about volunteering click here
NEW members of Woking’s Street Angels have been welcomed into the team.
Providing a friendly late-night presence on town centre streets, the volunteers help make sure a big night out doesn’t end badly for weekend revellers.
“Our angels also go above and beyond to ensure vulnerable people are kept safe whether they’re vulnerable because of their age, because they’re sleeping on streets or because they have partied a little too hard,” said Street Angel co-ordinator Lucy Chester.
“This can include anything from providing a hot cup of coffee, a listening ear, sitting with someone until they are sober enough to take a taxi home, helping to locate lost items, waiting with someone for an ambulance to arrive and generally being eyes and ears on the streets to watch over those in need.”
The newest recruits to complete their training joined other members of the team for a special commissioning service at Emmanuel Church in Mayford, attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Woking.
For information about becoming a Woking Street Angel, contact Lucy at email@example.com or visit the website www.wokingstreetangels.org.uk
Latest news update from CNI Network...
By the nature of the work we do here at CAP, we meet lots of particularly vulnerable people, many of whom struggle with mental ill-health. The truth is that mental ill-health and poverty are an incredibly dangerous combination, but sadly a very common one. Perhaps unsurprisingly, poverty can often have a knock-on effect on a person’s wellbeing, just as mental health struggles can contribute to poverty. As a result, more than a third of our clients have considered or attempted to end their own life before seeking help.
Of course, this is not the answer. No matter how desperate things may seem, we know that there’s always hope. As Christians, we’re called to demonstrate God’s love and to show people how valued and treasured they are.
And that’s exactly what the amazing CNI Network (Christian Nightlife Initiatives) is doing through their new campaign, Loved, which aims to spread positivity to people that need it, particularly those struggling to cope with life.
The CNI Network is the organisation behind Street Angels, who you’ll probably have seen, even if you haven’t heard of them. In their high visibility jackets, Street Angels brave the cold to go out into town and city centres across the UK late at night, looking out for vulnerable people and keeping them safe.
‘Often alcohol and drugs can cause emotions to heighten and our teams are available to chat, help, listen and care,’ says Paul Blakey, who founded the network. ‘One team of Street Angels was sharing with me that a young man approached them asking for help because he wanted to end his life. The team walked him to A&E where they sat with him, got him a coffee, listened and reassured him before the A&E team could take over at 5am.’
It’s encounters like this that became the basis of the Loved campaign, which is designed to reach people experiencing suicidal thoughts, as well as trauma, depression and other mental health struggles. They’re placing posters, art, messages and even team members in risk areas, as well as online, in churches and across communities, to remind people that there’s always a way out and a brighter future ahead.
‘The idea was sparked by several conversations that took place following some tragic events in our community. Sadly, almost daily, for a few weeks in late December 2018 and early January 2019, several people ended their lives or contemplated doing this. The Calderdale Methodist Circuit, Calderdale Chaplains and CNI Network joined together to put some Angels with positive messages in key places over Christmas and in January and we felt that this needed to continue.’
‘Together we are demonstrating God's kingdom of love, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, transformation as a reality for people and communities – we are people of hope sharing hope for others. Our everyday and ordinary, achieving the profound and world changing.’
The Loved campaign website is full of ideas and downloadable resources to help you bring hope to those who are struggling. You could make a huge difference to a person’s life just by letting them know how much you care.
A similar campaign by Samaritans, Small Talk Saves Lives, encourages us to strike up a conversation with people who we think are struggling, even if they’re a stranger on the train. As Brits, we like to keep ourselves to ourselves, but this campaign is all about the power of a simple hello, a kind word or a quick chat. As Samaritans say, ‘Small talk doesn’t just break the ice… it can also interrupt someone’s suicidal thoughts’.
So, let me end by saying this: you are loved. You are important. You matter. You are beloved by the creator of the stars above you and the earth beneath your feet. Take care of yourself and take care of one another. You can make it through this, but you don’t have to make it through on your own. Talk to someone, today.
CNI Network would like to thank Steve Brock for his time and commitment to CNI Network since we were formed as our own national Charity in 2012. Steve has stood as a trustee, vice-chair and chair but, after 7 years, is sadly stepping down. Steve has also managed Stockton Town Pastors and pioneered the Cleveland CNI Network cluster. He has given support and guidance to many of our local projects and helped CNI Network secure grant funding without which we would have folded several years ago. Paul, Jean, Katie and the trustees would like to thank Steve and his wife Hazel for the commitment they have given and we will pray for them as they move into the new chapter of their lives.
