BANGOR – Friday nights in downtown Bangor, you can find plenty of people milling around, whether out enjoying the night with friends, or looking for a place to stay for the night.
But if you look closely, you’ll also notice another group intent on making sure nobody has to go it alone.
We caught up with the Bangor Street Pastors on February 14.
“Lord we don’t only want safe streets, we want safe people,” said James Haddix, a member of the Bangor Street Pastors, reading a prayer before the group left its headquarters at the Columbia Street Project.
It was a frigid February Friday, with actual temperatures reading around -2 degrees; the real feel was much worse.
The Bangor Street Pastors were on the move, looking for anyone in need of warmth.
“It’s a little nippy don’t you think?” Renee Garrett, who helped found the group in Bangor, asked a man who was out on his porch smoking a cigarette.
“Jesus said love your neighbor. That’s what we’re doing, loving our neighbor,” Garrett explained while walking along the waterfront. “There are all kinds of ways to do it, but this is the way we’re doing it.”
Every Friday night for five years, this group of Christians has walked the streets of downtown, offering everything from lollipops, as a way to break the ice, to hand warmers, or simple conversation.
“If people are having a good time we just say, ‘Hey, have a good night, stay safe,'” Garrett said. “But when we see somebody who seems a bit distressed or by themselves, we just check out and say, ‘How are you? How’s things going?’ and try to offer the kind of help that we can.”
The program began in the United Kingdom. The Bangor Street Pastors are one of only two groups in the United States. The other is in Chico, California.
Those who are part of the group represent different churches, but they are united by one common goal.
“We’re there to share God’s love,” said Linda Hardesty, a member of the Bangor Street Pastors. “We plant seeds, so we never know where it’s going to go.”
“Dean was leading our team one night, and a young man pulled him aside,” said Haddix. “He said, ‘You talked to me three years ago … I was in a very dark place in my life … you talked to me for half an hour,’ and he said, ‘it turned my life around.’
“You never know that when you’re out at the time, just talking to somebody,” Haddix said.
On Friday, February 14, they talked to maybe a dozen people. Many had a place to stay for the night, but some did not.
“You just can’t guess. We were all thinking, ‘Oh, tonight it will be really quiet, because it will be so cold,'” Garrett said. “Nobody will be out.”
No matter the season, they’ll be there, standing by those who need it most.
If you’re interested in joining the Street Pastors, you can attend an informational meeting on Saturday, March 14, at the Columbia Street Project in downtown Bangor. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.