Milliken Park is a train station outside of Glasgow, where trains frequently pass through at high speeds. Because of this, it’s a place where some consider committing suicide. The station is too small to warrant staff, so the local police and Network Rail are working with local churches and organisations to support distressed passengers.
Cheryl and Roy Adair are members of the St Mathews Church of the Nazarene in Paisley, Scotland, and are volunteers with Rail Pastors.
“The word pastor involves caring,” said Cheryl. “Our motto is: care, listen, help.”
Rail Pastors, an extension of Street Pastors, are a group of Christians who volunteer to be like chaplains at train platforms and carriages across the United Kingdom. They pray, make conversation, and look for people who might be especially troubled, distressed or even considering suicide. They will occasionally start up conversations.
“If we really see someone who is vulnerable or distressed, we would go up and ask them how they were tonight. From our training, we know it’s never a bad thing,” Cheryl said.
Street Pastors and Rail Pastors go through over 50 hours of training to prepare for the range of conversations that may take place on their patrols. In addition to the standard Street Pastor training, Rail Pastors undergo additional training from Samaritans, a UK-based suicide prevention organisation.
Street Pastors and Rail Pastors are an initiative of a UK para-church organisation called Ascension Trust, whose mission is to mobilise the Church to make a positive social impact on the community. Through these initiatives, they utilise the passions and skills of lay leaders to bring the presence of Christ to people right where they need it.
“The work of Street Pastors has been very powerful and effective in our cities for many years, and now Rail Pastors ministry is another ‘front line’ ministry reaching out with the Gospel in places and at times when the church would not normally be engaging with others,” said Jim Ritchie, superintendent of the British Isles North
District. “I am very proud of Cheryl and Roy Adair as they serve Jesus and represent the Church of the Nazarene in this way, and pray for them as they continue in this ministry.”
“Being out on the streets at night, we’re carrying Jesus Christ with us,” Cheryl said. “I totally believe that. We are engaging with people who would never come in to a church, and we’re not there to Bible bash, we’re there to care, to listen, and to help. But the amazing thing is people ask why, and that gives us the opportunity to tell them why.”
One of their primary ongoing prayers in train stations is simply for peace. Especially in stations where local youth can sometimes cause problems, praying for peace makes a difference, and it’s noticeable to the railway staff. Rail Pastors have changed and saved lives, but it’s not just the down-and-out in train stations who are affected.
“Amazingly,” says Cheryl, “the police, the council, Network Rail, they’ve all seen the merit of what Christians can do in the street. We’ve had miraculous answers to prayer in the street.”
If nothing else, they can at least offer to pray for people. Cheryl says, “No one has ever refused prayer.”
And often, it’s the beginning point of a longer conversation, one which is only possible when the church goes to the train station.