Barnstaple Street Pastors have celebrated their 10th anniversary of helping to keep people safe in the town after dark.

Original Barnstaple Street Pastors co-ordinator Phil Saunders with Duncan Withall and Val Main. Picture: BSPOriginal Barnstaple Street Pastors co-ordinator Phil Saunders with Duncan Withall and Val Main. Picture: BSP

A service of celebration was held at Christchurch in Bear Street, attended by pastors past and present as well as supporters and Barnstaple mayor Alan Rennles plus police Inspector Emma Carpenter.

Street Pastors are trained Christian volunteers who patrol the town centre most Saturday nights between 10pm and 2am and on other key dates to offer practical help and reassurance to users of the night time economy.

The team work closely with door staff, taxi drivers, police, South Western Ambulance Service and CCTV operator in responding to incidents where people may have been left vulnerable, isolated, injured or in distress.

The Barnstaple team began patrolling in October 2009 under the leadership of the then co-ordinator Phil Saunders, with the help of other local teams at Ilfracombe and Bideford.

There are currently 21 operational pastors for the town with a further five prayer pastors and at the celebration service, six new members of the team were commissioned by the Reverend Nigel Dilkes of St Mary's Pilton.

Those present also heard a moving tribute to former pastor Sandy Saunders who recently passed away at the age of 94 but who, continued to be a passionate, devoted and inspirational street pastor until only a few months before his death.

Roger Bartlett, chairman of trustees, said: "This is where we believe Jesus would be and the church should be on a Saturday night - meeting people at their place of need.

"One of the things I love about this work is how Christians from so many different churches are involved with our 21 pastors coming from 10 different local churches."

Mr Bartlett also shared how, only a week before and on the same night (October 26), the lives of two people were saved by the teams at Barnstaple and Bideford.

In Barnstaple, the team helped a man in need before leaving him in police care.

In Bideford, the team helped save a woman from the river Torridge using a road sign to help carry her from the water and over the mud to safety.

Inspector Carpenter said police have appreciated the work of the team when cuts to police numbers have left them struggling to meet all the demands of policing the busy weekend.

She added: "Over the years, I have also seen how street pastors have really helped to generate a great team spirit with others working in the night time economy to keep people safe.

"I am not sure where would have been without you. Thank you all so much for what you do."