In conversation with Caroline Pugh

This is an extended version of the article in our summer 2017 newsletter.

To give you a bit of an insight about what it’s like to be a volunteer with Isle of Wight Street Pastors we spoke to Caroline Pugh, who is both a School and Street Pastor, about her experience and what being a Pastor means to her:

WStreet Pastors on Patrolhen I moved to the Island I joined a church where one of the trustees was a retired priest. He regularly used to talk about Street pastors. He was my inspiration, he was such a lovely man. He spoke with such passion about it. I tried to enrol as a Street Pastor when I’d only been in the church for about 3 months. I was so inspired I asked about it, but I had to be in a church for a year. At the time I was a bit upset that I wasn’t considered but I can see the reasoning behind it now. As it happened, it wasn’t the right time and I’ve grown into the role over the last few years, becoming a School Pastor in 2013 then later cross-training as a Street Pastor.

The training was absolutely amazing. I think I’m still very close to the people I trained with. It was a time of huge growth. I loved the people who were leading it. It was through my second lot of training for street pastors that I came to realise something very, very vital about my life. People say “oh the training is life changing”, well it really was in my case. It caused me to go back and examine my whole life.

The best thing about School Pastors for me has been the team, the people, the other Pastors. They have influenced my life tremendously, they have been there when I need, them they have encouraged my faith. To be absolutely truthful joining School Pastors was the first time in my life I’ve ever really felt I belonged and that’s wonderful. Never in my professional life have I ever felt like I was really an equal part of a team.

One of the hardest things for me in the beginning was trying to drop my “teacher’s hat” in school as I’d done some supply teaching in Medina before. My feelings about the students have changed since being a School Pastor; I look at them with a different perspective, seeing them as people, as individuals, all chosen and cherished by God.  I didn’t see children like that when I was teaching, I saw them as a reflection of my abilities in the classroom. It’s quite a huge change in my way of thinking.

The most important thing I’ve learnt in the last few years, from the training here and courses I’ve been on is developing my listening skills. I wasn’t very good at listening to people. Listening is so important.

Sometimes we’re called away on the streets to go to an incident and it feels terrible to walk away from people who need somebody to listen. I think if we all listened more to each other generally in society it would just make such a difference. Equally in school the youngsters want to talk, its huge. It takes quite a lot of courage to approach an adult, no matter how friendly we are and how often they’ve seen us in school.

I think we have a big impact on people’s lives. Sometimes in just a smile, an acknowledgment, making eye contact with somebody. A huge impact.

I’ve worked with some amazing people, I’ve met some people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t joined the Street Pastor organisation. I’ve had some wonderful team leaders, in school and on the streets. I try and go on the extra patrols in Cowes and Ventnor. I’ll be part of the team going into Carisbrooke which is exciting, and will be leading the team once a month too. I think it’s going to be a very different school and a very different situation.

I didn’t have any concerns about joining as a volunteer, but my daughter was a bit concerned about me wanting to be a Street Pastor!  She didn’t mind so much that I was going to be a School Pastor as it seemed safer!  But I never had any fears in that direction. If anyone was thinking about becoming a Street or School Pastor I’d encourage them to give it a go. Come out with us and see what it’s like, see the way people react to us, both students in school and people on the streets.

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