Here are a few pictures of Steve over the years including with Prime Minister's and Mayors!
David Wightman Drive could become the latest road on the map in Macclesfield.
A much-loved vicar who died last year could receive a lasting tribute by having a street named after him.
Reverend David Wightman, from St Michael’s Church, in Macclesfield town centre, died on New Year’s Day 2018 while enjoying a holiday with his family.
The 73-year-old, who was a popular and well-known figure, had been walking in the Lake District.
Now calls have been made to honour his memory and name a new road after him by calling it David Wightman Drive.
The suggestion was made at a Macclesfield Town Council meeting when potential names for the street, which is a cul-de-sac off Moss Chase, were debated.
Councillor Alift Harewood said: “His service to this town and his outreach within it was very large.
“He had the ability to speak to everyone and was a much-loved and respected figure.
“It (naming the street after him) would be fitting and a kind thing to do.”
Rev Wightman was ordained as an associate vicar around 10 years ago and had been a member of the parish for several decades.
During this time he helped a number of charities and groups including Street Angels and Winter Hope Accommodation Macclesfield (WHAM).
He also played an important role in starting Hope in North East Cheshire, a project that brought dozens of churches in the region together for joint events and prayer.
At the time of his death many tributes were paid and Rev Wightman was described as ‘a fantastic leader and massively generous’ as well as a person of ‘immense influence’.
Coun Alift’s suggestion of David Wightman Drive met with unanimous approval from other members at the meeting, which was held at Macclesfield Town Hall on Friday, January 18.
This will now be put forward to Cheshire East Council.
The council says it particularly welcomes road name suggestions with a ‘local historical connection’ and streets can only be named after a person if the individual is deceased.
Suitable suggestions are kept on the Street Naming Register and if successful are put forward for a new street consultation.
An ambitious plan to set up 10 life saving defibrillators in Windsor Town Centre has taken another big step towards becoming a reality.
The Windsor Community Defibrillator Project is run by Windsor Lions, Windsor and Eton Rotary Club and Windsor Street Angels who look after the welfare of late revellers.
They teamed up with Windsor Town Centre Management and have now raised enough money for eight of the defibrillators to be put into place, the latest two being placed in Bachelors Acre and the atrium outside Waitrose in Windsor Yards.
Three more are soon to be installed at the Coach Park in Alma Road, near the Long Walk at Windsor Castle Public House and at the Dedworth Green Baptist Church.
The defibrillators can save heart attack victims' lives while waiting for medics to arrive.
The team behind the project have also organised essential Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation training (CPR), so that as many people as possible know how to actually use the equipment if someone suffers a heart attack in the street.
A major part of the project’s success has been achieved through the support of local businesses and organisations.
The locations of the defibrillator are Bachelors Acre, Minton Place, Oxford Road East, Royal Shopping, the Theatre Royal, Waitrose, Windsor and Eton Brewery and Windsor College.
Leeds has been praised for having an 'excellent' nightlife for the third consecutive year.
The city was first awarded Purple Flag status by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) in 2017 and has retained the award ever since for its commitment to creating 'a positive visitor experience'.
A number of schemes have been established in recent years to make sure late-night revellers stay safe, including the Leeds Street Angels and the Angels of Freedom, who work specifically in the city's LGBT+ Freedom Quarter on Lower Briggate.
Leeds City Council has also introduced a dedicated Street Support Team, with ambassadors giving up their time to check on the welfare of people enjoying a night out in Leeds city centre.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: "We are delighted and extremely proud that Leeds has been awarded Purple Flag status for a third successive year.
"This really is a tremendous achievement and recognition of the positive and excellent work that is being undertaken by so many partners on a daily basis to make sure that the Leeds night time economy is for visitors, attractive, diverse and safe."
There are more than 30 towns and cities across the country that have been awarded Purple Flag status. The ATCM also looks at the vibrancy, diversity and cleanliness of a town or city centre between the hours of 5pm and 5am.
Donate to the work of CNI Network here
Street Angels - Christian Nightlife Initiatives Network:
Registered Charity 1136416 / Company Limited by Guarantee 07173090
All content and various brand names (C) CNI Network
Postal Address: CNI Network, The King's Centre, Park Rd, Halifax, HX1 2TS
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (founder / CEO) / Phone: 07725501465